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Dena Simmons '05

2005 grads Avery Hill and Dena Simmons accept U.S. Student Fulbright Grants to work and study outside the U.S.

August 24, 2005

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Two 2005 Middlebury College graduates, Avery Hill and Dena Simmons have been nominated to receive United States Student Fulbright Grants, according to the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Avery Hill '05
Hill, who majored in German while at Middlebury, will use the Fulbright to work as a teaching assistant in English at the Elly-Heuss-Schule in Wiesbaden, Germany.  Simmons, who majored in Spanish, will use her Fulbright to travel to the Dominican Republic to teach and conduct independent research on the relationship between education and public health.
Katy Hicks '05
Two other Middlebury graduates were named Fulbright alternates: for study in Chile, Katherine Hicks, and for study in New Zealand, Andrew Howard.  A psychology major while at Middlebury, Hicks' Fulbright proposal is titled "Perceptions of Domestic Violence: A Cross-Cultural Investigation."  Howard, who majored in geography, wrote his proposal on "Otago Wine Industry: Changing Rural Landscapes."

In 2003 during her junior year, Avery Hill participated in Middlebury's study abroad program, where she developed an abiding sense of community while studying at its C.V.Starr-Middlebury school in Mainz, eight miles from the larger city of Wiesbaden.  She says she was drawn to the teaching position by a passion for language, combined with a desire to return to Germany after her study abroad experience.

"I have led a very peripatetic lifestyle, living all over the country and the world.  This has left me with an acute awareness of the opportunities that cross-cultural communication offers, but often lie dormant because of individual and societal inhibitions," she said.  "I hope the Fulbright will help me explore four basic questions: what is the significance of language to the individual; what is the significance of language to society and the interaction of individuals; what role does school play in the development of individual and societal language; and what is the place of foreign languages in school?"

Hill plans to live in downtown Mainz and participate in several school-related activities.  In addition to the teaching position, she expects to enroll in university classes in linguistics to supplement her daily reflections and observations.  She also will continue her work on the Web site she created as part of her German thesis project while at Middlebury-a collection of language materials for students learning German.  "My long-term plans are as yet undetermined, but I'm not worried about that-new questions and projects have never been a problem area for me," she said.  "I have planned for a long time to become an elementary school teacher, which I imagine will be my eventual profession of choice-but we'll just have to see what happens in the interim.  I'm keeping my eyes open."

In the Dominican Republic, Dena Simmons will examine how schools and health agencies can combine forces to engage vulnerable youth, working toward the prevention of unwanted teenage pregnancy.  For the first four months of her stay, Simmons will do her research in the capital city of Santo Domingo with a nongovernmental organization called Profamilia Joven.  She will then spend six months in a rural setting in the small, coastal town of Los Marranitos, teaching and conducting an independent literacy project in the community.
"I am hoping that by living in these two highly contrasting settings, where access to education and health care differ, I will gain stronger insight on the relationship between education and public health," she said.  "It will give me a broader understanding of the importance of education toward a healthy way of life."
Simmons plans to investigate how teenage pregnancy perpetuates a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.  She will research existing pregnancy prevention models in health education organizations, and seek new ways the issues can be addressed in school or through after-school activities.
"I believe that a great pregnancy prevention tool is the classroom, and engaging students through academics, arts, sports and music is crucial," Simmons said.  "Through my work with several Dominican organizations, I hope to bring elements of my culture into that of the Dominican public health culture to cooperatively and effectively address teenage pregnancy."
Simmons intends to interview, survey and work with teenage mothers at health education organizations as well as the employees, gathering stories of their experiences for publication.  According to Simmons, their testimonials will help identify needs, and their publication will act as a disincentive to others.  When she returns from her Fulbright year, Simmons will share her research as a guest classroom speaker at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
"In general, my Fulbright research will benefit my career goal of becoming an education
policymaker," she said.
Hill and Simmons will be two of more than 1,000 American students to travel abroad for the 2005-2006 academic year through the Fulbright Program.  Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program's purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the rest of the world.  Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright program operates in more than 150 countries worldwide.  The U.S. Student Fulbright Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. Among the thousands of prominent Fulbright alumni are: Craig Barrett, former chief executive officer of Intel Corporation; Marek Belka, prime minister, Poland; Mohamed Benaissa, minister for foreign affairs and cooperation, Morocco; Chan Heng Chee, ambassador to the U.S., Singapore; Luis Ernesto Derbez, minister of foreign affairs, Mexico; Renee Fleming, opera singer; Daniel Libeskind, architect; Robert Shaye, founder and co-chair, New Line Cinema; Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics; and Muhammed Yunus, managing director and founder of the Grameen Bank.