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10 New Graduates Set to Make an Impact Abroad

By David Fialkow ’15


Some of the College’s most recent Fulbright recipients were award winners at Commencement in May. Rosalie Lawrence ’12 received the Oak Leaf Award, given to the female graduate who is outstanding in leadership, scholarship, and contributions to the college community. Photos by Laurence Kesterson

This spring, 10 graduating seniors were awarded 2013 Fulbright fellowships, either to teach or undertake a research project abroad.

The recipients are: Andrew Cheng (South Korea, English teaching assistantship); Philip Chodrow (Norway, psychology, philosophy, and social theory project); Melissa Frick (France, medical research); Elan Silverblatt-Buser (Mexico, plant biology); Zachary Wiener (Malaysia, English teaching assistantship), Joseph Willens (Colombia, English teaching assistantship), Jacqueline Bailey-Ross (Russia, African studies), Brice Jordan (Kyrgyzstan, English teaching assistantship), Rosalie Lawrence (Botswana, vaccine development), and William Lin (Macao, English teaching assistantship).

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Sen. J. William Fulbright, the U.S. State Department–sponsored program aims to foster international understanding and tolerance through cultural and educational exchange programs. Recipients receive free housing and a stipend to cover living expenses.

Before being selected, Fulbright scholars identify countries and issues on which to focus. Then they go through a rigorous selection process based on their proposal.

Only about 1,600 American students are selected each year, making Swarthmore’s achievement of 10 winners remarkable but not unprecedented at the College. It is one of the top 10 liberal-arts colleges in the country in the number of students winning the prestigious awards, according to a chart on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website. In 2011, nine graduating seniors and two alumni received Fulbrights; in 2010, six seniors and four alumni; in 2009, eight seniors and four alumni; in 2008, nine seniors and four alumni were awarded Fulbrights.

“Our graduating seniors and young alums perform very well in the Fulbright competition largely because of the academic preparation they received at Swarthmore,” says Melissa Mandos, fellowships and prizes adviser. “They know how to develop and focus a research project because they’ve done that work in their classes,” she adds.

Beyond academic preparation, strong support from faculty and staff has been a critical component in the applicants’ success.

“The fellowships and prizes process helps our candidates refine their proposals,” Mandos explains. “A committee of faculty and administrators review every proposal and interview each candidate, providing feedback and advice. The faculty, in general, are very encouraging and supportive of all our grant candidates and collectively write hundreds of letters of recommendation every year.”


Philip Chodrow ’12 received the Ivy Award, given to the graduating male who exemplifies the same qualities.

Fulbrighters who have recently returned from their time abroad consistently cite the role faculty, staff, and alumni play in the application process and their eventual experience.

“The support from faculty and staff on campus was amazing,” says Kathryn Stockbower ’11, who recently returned from her English teaching assistantship for fifth- through 10th-graders in Rodgau-Jügesheim, Germany.

“German professor Hansjakob Werlen was instrumental and helped me with my personal statement and statement of grant purpose as well,” she says. “The College is great about getting you in touch with other Fulbright alumni. I contacted multiple alumni to get their perspectives on the application process and also to get advice from them based on their experiences.”

Many Fulbright recipients, like Stockbower, choose to focus their time abroad on teaching—a passion widespread and well supported on Swarthmore’s campus.

“For those who are undertaking teaching assistantship grants, they have had lots of opportunities on campus to serve in peer mentoring roles and volunteering with local youth groups,” Mandos says. “They are able to demonstrate that they have meaningful experience guiding and directing others.”

Swarthmore’s passion for social responsibility also makes its graduates compatible with the Fulbright mission. Stockbower articulates further why Fulbright and Swarthmore are a good fit.

“Swarthmore is a place that challenges students to step outside of their comfort zone, try new things, and think open-mindedly,” she says. “It prepares you to dive into these unfamiliar types of situations and thrive there. More than that, because the College is made up of so many students with diverse and interesting backgrounds, it makes you an open-minded person, which is a big part of the Fulbright experience.

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