As a first-generation college student at Bates from a rural town in Alaska, Kelsey Schober ’16 remembers hearing the word “Fulbright” and thinking “that’s only for straight-A students. That’s for students from prestigious universities.”
Nearly a decade later, Schober knows much better — thanks in large part to her own Fulbright Student award and experience in 2019–20, which funded her master’s studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, where she researched the relationship between natural resource policy and climate change in the Arctic.
The experience taught her that “Fulbright is interested in people and their stories, not just their projects.”
Bates’ New Fulbright Student Award Recipients
Seven Bates seniors and young alumni have received Fulbright offers for 2023–24, in Argentina, Austria, Canada, Germany, Spain, and Taiwan. Three are Fulbright Student study/research awards, three are Fulbright Student English teaching awards, and one is a Fulbright Austria U.S. teaching assistantship award.
This year, Schober is serving as one of 20 Fulbright Ambassadors, a cadre of Fulbright alumni selected by Fulbright to serve as representatives, recruiters, and voices for the flagship international educational exchange program.
Schober wants to pay forward what she gained from Fulbright. “It is really important to me to continue to stay connected to the Fulbright community, to tap into those relationships to try to encourage other Alaskans, other rural students, other first generation college students to also apply to the program,” she says.
Meanwhile, Andrew Chen ’19, who received a Fulbright Student research award in 2019–20, has also kept active in Fulbright, now serving as a mentor for Fulbright Lotus, a Fulbrighter-led initiative for Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander students who are prospective Fulbright award winners.
Set to join Schober, Chen, and the rest of the worldwide Fulbright community are seven Bates seniors and young alumni who have received Fulbright offers for 2023–24 in Argentina, Austria, Canada, Germany, Spain, and Taiwan. Three are Fulbright Student study/research awards, three are Fulbright Student English teaching awards, and one is a Fulbright Austria U.S. teaching assistantship award.
“This group of new Fulbrighters includes individuals who have worked through significant personal challenges to arrive at, and now plan for, their grant years,” says Robert Strong, Bates lecturer in English and director of National Fellowships. “I love watching Batesies write these next chapters, projects, and efforts we will all benefit from.”
Schober, who also has a 2016–17 Watson Fellowship to her credit, showed her own persistence in earning her Fulbright, applying twice. In her first try, she tried to fit into her idea of what Fulbright wanted; in the second, she decided to show more of her authentic self.
“One piece of advice is that Fulbright cares about who you are as a person and the story about how you got there, not just what you are on paper or who you are on paper,” says Schober, who is now working in Anchorage, Alaska, as the state’s policy lead for The Nature Conservancy.
“Just be really authentic and honest and to tell your story and to say how your project connects to you as a person.”
Indeed, says Strong, a drive toward authenticity is woven through the college’s Fulbright and overall fellowship efforts, including feedback interviews, where applicants are invited to bring a campus mentor, “largely so there is someone in the room who is intimately invested in the student or alum’s most cherished goals and inclinations,” says Strong.
Bates has a national reputation for success in the Fulbright program. Bates has been named a Top Producer of Fulbright Student awards for 12 straight years, most recently in February.
This year, Bates was named a Top Producer in both the Student and Scholar areas, the latter for faculty members, joining just four other U.S. undergraduate institutions in achieving the dual honor.
This Year’s Fulbright Student Award Recipients
Elliott Vahey ’23
Name and Fulbright Award: Elliott Vahey ’23, a Fulbright Austria U.S. Teaching Assistantship Award
Bates Majors: German, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Relevant Experience: Youth coalition co-founder through Honesty for Ohio Education, focused on creating and delivering workshops designed to educate and mobilize adults and young people around issues of race in education.
Bates Activities: Multifaith Fellow; Health Education Intern; tutor for the First-Year Seminar program; Bates Outing Club vice-president; orientation trip leader.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Austria: To join a recreational soccer team, a sport she’s enjoyed during her prior travels; organize open-mic music nights to connect culturally.
Plans After Fulbright: Study and work in social work or counseling, focusing on the relationship between identity development and mental wellbeing.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “She is zealous about teaching and enjoys working with kids of all ages. She loves engaging in conversations with others and asking them about their ideas, insights, and interests, and is the kind of person who makes friends wherever she goes. Her energetic and upbeat nature will help her engage deeply in her host community through playing recreational soccer and through music.”
More About Vahey: Vahey is inspired and driven by working with a team rooted in connection, mutual accountability, and a willingness to hold space for difficult dialogues. During the first summer of COVID-19, back in her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Vahey co-founded a youth coalition, and worked with her peers to create and launch a workshop series for adults and young people titled “Anti-racism and Whiteness,” addressing how white identity and power systems interact to reinforce racism. Flexibility and structure went hand-in-hand as she navigated cooperation and COVID-19 throughout the process.
“As a Fulbright recipient, to thrive in a classroom setting, I know I need to foster a network of support that can endure the strains of disagreement and difference. I am wrapped in the wisdom of all who have pushed me to think deeper, to embrace tension instead of wither away from it.”
William Symmans ’23
Name and Fulbright Award: William Symmans ’23, a Study/Research Award in neuroscience for Germany
Bates Major: Neuroscience
Relevant Experience: Three summers as a student researcher in the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas CURE program for outstanding young scientists.
Bates Activities: Bates chess club co-founder; STEM Scholars Program; orientation trip leader; Psychology and Neuroscience Club member.
Fulbright Research Purpose: At the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Center for Neurosciences, Symmans will study and research how humans attune to sounds and assign meaning to them, through an experimental paradigm called the Sensory Island Task for Humans. His research will also encompass the different auditory environments he interacts with as a visitor to Germany.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Germany: To participate in language exchange programs, sharing his knowledge of the English language and of American culture, and engage recreationally with locals though soccer, biking, surfing, and chess.
Plans After Fulbright: To study and practice neurosurgical medicine, with a focus on treating neurological diseases.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “William embraces challenge and does so with a deliberate, mature leadership that has undoubtedly earned him the respect of his peers and the avid support of the faculty. His preparedness to conduct research in Munich is indisputable and his excitement to fully embrace German culture is palpable. William is an academically gifted, determined, and outgoing student who will represent the United States with honor and integrity in Germany.”
More About Symmans: Conversation shared over a meal, especially dinner, has been a source of inspiration, joy, and learning for Symmans, not just to trade information but to share culture and connection.
“When I spent three summers teaching English and math skills to recent immigrant children, I noticed that many of them observed a day-long Ramadan fast. So I transformed the lunch table from what was a quiet area of discomfort into a lively forum of tactical discourse by implementing a series of concurrent chess lessons and tournaments. All my myriad interactions have taught me the value of exchange at the table; I am eager and confident in my ability to contribute my voice to this enlightening forum.”
Ilana Rosker ’23
Name and Fulbright Award: Ilana Rosker ’23, an English Teaching Award for Spain
Bates Majors: Spanish, American Studies
Relevant Experience: Intern at GrubStreet, a creative writing nonprofit in Boston aimed at providing access to a robust creative writing education, where she worked with teens ages 13-18.
Bates Activities: Senior Fellow for Admission; orientation trip leader; president of the Crosstones a capella group; tutor for the First-Year Seminar program; Dana Scholar.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Spain: To engage with the surrounding community musically, both casually and professionally, with the intention to improve language skills and cross-cultural knowledge for both herself and others. She also plans to provide guidance for students hoping to attend U.S. universities and colleges.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a career in the non-profit sector, focusing on expanding access to higher education and creative education for teens and adults.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: Rosker has “contributed to Bates’s artistic community in innumerable ways, particularly by ensuring that the Lewiston–Auburn community be enveloped in opportunities to hear music. Ilana is a natural ambassador who will be well-loved in her Spanish community, and she is an anchor to students across all class years in all campus spaces she commits herself to.”
More About Rosker: At a young age, Rosker recalls listening to her grandparents sing in Hebrew at their temple; from that, she gained an appreciation of how music can break barriers of language, age, and culture.
She recalls traveling to northern Greece with her choir, and seeing an elderly man cry while they sang the Greek national anthem.
“The volume of tears that fell from his eyes doubled as we reached our final chord resolution. The moment fomented yet another cultural bridge, fueled by intercultural music exchange. What was once a foreign language to me was learned, and is remembered, through music. I know that after my Fulbright, I will have plenty of repertoire to choose from to hum, and I firmly believe that the students I work with will have the same.”
Amalia Herren-Lage ’22
Name and Fulbright Award: Amalia Herren-Lage ’22, a Study/Research Award in Creative Writing for Argentina
Bates Major: Gender and Sexuality Studies
Relevant Experience: Teaching assistant for Creative Nonfiction Writing at Bates, and tutor for First-Year Seminar program.
Bates Activities: Bates Votes coordinator; Dana Scholar; orientation trip leader.
Fulbright Research Purpose: Through a series of creative writing essays and by working with local cultural centers and museums, including the Centro Navarro de Rosario, which is focused on preserving the culture of Navarra in Argentina, Herren-Lage will explore how Argentines engage with inherited Galacian and Navarro cultural heritage, including Argentine grandchildren of those who fled the Spanish Civil War.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Argentina: To build on her interest in fiber crafts by joining knitting groups or classes, while learning more about textiles in Argentina, as well as volunteer with a rural library outreach program and an urban gardening program.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, and complete a manuscript drawing on her Fulbright research and her cultural inheritance from her mother.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “She will be a successful Fulbright ambassador who writes inspiring essays about how her own bi-cultural identity intersects with Argentinians of Galician descent. She brings nuanced insight into the wonderful complexities of 21st-century American identity.”
More About Herren-Lage: “As the daughter of an Iowan and a Spaniard, I am accustomed to living between cultures while in one place,” says Herren-Lage. Since her mother died a decade ago, she has poured herself into exploring her changing relationship to her cultural heritages, and the legacy her mother left behind. “Establishing my own connections to Spain — especially Galicia and Navarra — has been the subject of my great curiosity, frustration, and at times, grief.”
Imti Hassan ’23
Name and Fulbright Award: Imti Hassan ’23, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Taiwan
Bates Majors: Politics, History
Relevant Experience: English tutor in South Korea through the Gilman Scholarship Program.
Bates Activities: Senior Fellow for Admission; Bates Student Government representative; Women of Color Community liaison; Bates Africana Club; Bates College Black Student Union; Model United Nations; Technos Scholar to Japan.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Taiwan: To participate in language exchange programs to improve her own Mandarin speaking skills and help others with English, as well as join clubs in photography, pottery, and dancing, and volunteering in the local community.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue a career in law, concentrating on refugee and immigrant law.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “Imti is a role model both academically and socially at Bates and has consistently shown that through her activism and community involvement. Taiwan will be overjoyed to have a bright student like Imti and she will be a welcome addition to her Taiwanese community.”
More About Hassan: As a child, Hassan had a Taiwanese neighbor, who introduced her to Taiwanese culture. Hassan loved to read and watch movies, and her neighbor introduced her to the world of Taiwanese entertainment. “By watching Taiwanese dramas and reading Taiwanese literature, I learned about a new culture from another country.”
Hassan carried her interest in Taiwan through high school in Portland, becoming proficient in Chinese, and continued her studies at Bates. “My love for learning a new culture is a driving factor for me to become an English teaching assistant in Taiwan,” Hassan says. “I hope to inspire students by sharing my family traditions, my language, and my hobbies.”
Adam Gardner ’20
Name and Fulbright Award: Adam Gardner ’20, a Study/Research Award in environmental sciences for Canada
Bates Majors: Art and Visual Culture, Environmental Studies
Relevant Experience: West Coast and Brownfield Development Manager for UGE International; community energy consultant for the Center for Creative Land Recycling for NYSERDA.
Bates Activities: Bates Art Society member; Bates College Radio host; orientation trip leader.
Fulbright Research Purpose: Affiliated with Toronto Metropolitan University and the Canadian Brownfields Network, Gardner will examine the benefits of renewable energy installations on brownfields, which are underutilized, abandoned, or contaminated plots of land, with a focus on Canada’s Indigenous communities.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Canada: To volunteer with environmental organizations, engage with the local communities outside of work, and volunteer at the Art Gallery of Toronto and The Image Centre.
Plans After Fulbright: To continue his research in grad school, with the ultimate goal of influencing supportive public policies in the United States and abroad.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “Well-rounded, Adam was also heavily involved with the Bates arts scene, managing campus concerts, doing music production, and winning our top award for work in Art History. These qualities and skills, along with his concern for working with communities in need, will win him many friends in Canada. His commitment to this work is undeniable.”
More About Gardner: During an environmental studies capstone at Bates, Gardner researched the long-term health impacts of lead paint contamination in abandoned lots in the Lewiston “Tree Street” neighborhood. The work was intense and short-lived, and required leadership and dedication, skills that set him up for future work.
“While my work in the Tree Streets was a pivotal experience, one that honed my abilities as an independent researcher and fueled my passion for the environment, the broader fight for environmental justice is a continual effort that requires community collaboration, fortitude and patience.”
Max Devon ’23
Name and Fulbright Award: Max Devon ’23, an English Teaching Assistant Award for Laos
Bates Majors: History, Religious Studies
Relevant Experience: Teaching fellow at Taft Summer School, where he taught a course on current events and served as a dorm parent.
Bates Activities: Jewish Student Union co-president; Dana Scholar; course-attached tutor and peer advisor.
Plans for Host-Community Engagement in Laos: To immerse himself in the culture and religious traditions of Laos, and to play baseball and American football with Laotian locals.
Plans After Fulbright: To pursue more education, and eventually, a career in law or public policy.
What the Bates Fulbright Committee Said: “On an individual level, Max is inquisitive, demonstrating a genuine curiosity to engage with others. He is thoughtful, patient, and open to new and unfamiliar experiences. One of our best Fulbright ambassadors in this year’s application pool.”
More About Devon: Devon was born with severe sensorineural hearing loss and has used hearing aids almost since birth. “I straddle two worlds: the world of the hearing and the world of the deaf,” he says. “I unsteadily stand in both worlds, never truly settled in either. This sense of split identity, of ‘twoness,’ has forever shaped the way I perceive and interact with the worlds around me.
“In time, I have come to see my twoness not as two mismatched puzzle pieces, but instead as two distinct but interlocking parts of a whole. Furthermore, I have come to recognize I am not alone in my twoness — many people straddle multiple worlds in search of a sense of belonging. I have learned to accept and embrace the two worlds I stand in — finding my wholeness in both.”