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Record Number of Pomona College Seniors Awarded Fulbright Fellowships

A record-breaking 10 members of the Pomona College class of 2004 have been named Fulbright Fellows. The prestigious Fulbright Fellowships are awarded each year to college seniors based on their leadership potential and their proposed project of study. Designed to increase cultural understanding between students of the United States and citizens of foreign countries, the grants vary by country and generally provide transportation, tuition, books and living expenses.

Pomona’s 2004 recipients will travel to seven countries – Poland, France, Switzerland, China, Germany, South Korea and the Philippines – to teach English or study subjects as diverse as minority populations in Poland, age-related spelling errors, the chemical configuration of buckyballs, red tide in the Philippines and the underground sex economy in China. Since tracking began in 1991, the previous highest number of Pomona students selected for Fulbrights was nine in 2002.

International relations major Monica Boduszynski will travel to her parents’ homeland of Poland to study Eastern European politics. She plans to focus her efforts on researching how Poland’s 2004 accession to the European Union has affected policy regarding newly forming minority populations in the country. She will also attempt to evaluate the future impact of this legislation. Her interest in immigrants and ethnic minorities rose out of her personal experiences as a member of the Polish diaspora in the United States, visiting relatives in Poland and growing up in an ethnically diverse area of Northern California. “As the daughter of parents who left Poland for the U.S., I am fascinated by the development of Poland into a country now experiencing its own surge in immigration,” she explains. After completing her Fulbright-sponsored research, Boduszynski plans to obtain a graduate degree in political science with a focus on immigrant and minority-related issues within the European Union and launch a career in academia or with the U.S. State Department or a non-governmental organization.

Heather Callahan, a public policy/sociology major, will complete a teaching assistantship administered by the Fulbright Program teaching English as a foreign language in France. In addition to teaching, she plans to conduct research on language and cultural immersion practices for immigrant students in the French education system. This teaching assistantship allows Callahan to combine two of her passions – education and French culture. She first fell in love with France while studying abroad in Paris her junior year, when she discovered a sense of community in the Montmarte district of the city. Because she plans on a career in education policy, Callahan believes teaching in a classroom will be an invaluable experience. “The overall experience of a Teaching Assistantship is without bounds – a chance to live in France again, my first post-undergraduate employment, and a solid step towards a career in education,” she says. Her future plans include earning her teaching credentials and teaching for a few years before earning a graduate degree in education or public affairs with the goal of working in education policy for the United Nations.

Wendy Iskenderian, a double major in chemistry and music , will go to Switzerland to research chemistry in the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University of Zurich. There, she plans to join a research group studying buckybowls, or curved hydrocarbons in which the carbon atoms align to form a hollow structure similar to the pattern of panels found on a soccer ball. Since the structure is very stable and hollow, chemists have envisioned a whole new array of applications if they could find a way to put other atoms or compounds inside the buckyball. Iskenderian, whose long-term career goals include becoming a research professor of chemistry, is thrilled at the opportunity to help unlock the buckyball puzzle. Her enthusiasm for scientific detective work can be traced back to her childhood love of Nancy Drew detective novels. “Chemistry is a field permeated with mysteries,” says Iskenderian, “ready to be investigated by those like me with a detective spirit akin to that of Nancy Drew.”

Linguistics and Cognitive Science major Natalie Klein will travel to China to study linguistics. She plans to research language production at Beijing University, focusing on how spelling errors might increase as a person ages. Klein will contrast written Chinese, which consists almost entirely of characters that cannot be sounded out, with written Spanish, in which words are always written very much like they sound. “There is evidence that the mind utilizes both a sound-it-out mechanism and a whole-world, irregularities-included mechanism to write,” says Klein. “If it happens to be the case that, as we age, we begin to rely more heavily on the former, we should see a bigger problem with the writing of aging Chinese speakers than with aging Spanish speakers.” On her return to the United States, she plans to continue with graduate school in psycholinguistics, with the goal of becoming a professor, as well as a fiction writer.

Jacqueline Mark, a psychology major, will travel to Germany to participate in a teaching assistantship administered by the Fulbright Program. Mark believes her experience teaching in Germany will be an invaluable asset to her future goals, which include getting a graduate degree in education and working as a teacher, as well as performing education research or creating educational media. She hopes to work toward eliminating educational inequalities in the United States, and says teaching in Germany would provide her with a more diverse, cosmopolitan outlook. “I hope to incorporate all of my experiences and my passion for learning by becoming a teacher in an underprivileged school district,” says Mark. “I would like to share my knowledge, charisma and my love for alternate educational methods with students who haven’t always been challenged and rewarded by the U.S. educational system.”

Economics major Matthew Noerper will go to South Korea as part of a teaching assistantship administered by the Fulbright Program. His interest in Korea was sparked by personal experience, as Noerper is a Korean adoptee who grew up in the United States with parents who urged him and his four adopted Korean siblings to explore their roots. “By delving into Korean culture, I was also able to solidify my already strong identity as an American as gradually my personal curiosity transformed into cultural curiosity,” says Noerper. “I found the differences between Western and Eastern cultures to be fascinating and even confusing.” Noerper hopes to one day be actively involved in U.S.-Korea relations, perhaps as an international lawyer or through the Foreign Service. In addition to teaching while in Korea, Noerper plans to continue his taekwondo training and study of the Korean language, and to study the architecture of Korean Buddhist temples, visiting many on his mountain bike.

Abigail Pope, a linguistics major, will travel to France to take part in a teaching assistantship administered by the Fulbright Program. Pope will teach English to French elementary-school students. “I expect to make a difference, however small it may be, by teaching French students my language and showing them my culture,” says Pope. “If they see the world differently, I will, too.” In addition to teaching while in France, Pope plans to examine bilingual education in France to see how well it works and what attitudes are held about it by students, their families and the government. In the future, Pope is considering becoming a foreign-language teacher or perhaps a translator. “Whatever I do,” she says, “will involve using other languages.”

Asian studies major Elena Shih will study the issues of prostitution and sex trafficking in China. Shih will serve as a counselor at a women’s social service organization, where she hopes to uncover the motivations for and machinations of the underground sex economy, as well as governmental response to it. While a student at Pomona, she worked as an intake counselor for both the Midtown Community Court in New York City and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles, where she gained experience helping people with issues related to immigration, sex trafficking and sexual assault. In addition, as a Chinese-American woman, she says she understands the shame and humiliation that forces Chinese victims of sexual assault often to remain silent about traumatic experiences. “It is my goal to give a voice to these marginalized experiences, and to deconstruct the very prevalent, yet skewed images – both in China and the West – of Chinese womanhood,” says Shih. In the future, Shih plans to work as an immigrant-rights attorney specializing in advocacy for asylum and human trafficking cases, and later working to craft international law and policy regarding practices of prostitution and international human sex trafficking.

Jason Woo, a biology and public policy analysis major, will travel to the Philippines to study oceanography. He plans to research the red tides affecting the country’s public health and seafood industry. Red tide is a naturally occurring high level of algae that produces a toxin often fatal to many fish. To support the country’s efforts to manage the harmful algal blooms, Woo will monitor the human sources of pollution, such as sewage and agriculture, that may contribute to red tides, and corroborate this fieldwork by laboratory investigation of how pollution/nutrient levels can trigger its growth. “What makes this subject so fascinating is that the implications are not only environmental, but social and economic,” says Woo. “As a young scientist, I have deliberated over choosing a lifestyle of serving people, such as medicine, or one of exploration and discover, like biology. This project would be an amazing bridge of both objectives.” Woo plans to continue his study of ocean science in graduate school, and eventually teach at a university.

Religious Studies major Isaac Zones will teach English as a Foreign Language in South Korea as part of a teaching assistantship administered by the Fulbright Program. “Many of the things I have learned the best in life have been from inspirational teachers, and they have touched me in a way that I am still in awe of,” says Zones. “I would like to give some of what I have received back to those who are interested in learning things that I am knowledgeable enough to share.” Zones says he is eager to meet the people of Korea, learn more about their culture and make human connections with people. In addition to teaching, he plans to learn more about Korea’s rich religious traditions, explore the country’s mountainous terrain and historic monuments and sample many different foods, including “learning to love kimchee.” He also plans to take his guitar to Korea to share American rock-and-roll songs while learning Korean pop songs, as well. And, as a sports enthusiast, he is enthusiastic about playing “any sort of games that Koreans would want to play with me.” On his return to the United States, Zones plans to become a high-school or middle-school teacher in his hometown of San Francisco.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers opportunities for recent graduates, postgraduate candidates, and developing professionals and artists to conduct career-launching study and research abroad. In its 56 years of existence, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 250,000 students, scholars and professionals worldwide with the opportunity to observe each others’ political, economic and cultural institutions, exchange ideas and embark on joint ventures or importance to the general welfare of the world’s inhabitants.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.