MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Eleven Middlebury seniors and five recent alumni have been awarded Fulbright fellowships for the 2019–2020 academic year. Later this year, the 16 Middlebury recipients will spread across four continents, either teaching or conducting research through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The fellows were selected on the basis of their academic and professional achievements, as well as their service and leadership in their respective fields. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, they will join the more than 1,900 Fulbright recipients in 2019–2020 worldwide.

Rebecca Brown ’18.5
Mikaela Chang ’19
Emmanuel Durán ’19
Benjamin Freedman ’19
Emma Gee ’16
Ariana Hernández ’19
Marcelo López ’19
Tiffany Martinez ’19
Pharibe Pope ’19
Katie Reuther ’16.5
Masayuki Sakamoto ’19
Nell Sather ’19
Melisa Topic ’19
Mary Trichka ’19
Heather Tourgee ’17 Not pictured: Victor Filpo’16

“I am thrilled that we have our largest group of Fulbright winners and our largest group of graduating seniors ever,” said Lisa Gates, associate dean for fellowships and research. “It’s also exciting to see such a diverse array of destination countries represented, from India to Senegal, from Georgia to Peru. Our graduating seniors and young alumni will be engaging with communities all over the globe.”

The Fulbright grant gives students and alumni an opportunity to engage their research questions, learn about teaching in different educational contexts, and immerse themselves in a new cultural community, said Gates. It also provides an important way of building cross-cultural relationships and learning to see through different cultural lenses.

Middlebury’s Fulbright recipients:

Rebecca Brown ’18.5, of Gardiner, Mont., earned her Middlebury degree in international and global studies/South Asian studies. During her study-research Fulbright, she will research environmental migration patterns in Bengal’s Sundarbans Delta. Brown plans to examine the experiences of individuals living on Gosaba, Satjalia, and Bali Islands in the Sundarbans, as well as migrants who have moved north to Kolkata. She will be working with advisor Dr. Tuhin Ghosh of Jadavpur University’s Department of Oceanography. Brown will be matriculating at the University of Oxford in autumn 2020 as an MPhil candidate in Environmental Governance.

Mikaela Chang ’19, of Closter, N.J., will graduate this spring with a degree in international and global studies–Latin America and education studies–secondary education. She plans to conduct her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Peru, where she hopes to continue the culturally responsive pedagogy she has practiced as a Middlebury student.

Emmanuel Durán ’19, of Bronx, N.Y., graduates from Middlebury this year with a degree in international and global studies–French/Africa. Durán received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for his proposed work in Morocco where he previously studied as an undergraduate. In addition to his work as an English teacher, he hopes to work with Morocco’s deaf community and conduct independent research on deaf education in Morocco.

Victor Filpo ’16, a Japanese studies major, plans to conduct his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Brazil. Filpo plans to pursue his PhD when he returns to the U.S. with additional classroom experience.

Benjamin Freedman ’19, a religion major from Ann Arbor, Mich., will graduate this spring and then pursue a study-research Fulbright in Japan. During his project, titled “Religious Accommodations and Islamic Practices in Contemporary Japan,” he plans to investigate the treatment of Muslim visitors in Japan, specifically looking at existing accommodations for Muslim tourists in hotels, restaurants, and businesses, paying particular attention to dietary customs and facilitated space for prayer. Freedman says the issue of religious accommodation provides insight into social issues such as hospitality, traditionalism, and disparities between urban and rural communities. Freedman plans to pursue a PhD in religious studies when he returns to the United States.

Emma Gee ’16, who majored in international and global studies/African studies at Middlebury has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Senegal. Gee, of Norfolk, Mass., previously served with Teach for America. She wants to teach in Senegal “in order to connect my academic and professional interests, experience cultural immersion, and explore how I can be most effective in a career in education.”

Ariana Hernández ’19, a chemistry and Spanish double major from Compton, Calif., will conduct her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Spain. She hopes to bridge international and cultural connections through her classroom work during her Fulbright. She plans to pursue a career as either an educator or a physician when she returns.

Marcelo López ’19, an international and global studies/Latin American studies major from Richmond, Calif., has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Brazil. López says he hopes to “utilize my experience of teaching English as a second language in a way that continues to benefit others, while also serving as a representative of the United States to further strengthen American-Brazilian relations.” López wants to either pursue a PhD in Latin American studies or continue his work teaching abroad at the conclusion of his Fulbright year.

Tiffany Martinez ’19, a joint major in Spanish and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies from Revere, Mass., will spend her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Honduras. Martinez is looking forward to a “chance to engage with Hondurans and act as a medium for cultural exchange between my own two cultures as a Honduran-American.” When she returns, Martinez plans to complete a master’s in translation and interpretation.

Pharibe Pope ’19, a Spanish major from Baltimore, Md., has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Spain. She says, “I wish to share and deepen my passion for language, expand my capacity for cultural exchange, and develop my skills as an educator.” On completion of her Fulbright, Pope plans to enter a teaching residency at a dual-language school to further develop her teaching and cross-cultural competency.

Katie Reuther ’16.5, of Chittenden, Vt., majored in neuroscience at Middlebury and has received a Fulbright study-research fellowship for China. Her project, titled “Understanding Organic Agriculture in Modern-Day China,” seeks to explore how organic farmers understand and perceive organic agriculture in and around Fujian Province, China. On her return to the U.S., Reuther plans to continue her studies in agroecology.

Masayuki Sakamoto ’19, a neuroscience major with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Japan, graduates this spring. His Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship will bring him to the Slovak Republic, where, in addition to teaching, he hopes to “explore the history of Slovakian-Jewish rescuers, employing the lens of behavioral neuroscience to view their actions.” Sakamoto hopes to pursue a career with the Department of State after he returns from his Fulbright year.

Nell Sather ’19, a gender, sexuality and feminist studies major from Montpelier, Vt., has received an English Teaching Assistantship for Macedonia. On completion of her Fulbright year, Sather plans to continue her teaching of nonnative English speakers and eventually earn her master’s and pursue a career in school counseling.

Melisa Topic ’19, of Chicago, Ill., will graduate this spring with a double major in Spanish and psychology. She has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Argentina. She says the Fulbright year will help her “participate firsthand in the teaching of English to nonnative speakers in an ESL university environment. I want to understand the differences in learning colloquial English and professional English for career purposes.” She hopes to pursue a law degree with a focus on immigration and human rights.

Mary Trichka ’19, of Endicott, N.Y., will graduate from Middlebury this spring with a degree in political science and Russian. She plans to spend her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship year in Georgia where she looks forward to developing her Russian tutoring skills by working with children and teens. At the end of her Fulbright, she plans to work at a think tank for a year before attending a graduate school program in international affairs, with a focus on security and foreign policy in Russia and East Europe.

Additionally, Heather Tourgee ’17, a master’s candidate at the University of Utah, has received a Fulbright study-research grant for Germany through the University of Utah. Tourgee majored in environmental studies at Middlebury.

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant programs. Candidates submit a statement of grant purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S.

During their grants, students meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

Group Photo: Robert Keren