For the second straight year, West Virginia University has at least four Fulbright scholars.
The four, Vlad Basarab, Chelsea Hodgkins, Jessica Brie Kawalak and Michael Morris, received notification from the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in the past month they had been chosen. They have not been awarded grants yet.
It’s the second time the University has had four Fulbright scholars in the same year and sixth time it’s had multiple recipients since 1951. WVU had five Fulbright scholars a year ago. WVU has 10 Fulbright scholars in the last three years after having only one from 1993 to 2010. WVU now has 36 Fulbright scholars.
This year’s class of Fulbright scholars might be even more qualified to travel and study abroad than the last. Hodgkins and Morris are previous recipients of the prestigious Boren Scholarship, and all four of the scholars have previous experience in the country they will travel abroad to in the next year.
“These four students are part of an unprecedented number of WVU Fulbright Scholars over the past two years,” President Jim Clements said. “These honors are a testament to the quality of students, faculty and support from staff at this University.
“I am so proud of these students who have worked incredibly hard and taken a significant interest in learning about different cultures.”
The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
The program operates in more than 155 countries around the world. An estimated 310,000 individuals have participated in Fulbright programs since 1946.
For more information on the Fulbright, visit http://fulbright.state.gov/.
Here are WVU’s recently named Fulbright scholars:
Basarab was born in Bucharest, Romania and came to the U.S. in 1995 to finish high school and study ceramics in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2001, and after several years of owning his own business, he decided to get a master’s from WVU in art and design. He had gone to school in Alaska with two members of the WVU faculty in the College of Creative Arts, Shoji Satake and Jenniger Allen, who attracted him to picking up his studies in Morgantown.
“When the sculpture department saw my portfolio that had performance and video, they told me to be in the electronic media department,” he said.
After graduating in May, he will travel to Romania with the Fulbright Scholarship to research the impact of censorship on intellectuals in Romania. The research will focus on the Communist era of Romanian history. Basarab hopes to visit old prisons around the country and collaborate with other artists during his nine-month trip.
“This is part of my past. I grew up under those restrictions, so I’m interested in finding out about how that affected people,” he said. “The intellectual population of Romania was decimated or put into prisons, so there was a lot of change because the elite was eliminated.”
“I cannot live without all that cultural influence from Romania. It’s fulfilling my work. My ideas have a universal message, but somehow I’m drawing a lot of my inspiration from Romania and Eastern Europe and what happened there during communism.”
When he was 12 years old, Basarab actually wrote a letter against the dictator and later participated in demonstrations against communism.
WVU's Fulbright Scholars
Florence Duval 1951
Louise Yastros 1951
Curtis "Hank" Barnette 1957
William Moody 1959
Maria Sagris 1959
William Salchow 1959
Michael Andrews 1964
Charles Gehring 1964
Arthur Jones 1967
Stephen Taylor 1968
Renate Pore 1975
Linda Lofton 1977
De Sutton 1978
Lucinda Swisher 1981
William Monahan 1982
Lucy Acord 1983
Constance Hines-Burkes 1983
Daniel Thomas 1983
Jerome Bicknell 1984
Alexander Macia 1985
Gretchen Skidmore 1986
David Ketz 1989
George Simpson 1991
Michael Craw 1992
Branislava A. Jikich 1988
Patrick G. Vaughan 2000
Hayley Leight 2011
Lisa Beans 2012
Jeremy Munza 2012
Stefni Richards 2012
Danielle Capano 2012
Alanna Markle 2012
Vlad Basarab 2013
Chelsea Hodgkins 2013
Jessica Brie Kawalak 2013
Michael Morris 2013
“This is going back a long time ago, because my grandfather was a prolific painter, print-maker and an important figure of culture in Romania,” he said. “He died when he was 33 after being killed as a prisoner of war, because he complained about the way the Romanian prisoners were treated by the Soviets.”
In his time at WVU, he has had the opportunity to travel to visit many museums in New York City and Washington D.C. He also was involved with the first West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival for the past three years. To see Basarab’s work, visit http://basarab-art.com.
A year ago, Hodgkins was preparing to take her second trip to Ghana after receiving the prestigious Boren Scholarship. Now, after graduation later this month, she’ll travel back to Ghana for a year with the help of the Fulbright Scholarship.
“WVU has a lot of opportunities, and you just have to seek them out,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate that my professors have fostered my academic and intellectual career and my professional development.”
For the Boren Scholarship, she was abroad in Ghana from August to December, where she studied Twi, one of the local languages, and traveled to seven of the 10 regions of the country while completing her undergraduate thesis on household water security.
“Getting to be there for an extended period of time and having already experienced Ghana, I’ll be able to focus on the parts of the culture that I haven’t experienced yet,” she said.
In Kumasi, population pressures and a lack of adequate investment in water infrastructure has led to problems with expanding water access; significant portions of the population are forced to rely on vendors for water, who often provide water of lesser quality and of a higher price than that from piped networks.
Hodgkins’ research will focus on how effectively local policy makers within the water regulatory commission of Ghana have addressed consumer concerns over water affordability and quality, as well as whether this partnership has improved water access in affected communities.
In the future, Hodgkins hopes to continue her research with water security to find ways to improve it. She wants to work with policymakers and the technologies for water security.
“I’m a very driven person. I don’t believe in telling myself that I can’t do something. I believe that if an opportunity exists, and I feel like I’m qualified for it, then I’m going to apply,” she said. “It’s not your job to tell yourself no.”
Jessica Brie Kawalek
The Bunker Hill native has always had an interest in learning German, whether it was a family friend who taught the language or two brothers she met at a summer camp before coming to WVU that spoke it. In fact, when those two brothers would tease her, they’d do it in German, and she couldn’t understand.
Now, she can, and her family friend is now asking Kawalek for advice with speaking the language.
“Ever since my first class, I’ve loved the language, and I don’t really know why,” she said. “I just knew that I needed to take more of it. Now, it’s become such a big part of my life.”
During her junior year, Kawalek went to Germany on a study abroad trip that doubled as her capstone work for her German degree. For four weeks, she was immersed in the culture. In that time, she took business and grammar classes with a WVU professor, spent two weeks interning at a local business and took a German class at the university in Germany.
“When I came back, I fell head over heels in love with it. My passion for teaching German had been amplified, as well. Germany was all I could think about,” she said.
That’s why she applied for the Fulbright – to go back. She’s set on teaching English as a Second Language as a career and eventually teaching psychology, as well.
When she was in high school, she had always planned on going to a small school. In the middle of her senior year, though, she gained some perspective and realized a bigger school might be best. After enjoying her time at the Governor’s Honors Academy at Bethany College, she picked WVU, as many of the friends she met were going to school in Morgantown.
“I thought that WVU would provide more opportunities for me. I felt that it was a perfect fit for me and changed my mind at the last minute. I couldn’t be happier about that decision,” she said.
Kawalek joined the Fencing Club, Swing Dancing Club, Taekwondo Club and WVU Hillel. She has also gained valuable experience by performing undergraduate research.
Morris is a graduate student in teaching Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Front Royal, Va., and will graduate later this month. He came to WVU after being in the West Virginia Army Air National Guard.
This is the second prestigious scholarship that Morris has received during his collegiate career. As an undergraduate student at George Mason University, he earned the Boren Scholarship, as well.
After traveling to Turkey for a year following his graduation in 2008 as part of the Boren Scholarship, he was deployed to Iraq for six months, moved to Romania for a year and was assigned to work at NATO in Belgium before starting at WVU.
His first trip to Turkey changed his life.
“The country isn’t quite European or Middle Eastern. It’s unique. Once I got there, I really fell in love with the culture,” he said. “I lived with a host family there and created strong bonds with them. That allowed me to really integrate into the culture, and that opened up a lot of things for me.”
While in Turkey on the Fulbright Scholarship, he plans to organize an English teaching workshop in Eastern Turkey, as nearly all of these sorts of workshops take place in Western Turkey in either Istanbul or Ankara.
In the near future, that’s the path he’d like to take professionally by training teachers internationally. Long term, he’d like to work for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
He teaches classes at WVU in the Intensive English Program and said through that he has gained confidence and learned to better address a variety of student needs. Prior to his time at the University, he had only taught elementary and middle school-aged students in Romania for a year.
“The Fulbright enables me to do more than I would had I just went over by myself. Having that support is something that takes a lot of stress off of me. A lot of the places where the Fulbright scholars get to go, you can’t necessarily go without the support,” he said.
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