Bates announces 10 new Fulbright Student awards for 2022-23
Bates has received 10 Fulbright Student Award offers for 2022-23 — nine to graduating seniors and the tenth to a recent graduate — to engage in teaching and research opportunities around the world.
The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program for accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals to study, teach, or pursue important research and professional projects around the world. This year’s group is set to travel to nine countries, working across four continents.
Bates has been named a Top Producer of Fulbrights for 11 straight years, most recently in 2021-22, and now heading toward a dozen.
Nine of the Fulbright Student Awards are English teaching awards that will take students to Andorra, Argentina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan.
The 10th award, a Fulbright Study/Research Award to Maya Benziger ‘22, will fund research in Mongolia on the effects of environmental change on movement and habitation patterns in that nomadic East Asian country.
In Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar, she will seek out experts in government and education to gain an understanding of the forces driving migration. She will then shift her focus to better understand the sprawling ‘ger’ community, an informal city of yurts that has sprung up around Ulaanbaatar.
Then it’s out to the remote steppes of Mongolia. “I will spend a few months living with a nomadic family to experience environmental hardships first-hand,” Benziger says. She hopes to gain “critical information on how Mongolia, which has a successful history of including non-sedentary populations into the nation and thus offers unique insights, is handling changing patterns of movement and habitation.”
The goal of the Fulbright program and the mission of Bates College are powerfully complementary, says Robert Strong, a lecturer in English and director of National Fellowships.
“Fulbright understands the ‘transformative power of our differences,’” said Strong, quoting the Bates mission statement. “And as these students travel into the world of COVID transitions, I tell them to prioritize happiness and safety; they always need to have both.”
Maya Benziger ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Maya Benziger ’22 of Aurora, Ill., a Study/Research Award for Mongolia
Bates Majors: History, Politics, Music
Relevant Experience: Work at the Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston; taught debate to middle-school students in Boston with Debate Spaces, founded by Matthew Summers ’15 and Tessa Holtzman ’17.
Bates Activities: Merimanders music director and president; Brooks Quimby Debate Council novice director
Fulbright Research Purpose: Benziger will research the effects of environmental change on movement and habitation patterns in Mongolia, specifically focusing on the political and economic issues that arise as a result of changing climate conditions.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Mongolia: Using music and art to create cross-cultural connections, and work with GerHub to connect with the Ger communities on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, including youth programs.
Plans After Fulbright: Graduate school to pursue a law degree with a focus on international and refugee law.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “Maya’s interest in political and economic tensions related to environmental and ecological changes in Mongolia show her ability to synthesize current and past problems and history, and these interests permeate her everyday life in conversations and classes. Maya cares deeply about the people and organizations she works with, and strives to create meaningful bonds and build strong communities.”
More about Benziger: Walking to the Center for Wisdom’s Women every day for work helped her feel connected to the Lewiston community and find her focus. “I want those deeper levels of humanity that come from a dedicated study of people, what they think, and why they act.”
Her areas of study also gave her the perspective she needed to engage fully with her work.
“Studying history doesn’t instantly make me more compassionate, but it does give me the tools to understand where people are coming from. Studying politics might seem abstract, but it gives me the ability to better understand why people make the decisions that they do. Studying music doesn’t psychically connect me with every person I meet, but it allows deeper emotional bonds to form, even without words. And sometimes, all it takes is a daily walk to work to figure this out.”
Elene Chamberlin ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Elene Chamberlin ’22, an English teaching assistant grant for Andorra
Bates Major: Biology
Relevant Experience: Taught English to children in Basque Country, the autonomous community in Spain; teaching assistant in biochemistry and taught yoga at Bates; English language learner tutor at Lewiston High School.
Bates Activities: Feminist Coalition president; Yoga Kula Club president.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Andorra: To volunteer at a food bank or women’s shelter and organize and offer a yoga class outside her workplace, as well as English classes and cooking or art activities.
Plans After Fulbright: To attend medical school.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Elene’s interest in Andorra is partly motivated by Andorra’s uniqueness as a small sovereign country standing at the crossroads of many cultures. Her personal knowledge of the Basque Country serves as a contrast to Andorra as she delves into the history and development of Andorra to appreciate the factors that led to its formation. Her compassion and empathy make her a good teacher, and she is not afraid to take risks and challenge her own boundaries. Elene is poised, kind, and engaging — she simply draws others to her.”
More About Chamberlin: The first day of eighth grade was particularly challenging for Chamberlin. Her family had moved to Basque Country for the year, to the town her mother had grown up in. Despite the family connection, Chamberlin felt like an outsider. So she went to work, adopting a learn-everything, fear-nothing mindset.
“I let my curiosity lead me to new situations and new experiences,” she recalls. “I wanted to learn about how they could stomach eating octopus soup for lunch, and they wanted to know if school in America was like High School Musical. Day by day, bit by bit, these conversations built bridges and chipped away the differences between us. The process was a slow accumulation of small victories.”
Name and Fulbright Award: Henry Colt ’19, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Argentina
Bates Major: Anthropology
Relevant Experience: Special education paraeducator at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School in Juneau, Alaska; educator in residence for experiential learning at Medomak Middle School in Waldoboro, Maine; award-winning writer who received the 2019 Norton Writer’s Prize; volunteer with Lewiston’s Tree Street program.
Bates Activities: Cross country captain; track and field; played guitar and banjo for the American String Band ensemble.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Argentina: To listen to and study the traditional classical guitar playing styles of Argentina, including partner dance music like the Tango, culminating in a performance. He also hopes to share his love and knowledge of bluegrass music, running, and writing with the people he meets.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a master’s degree in creative nonfiction and to continue to perform music.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Henry is an amazing writer — and also very funny. His approach to thinking and conversation is quirky, in a way that seems meant (even if unconsciously) to bring all people to good humor and mutual understanding.
Last summer, instead of sitting on the couch when his job was canceled due to COVID, Henry networked his way into two socially distant musical groups, one of which led to a transcription project of an early bluegrass banjo pioneer. It’s fun to talk with Henry, and one leaves the exchange feeling inspired about what is possible in the world.”
More About Colt: While on a nightime assignment as a reporter with Alaska’s Daily Sitka Sentinel, Colt accidentally walked straight off a dock and into Sitka Channel. But before scrambling back to land, he made sure he retrieved his all-important reporter’s notebook, which he found floating nearby.
He knows what to do to “get the task at hand completed,” said a colleague, who came to admire Colt’s keen interest in the world around him, his creativity in writing about it, and his genuine fondness for people he meets.
Etti Cooper ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Etti Cooper ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Mexico
Bates Major: Biology
Relevant Experience: Intern with Latina Republic as an immigration writer; peer tutor and teaching assistant at Bates.
Bates Activities: Academic Resource Commons peer-assisted learning leader for biology and Spanish; Department of Biology teaching assistant; Admission tour guide.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Mexico: Cooper plans to seek out naturalists and locals to teach her about the flora and fauna of Mexico, as well as create art on her own and in community.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and teach at the university level.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Etti is curious and dedicated to learning the truth, and while she is respectful of different perspectives, she is not afraid to contradict a statement that isn’t backed up by facts. She will incorporate her appreciation for the natural world and passion for making science education accessible into the community in which she lives.”
More About Cooper: Cooper’s honors thesis in biology looks at how temperature changes might differently affect two different species of ant. She didn’t have to go far to collect her specimens, collecting one species on the sidewalk outside Carnegie Science Hall, and the other around Mount David.
The first time Cooper tried to teach English to a Spanish speaker, she started by giving her student, a woman with a business degree from her native Venezuela, “five pages of immaculately typed grammatical rules,” she recalls. It didn’t turn out well. The woman had already achieved some English comprehension, which Cooper had not incorporated into her approach.
“I learned that in order to determine how to teach, I must first learn how and why the students had been learning and tailor my teaching style to their educational background.”
Julia Feist ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Julia Feist ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Germany
Bates Major: Psychology
Relevant Experience: English literature tutor at Lewiston Middle School; peer tutor for English writing for Academic Resource Commons at Bates.
Bates Activities: American String Band Ensemble, Jewish Student Union, German Club.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Germany: Feist will continue performing music, and hopes to join a band or music club while in Germany, and explore and photograph the country.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a career in psychology, with a focus on researching language learning and neuroplasticity.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Julia looks forward to engaging with her community in Germany through any of her wide-ranging interests: playing piano, guitar, and bass; reading, writing, photography; and outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Julia is committed to sharing her culture and learning about others’, as evidenced by her heavy involvement with the Jewish Student Union at Bates despite being raised in a non-practicing Christian family.”
More About Feist: Feist has worked at a local restaurant in her hometown of Burlington, Mass., since 2018. She started as a busser, and was content, even as the restaurant implemented COVID-19 protocols. “As a certified neat freak, I was kind of thriving,” she says.
But then she was pressed into service as a hostess when the restaurant was short-staffed. Unexpectedly, the new duties “provided me with a sense of responsibility that forced me to find my voice,” including enforcing mask mandates and standing up for her colleagues. That taught her the value of teamwork. “I’m part of a fantastic team of people who hold each other up on tough nights. I’ve gained a sense of accountability I never knew before.
Colleen Ndemeh Fitzgerald ’14
Name and Fulbright Award: Colleen Ndemeh Fitzgerald ’14, a study/research grant for Germany
Bates Majors: Dance, Anthropology
Relevant Experience: An accomplished dancer at Bates who also majored in anthropology, Fitzgerald has pursued a solo dance/activist career since graduation. An activist of Kpelle (Liberian) and Euro-American descent, she is a first-generation Liberian-American who has spent recent years “reconnecting with a heritage that was interrupted in my lineage due to processes of colonization and economic migration.”
Bates Activities: Bates College Dance Company
Fulbright Research Purpose: In Berlin, Fitzgerald will pursue the project “Ancestral Body,” a multidisciplinary performance exploring her physical and intellectual relationship to ancestral indigenous knowledge from Africa. Her research methods will include choreographic, ethnographic, and archival research. The project is through the Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin, jointly administered by the Berlin University of the Arts and the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Germany: Participate in community spaces with grassroots organizations like Berlin-based GLADT, and partner with local collaborators to share about and teach community dance classes focused on Africa and African diaspora art and culture.
Plans After Fulbright: Work in the area of African and African diaspora indigenous arts and culture, collaborating with artists in Germany, Argentina, and Liberia.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “She is already well equipped to make the most of her proposed project having spent eight years developing her solo practice, connecting with her Liberian heritage and asserting herself as an activist artist. Her interest in human interaction is infectious; she is capable, passionate, reliable, and ambitious in her goals.”
More about Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald’s interest in studying in Germany reflects “positive and negative facets of the country.” Germany’s “rich artistic and cultural ecosystems” intrigue her, the “vibrant array of public sector support of the arts, coupled with an International community of artists.”
She’s also aware of the “legacies of colonialism” of Indigenous peoples from Africa and the Americas. “Decolonialism is a pillar of my artistic research,” she says, and “Germany is an important imperial society to study. The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, which furthered European colonization of Africa, “is representative of Germany’s role as a protagonist in the colonization of Africa.”
Jack Johnson ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Jack Johnson ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Czech Republic
Bates Major: Neuroscience
Relevant Experience: Intern focusing on youth mental health research with the Institute for the Study of Youth Resilience; English tutor at the Lewiston Public Library; science and math teaching assistant at the Lewiston Middle and High Schools; swimming instructor and member of the B1st2Swim lesson program at Bates.
Bates Activities: Men’s swimming and diving captain; AESOP Orientation trip leader.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Czech Republic: Johnson hopes to join a local swim team and help coach and teach swimming, as well as enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and foraging for mushrooms, and possibly helping with youth outreach programs involving the outdoors.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a Ph.D. in educational neuroscience, continue tutoring and teaching, and conduct research in developmental psychology and neuroscience.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Jack is a responsible leader, with a confident and friendly personality, making him an ideal mentor. His enthusiasm and love for teaching shines through when he speaks about his work with youth. His patience, positive attitude, and reflective nature make Jack a pleasure to collaborate with and shows that he is always working to better himself and those around him. Jack is meant to be a teacher.
More About Johnson: Giving swim lessons as a teenager on Cape Cod was a humbling way for Johnson to learn how to teach. He found that his enthusiasm for swimming “did not prepare me for the challenge of comforting a screaming 5 year old who refused to enter the pool for her lesson.” Soon, Johnson learned to “ acknowledge the many ways in which people acquire knowledge.”
As a Lewiston Middle School math tutor, Johnson heard his students talking about fractions in Somali, the language of the country from which they had emigrated. So Johnson started writing down Somali words in a small notebook each day, and asked his students to define the word, which they excitedly did.
By semester’s end, Johnson had a long list of Somali vocabulary words. “Exchanges like these have demonstrated the endless amount of knowledge and skills that can be attained through interacting with others.”
Megan Krieger ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Megan Krieger ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Germany
Bates Major: Political science
Relevant Experience: Teaching guide internship at Booktrails Camp, a literacy adventure camp; peer tutor for Mathematics & Statistics Workshop.
Bates Activities: Leading Women of Tomorrow treasurer, Every Voice Coalition steering committee
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Germany: Krieger hopes to focus on youth-centered activities, like tutoring or childcare, as well as find local sports clubs to participate in, and visit galleries and museums.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a career in education and, later on, education policy or nonprofit work.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “As a minor in education studies, Megan has a wealth of experience in various classrooms in the Lewiston public schools — hundreds of hours. She has worked with third graders as well as eighth graders, and even has experience with remote and hybrid classroom situations helping out a special education teacher for the middle school. She takes a learning approach to new cultures and perspectives; she listens and observes, then reacts. She teaches from the perspective of a partner, not an authority.”
More About Krieger: During the pandemic, all of Megan’s tutoring for the Math & Stats Workshop took place over Zoom. She works with students in the course “Statistics for Political Analysis,” which includes the programming language R. “It’s the first introduction to computer science for a lot of politics majors.”
Tutoring over Zoom, Krieger learned to “focus on clarity and creativity in communication. I learned how to slowly read aloud particular code areas, how to verbally point out an issue that would have been easy to spot visually, and I came up with solutions like copying and pasting small sections of code into the Zoom chat.”
“I learned a lot about adaptability and communication, which will serve me well in teaching English in a classroom in Germany.”
Talia Kurlansky ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Talia Kurlansky ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Taiwan
Bates Majors: Politics and Dance
Relevant Experience: Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine; creator and teacher of a movement class for children for Lewiston Housing Authority, Mandarin tutor and dance teacher for middle school students in New York City.
Bates Activities: Co-executive director of Bates Dance Marathon; Lewiston Democratic Party Bates Voter Turnout program director; Bates Dance Club co-president; Chinese Language and Culture Club.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Taiwan: Kurlansky hopes to find volunteer opportunities involving dance, as well as take dance classes to learn about Taiwanese dance culture. She also plans to offer English tutoring outside her ETA duties.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a master’s degree in international affairs, and work in conflict resolution and diplomacy.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Talia is a leader, organizer, and mentor. She is able to turn a group of people into a community, all speaking the same language: dance. For her, teaching is a way to give back to the community and create change in the world. She will be a dynamic presence in her new community.”
More About Kurlansky: At the beginning of her volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, Kurlansky figured she could use dance to foster a relationship with her 8-year-old “sister.” But the little girl would have none of it. “For quite a while I could not break through to her.”
Then one day, the girl asked Kurlansky about her home. “So I gave her a virtual tour of the New York apartment where I grew up. She liked the city views and showed interest in the books in my home. Soon there was a barrage of questions.” Their relationship blossomed. “I learned that one secret to communicating is to show something of yourself.”
Selam Murphy ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Selam Adere Murphy ’22 of New York City, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Mauritius
Bates Major: Psychology
Relevant Experience: Tutored English language learners in New York City and at Lewiston High School.
Bates Activities: Peer educator with the Academic Resource Commons; community engagement leader for the Black Student Union; organizer of the workshop “Celebrating Our Wild Tongues: Language Diversity at Bates, in Lewiston, and Beyond” during 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Bates.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Mauritius: Murphy seeks to document the personal stories that students share, and collect local cultural proverbs to compare with American proverbs, and publish them through a local library.
Plans After Fulbright: Work in education and immigration policy, in an organization that advocates for immigrant rights and accessible education.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “Selam’s passion for teaching and working with ELL students is driven by her own growth as an ELL student and immigrant. She understands the challenges that come with learning a new language; she is adaptable, very intentional with her work, and great at connecting and communicating with her students.”
More about Murphy: As an ELL tutor at Lewiston High School, Murphy saw how some students feared making mistakes in their work, so used her own story — being born and raised in Ethiopia and learning English as a second language — to encourage them.
“I shared with them how difficult it was for me to learn English and how many mistakes I still make,” she recalls.
One day, she grabbed a marker and whiteboard, and gathered the students around her, taking on an assignment together. “If they made a mistake, I would sound out the word until they grasped the spelling.” It worked. “They participated more, helped one another, and seemed proud of their work. I recognized the students were not ‘falling behind,’ but simply needed more guidance, encouragement, and support.”
George Schouten ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: George Schouten ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Uzbekistan
Bates Majors: Politics and Rhetoric
Relevant Experience: Teaching assistant at St. Anne’s School in Harlem in high school; Orientation trip leader at Bates.
Bates Activities: Rugby Football Club president; AESOP Orientation trip leader; WRBC radio host.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Uzbekistan: Schouten plans to spend lots of time playing chess, a popular game in Uzbekistan, while learning about Uzbek culture, and he hopes to find opportunities to play rugby, also popular in Uzbekistan.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a career in international affairs, specifically in conflict resolution, studying inter-state disputes, or international business.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “George is friendly and curious, and is a socially-aware listener in new environments. He adapts to new cultures well, and will be a good representative of the U.S. He spent a summer working at the U.S. Commercial Service connecting with various foreign partners to increase international and intercultural exchange through commerce. He has a natural instinct for conversation, communication, and discourse and will partner well with teachers and professionals in Uzbekistan.
More About Schouten: “I’m lucky that two of my biggest interests, chess and rugby, are shared by the people of Uzbekistan,” Schouten says. “I’ve found that it’s always easier to connect with people when you share a common love.”
Schouten’s parents taught him chess “even before they taught me to ride a bicycle.” Ever since, “the exasperated sighs from contemplative players and clatter of taking pieces has made me feel at home.”
Schouten is the president of the Bates Rugby Football Club. Playing the sport has “created friendships with people of many backgrounds from all over the world.” He’d like to play or volunteer for a Uzbekistan youth team, which would help him refine his language skills in a fast-paced setting, “while also helping me form bonds with teammates and opponents alike.”
Alixandra Zabin ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Alixandra Zabin ’22, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Colombia
Bates Major: Psychology
Relevant Experience: Partnership with elementary school to serve early literacy intervention; leadership of Bates’ outdoor Orientation program; Overland Summers Trip Leader; Himalayan Healthcare trek in Nepal
Bates Activities: AESOP Orientation program coordinator; Jewish Student Union president; Multifaith Chaplaincy fellow; Bates Book Buddies Community Outreach Fellow; Bates Outing Club biking director; Bates B-Well Spinning Instructor; Bates Run Club vice president.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Colombia: Zabin plans to find opportunities to be outdoors, interacting with locals and the area, as well as offering free bike repair services, and volunteering at a local library to help children connect with books.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, focusing on transpersonal wilderness therapy.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee said: “Alix’s curiosity about the people around her is contagious, and she knows how to ask questions. She seeks feedback for her own personal and professional development on a regular basis, a skill that will be essential to the ETA role. She deeply cares about helping others feel comfortable in new environments.”
More About Zabin: One winter at Bates, Zabin gave weekly snowshoeing lessons to a group of Lewiston Middle School girls.
Around 40 percent of Lewiston’s students are from immigrant families. Most of the Zabin’s students were the children of Somali Bantu immigrants who “had little experience in cold outdoor environments,” Zabin explains. Some eagerly embraced the challenge, willing to risk stumbling over their oversized “shoes.” Others needed comforting and encouragement.
Zabin tried to connect with each student differently, “using jokes, games, and questions.” By spring, the girls “were excellent snowshoers,” she says. “It was empowering to watch the girls feel confident in the cold snowfields and learn how to find happiness in a new environment.”