CCE Roots, Fulbright Wings

Experiences in community-based learning though the Center for Community Engagement supported the majority of this year’s Middlebury College Fulbright Fellowship winners. I connected with a few of them to learn about what got them on track for their Fulbright adventures!

Class of 2019 Fulbright recipients with CCE connections, left to right.
Top: Rebecca Brown (18.5), Mikaela Chang, Emmanuel Duran
Middle: Pharibe Pope, Tiffany Martinez, Ariana Hernandez
Bottom: Masayuki Sakamoto, Melisa Topic, Mary Trichka

Type in “best skills for success” and search for the key words. “Professional communication”, having “business acumen” and “grit” – all pretty predictable. From listening to Mozart in the womb to dropping out of highschool to pursue your genius passion, there is no shortage of unsolicited advice over what hacks are going to help you succeed.

And even though Google may not know it, we can now put down “caring for the community” as one of the best.

Eleven Middlebury seniors and five recently graduated alums will be spreading across the world with Fulbright fellowships for the 2019-2020 academic year. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Middlebury grads will be teaching or conducting research alongside more than 1,900 other recipients worldwide.

Looking at them, something stands out for me. One of the common threads across many of the recipients’ experience at Middlebury? Deep involvement in their communities, via CCE programs.

Eight of the 11 graduating seniors, and 11 of the 16 overall recipients were connected to the CCE in some capacity over their time here at Middlebury. From experiencing the larger world as a result of programs like Middlebury Alternative Break (MAlt) trips and the Cross Cultural Community Service Fund grants, to bringing that world back to Vermont with Language in Motion or being a Community Friends mentor, it is clear that Middlebury’s Fulbright recipients have no shortage of willingness to engage in their communities. Several name those experiences as factors that put them on the track to a Fulbright.

Mary Trichka, ‘19, who led a MAlt trip focused on urban farming in San Francisco, is hoping to engage with her new community as an English Teaching Assistant in the Republic of Georgia this upcoming year.  She reflected about how she came to value the reciprocal nature of community partnerships: “The sort of ideals associated with MAlt definitely apply to and will inform my Fulbright experience…this idea of service-learning stems from my MAlt experience. I hope to both give to and learn from the community I will be engaging with.”

Melisa Topic, ‘19, who will be heading to Argentina this fall, considered a lesson she learned from her time studying abroad and, later, using that experience to inform her role as a Language in Motion mentor here in Middlebury. “Getting out of your comfort zone can benefit you more than taking another class or getting an institutional internship,” Melisa says. “Push yourself to be uncomfortable, until it is comfortable.”

Along with the opportunity to pursue research and teaching, the Fulbright grant gives its recipients the opportunity to build a cross-cultural perspective, in order to build relationships that otherwise might have been impossible.

In a political moment increasingly defined by nationalism and xenophobia, Trichka’s idea of reciprocity in service learning and Topic’s motto of embracing the uncomfortable might be just what the global community needs to expand and rebuild our relationships. Here at the CCE, we’re honored to spark those kind of mindsets and look forward to hearing how these recipients deepen their commitment to intercultural learning around the world!

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