Nine W&M grads receive prestigious Fulbright grants

By Marisa Spyker June 13, 2016

A new class of Fulbright U.S. student scholars was recently announced, with nine W&M graduates joining the ranks of the prestigious program. 

Sagra Alvarado ’15, Shannon Callinan ’16, Beatrice Chessman ’16, Annie Curran ’16, Ryan Feeney ’14, Clay Harris ’14, Constance Hull ’16 and Natasha King ’16 will each spend the 2016–17 academic year abroad teaching, studying, working and researching in their varying areas of interest. Shaina Salman J.D. ’16 also became the first W&M graduate to be awarded the Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship.

Fulbright Futures

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the program, according to its website, “is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” It is the largest U.S. exchange program offering students and young professionals the opportunity to pursue international graduate study.

Each year, approximately 1,600 grants are awarded to recent U.S. graduates to study in more than 155 countries. W&M students have consistently performed well in the program. Last year, W&M snagged the 23rdspot on the list of top Fulbright-producing research universities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education

Curran, a double major in English and film and media studies, will spend her Fulbright year in Ireland pursuing a master’s in Irish Writing and Film at University College Cork. During her time there, she’ll also be starting a monthly cinema club at a local pub, where aspiring filmmakers can show their short films to the community free of charge. 

“The university’s film club lost its funding last year, so I hope that this ‘Cork Cinema Club’ will fill a void for the local filmmaking community and give people a platform to share their work,” she said.

On the opposite side of the world, Natasha King ’16, a double major in marketing and environmental science, will be teaching English to students from elementary to high-school age as a participant in Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant Program. Five of her fellow Fulbright recipients will participate in the same program in different countries from Italy to South Africa. 

“The Fulbright is geared towards building communication and communication skills on multiple levels, and I think that will prove invaluable to me when I return to the U.S. and begin working,” said King. “I would love to eventually work in marketing and sustainability, and I think the teaching and learning experiences of the Fulbright will help broaden my perspective and make me a better communicator of plans and ideas. Furthermore, the experience of living in Thailand, a country with unique ecosystems and environmental issues, will give me an additional frame of environmental reference beyond that of living in the U.S.”

New Territory

Salman will use the Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship to work and research in the Ivory Coast (pending successful placement). Inaugurated in 2012, the Fulbright-Clinton program sends recipients to serve as special assistants in foreign government ministries while carrying out an academic research project. 

Salman, who intends to pursue a career in international law, will be returning to the Ivory Coast for a second time. In 2014, she spent a three-month fellowship there working on a USAID-funded “ProJustice Project” to improve access to justice for Ivorian citizens. Her research during her Fulbright year, she said, will be centered around integrating customary law, or traditional rules of law and order, into the rule of law to improve access to justice.

“Understanding the rule of law has become a personal study interest of mine,” she said. “I think this experience may end up shaping my entire career. I have always wanted to practice law internationally so this may be an excellent segue.”    

Nancy Combs, Ernest W. Goodrich Professor of Law and director for the Human Security Law Center at W&M, said this opportunity is especially well deserved for Salman. 

“I was absolutely delighted to learn that Shaina had been selected for a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship,but not at all surprised,” said Combs. “Certainly since coming to law school – and even before – Shaina has dedicated herself to international public service. Through her classes, internships and even her time-consuming extra-curricular activities, Shaina has shown a tremendous commitment both to serving those who are most in need internationally and to engaging intellectually with the most pressing international legal issues of the day. I cannot imagine a more worthy recipient than Shaina.”

Seniors, graduate and professional students, and recent alumni who are interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholarship to go abroad in 2017-18 should contact campus Fulbright Program Advisor Lisa Grimes (lmgrim@wm.edu). The campus application deadline is Sept 19, 2016.