Get to Know CLA’s Record-Breaking Eight Fulbright Award Winners!
By: Nick Santangelo
Awarded each year by the U.S. Department of State, Fulbright Awards are merit-based scholarships that fund American students’ studies and research abroad. This year, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) set a school record with an astonishing eight students and graduates winning Fulbrights!
Barbara Gorka, Temple University’s Director of Scholar Development and Fellowships Advising, helped seven of the eight winners work through their applications and secure their awards. In her eyes, each and every winner was more than deserving of the award.
“They really do embody what Fulbright is looking for—people who are going to be engaged with their local community, who are going to excel academically in their research or whatever their project is, or to be that English teacher and bring US/American culture alive,” says Dr. Gorka of the winners. “Temple students are so globally focused. They’re a natural fit for this.”
Dr. Gorka explains that Fulbright winners aren’t just required to conduct groundbreaking research. They’re also expected to engage communities in foreign countries and serve as cultural ambassadors for the United States.
“That’s the mission of the Fulbright,” she explains, “to create cultural understanding between the US and people of other countries.”
CLA wishes its winners all the best in fostering that cultural understanding and in conducting their research. We sat down with each of the winners to learn firsthand what makes them and their work special.
- Alex Voisine, Spanish and Global Studies
- Elaina Hawkins, Spanish and Secondary Education
- Eric Perinovic, History
- Xavier Burke, Spanish
- Maggie Lindrooth, Russian
- Colman Cumberland, Spanish and Political Science
- Jasmine Costello, Political Science and Spanish
Alex Voisine | CLA ’18 | Spanish and Global Studies
I chose Temple because: I was attracted to Temple’s study abroad programs and its location in a global city was also one of the factors. Being in Philadelphia, not only do you have access to jobs and internships but also a diverse range of communities.
Applying for a Fulbright was: Pretty intense. The award is for a master’s degree in international relations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Applying for the Fulbright was an intense process involving lots of essay drafts and meetings with professors and faculty members to try to formulate my ideas and work through edits. There was also the process of applying directly to grad school in Mexico.
My Fulbright project is about: LGBTQ+ migration from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) towards Mexico. There’s been a very dramatic increase in out-migration from the Northern Triangle, and historically individuals who were leaving were looking to go to the US or Canada, but given changes in immigration policies especially in the US, a lot are staying in Mexico because Mexico often offers a relatively higher level of security for LGBT individuals from countries where violence and persecution is rampant and there’s not access to jobs or healthcare. Mexico is becoming more of a destination country for migrants leaving the Northern Triangle. Mexico recently passed new immigration laws and has made efforts to protect LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, so it’s a critical time to study the realities of the policy versus its promises.
How Temple helped me: I’m starting to realize how well Temple prepared me in ways that other universities don’t. The diversity on campus and in classes, the commitment to social justice—these are all things that make Temple unique and have prepared me in a unique way. Not only to be a Fulbright winner but also to expand on what I learned in the global context.
Elaina Hawkins | CLA ’18 | Spanish and Secondary Education: World Languages
I chose Temple because: I wanted to be in a city. I needed a vibe different from my hometown, which is nearing Reading, Pennsylvania and very small. I came to Temple for the diversity, and it was definitely the best decision.
When applying for the Fulbright: I started writing drafts in June 2017. You have to write a personal statement and a statement of grant purpose. Both essays had to be really precise, being that they were only one page. I felt confident, because I knew they were looking for education majors and people with experience already teaching. I was definitely crossing my fingers, but Dr. Gorka said what I wrote was exactly what they were looking for.
My Fulbright project is: A teaching assistantship in Spain. It’s going to be a very cool experience from the education standpoint. I am really interested in just seeing how they teach and compare it to the American education system and teaching styles. I am excited to learn new teaching methods to incorporate into my instruction.
The final application: Was due October 2017. I found out I was a semifinalist in January, and last month I found out I got the scholarship. It took a lot of writing, a lot of revising the drafts. And it was a long process, but very necessary and absolutely worthwhile.
After I applied: After I submitted my application, it was a long six months waiting to find out if I received the scholarship. I tried not to be too excited and had a plan B if I did not get the Fulbright, but when I found out I did, I realized how much I wanted to return to Spain and teach and was so thankful to have this opportunity.
Eric Perinovic | PhD Candidate | History
I chose Temple because: My advisor is one of the only scholars who does modern Germany pre and post-1945. He’s really good to bounce ideas off because he has the background knowledge, but he’ll also push you to into interesting directions. The history department at Temple also has a great track record for non-academic job placement.
Applying for a Fulbright was: A three-month process between putting in the work and writing. You have to make a contact in the country you want to work in. If you’re doing research like I am you have to have a contact at a university for support. My advisor here had to essentially start cold calling German professors. I got turned down a few times before we found an advisor who would work really well. We found one, and he’s excited to work with me.
My Fulbright project is about: The diplomatic and military implications of America selling F104-Starfighters to Germany. How this affects Germany’s diplomacy with the US, but also European member states. Germany buys the most of them, making them the leader of the NATO Starfighter consortium. It’s a calculated strategy. If they become the leader of this consortium, Germany is then a leader in Europe, and people can look to them.
How Temple helped me: Barbara Gorka and I crafted my statement of purpose and personal statement. The amount of curating is why it was great to work with her. We bounced wording back and forth. You brutally edit these things down. She was fantastic as far as saying what should or should not go in this or if the wording could be made more concise or what have you.
My advice to Fulbright applicants: Start early. Reach out to the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships at Temple—they are truly an excellent resource. Make sure you have a checklist in front of you of what you need to accomplish by when.
Dana Muniz | PhD Candidate | Anthropology
I chose Temple because: It’s a public school. I come from a long tradition of mentors who have gone to public schools and wanted to live in a city. I am from a small town in Puerto Rico. I wanted to live in a city, and Temple has that city connection, but it also has an amazing program that helped me to connect with that.
The Fulbright application process: Was really long. I started back in April last year with a draft and outlines that I worked through the summer. When I came back, I was doing preliminary research until late July, so it was a very intense month between late July and August to get drafts for revision. It was a fairly interesting process in which my project changed a lot. The application itself is really short—two pages—so that was challenging.
My research project will examine how: In 2013 the Dominican government passed a law that changed how people could get citizenship from birthplace to your parent's citizenship. This was approved retroactively back to 1929, so there are about four generations of people, a half a million, stripped of citizenship who are currently stateless. They are trying to access papers to go to school and receive medical care. So I am working with NGOs and other human rights organizations that are leading the way for these people to access their rights.
My advice to Fulbright applicants is: Just apply. I think the process is really important. I got a lot of feedback about my project and my writing and the application. It was a very enriching process. I was originally an alternate, but I was bumped to an official candidate. So, when I got the email about being an alternate, I said I guess I’ll have a second round. I learned a lot. I used the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships. Dr. Gorka was the most amazing resourceful person. Use your mentors. I’m really shy to ask for help, but that was key to the process, that many people were involved.
Xavier Burke | CLA ’15 | Spanish
I chose Temple because: When I first saw Temple, I was coming on the train from Norristown to visit family in South Philly and thought, ‘Oh, this is my school right here.’ North Philly is home. I wanted a major public school, diverse, in the middle of the city. Temple is everything you could want. You learn so much—so many different backgrounds in one classroom. That’s why I love the Temple Made slogan—it really is a real world slogan. What attracted me is that it is so anti-establishment, anti-big school.
I applied for a Fulbright because: The Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships successfully helped me obtain the Princeton in Latin American Fellowship, so I thought of them again when applying to the Fulbright. I reached out as an alumni and was forwarded to Dr. Gorka. I wrote up my essays and sent them to the department. They sent them back all red-lined. I was so happy to have their help all the way from the other side of the globe in Mozambique. I felt like I was sitting right next to Dr. Gorka. She sent my essays to Temple’s Fulbright, and three more professors looked at them. I got my essays back with all the new edits. They were eager to do it and help me out. Dr. Gorka is excellent!
I’ll use my award for: A teaching assistantship in a Brazilian university. I will be working with a program that’s called English Without Borders. I will be a native language resource and classroom assistant for students who will go on to be English language teachers in Brazil. On the side, I’m also going to continue to study Capoeira.
My advice to Fulbright applicants is: Make sure you have your essays edited, edited and re-edited, and then sit down and edit it again and have a team of people helping you. It wasn’t just my Temple team helping me—I had some past Fulbrighters’ help. I had nine different people helping me edit these essays. It was a lot—I didn’t think you could edit one thing so much.
Maggie Lindrooth | CLA ’16 | Russian
I chose Temple because: Two of my brothers also attended Temple (CLA ‘14 and CE ‘14), and I was able to get to know the campus, CLA and Honors Program before attending. Their enthusiasm for and love of the school certainly helped convince me! But in the end, I chose Temple because of the range of majors and programs available and because of the support and community evident in the Honors Program. I was able to meet Honors Program Senior Director Ruth Ost, before I committed and had a wonderful time getting to know the program. There were also so many academic and extra-curricular opportunities available, which was a huge draw.
My Fulbright Award is: An English Teaching Assistant grant, so I'll be teaching English at a university in Mongolia for 10 months.
When I think about winning the award, I remember: Being an alternate for Russia two years ago, so I had experience with the application process already. I always try to leave room for disappointment and rejection when I apply for something, since nothing is ever guaranteed, but I was keeping my fingers crossed! When I found out, though, I was absolutely surprised. It's hard not to be surprised and excited about something like this.
My advice for Fulbright applicants is: Definitely apply! If you're even a little bit interested, do some research, poke around on the Fulbright website and look at what sort of grants are available. There are so many different types—ranging from English teaching to funded graduate study to independent research—that there really is something for everyone. Even if you're not a straight-A student, if you can articulate passion and interest for a project, then pursue it! Also, start your application early and make time to talk to the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships. I've worked with Barbara Gorka there on several applications, and she's wonderful. Finally, if you don't get accepted the first time, don't be afraid to apply again. I know many people who were rejected their first time around and applied again and have now completed or are completing grants.
Colman Cumberland | CLA ’18 | Spanish and Political Science
I chose Temple because: Partially because I was awarded a very generous scholarship, which made it very economically convenient to come here and also because I went to school right near Temple, and I always felt very safe in the environment and in Philadelphia. Temple afforded me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like teaching, specifically through the Spanish Department. And the Honors Program. I was able to start Spanish classes at a local nonprofit called Congreso Latinos Unidos. Temple provided a lot of space for me to grow and learn and teach.
During the Fulbright Process: I relied heavily on the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships, specifically Barbara Gorka. Through her and her staff, the university provides a lot of support through the process: brainstorming ideas, drafting essays, helping you reach out to former Fulbrighters or people living in potential host countries you’re thinking about. They were extremely helpful. That made the process go smoothly and speaks to why Temple has such a high rate of Fulbright acceptances.
With my award: I’ll be placed at some educational level teaching English in Mexico, but that will only be around 20-25 hours a week. Part of the application process is suggesting alternative things you are going to involve yourself in. I talked a lot about my passion for music, which I also got to live out through Temple with friendships at Boyer College and joining an acapella group. I talked about my ambition to join a choir or band or musical group in Mexico and also my plan to work with an NGO that works with migrants within Mexico.
My advice to Fulbright applicants is: Go to the Fulbright sessions, the workshops that Barbara Gorka holds over summer and listen to every piece of advice offered. And pick a region and topic you’re passionate about and can show you are passionate about through your experiences. Start building relationships with professors and finding what kind of opportunities are available through them. I think that positioned me well for the Fulbright.
Jasmine Costello | CLA ’14 | Political Science and Spanish
I chose Temple because: I wanted to stay in Philadelphia after my gap year there tutoring high school students. I also worked full time while I was in school, and Temple was pretty conducive to having a job. My professors were understanding of that. I was able to carve my own path pretty well. I think staying in Philly and staying connected with the communities and relationships I had developed during my city year was the driving force.
I applied for a Fulbright because: I was looking at my master’s degree options, and I have a good friend who did the Fulbright in the UK last year. It’s not something I had thought about, but when I was looking into my options, I just sort of threw my hat into the ring. I wasn’t banking on it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got it. It’s an amazing opportunity at a good time in my life. I think I will learn a lot applying all of my work experience to an entirely new culture and society and seeing what they’ve been doing over in the UK in terms of school reform and teaching practices.
I’ll use my award to: Look at how, under the premise of school reform, when we initiate a school turnaround project, what is in place to ensure that that school environment is as inclusive and culturally responsible as possible? That also manifests in disciplinary policies and disciplinary expulsion/suspension rates, which are key for seeing how inclusive a school environment is. I also want to look at curriculum development and classroom facilitation practices where I think inclusion begins. So when efforts are made to turn around consistently low-performing schools, what strategies and efforts are being done to make sure that school is an inclusive environment?