Fulbright Scholar Program Taps Eight Wellesley Students and Alumnae

May 17, 2012

Eight members of the Wellesley Community have received Fulbright Scholar recognition. Four graduating seniors: Lucy Archer ’12, Alison Kyung-Hwa Lee ’12, Sohini Pillai ’12, and Koua Cheng Xiong ’12; and two alumnae: Ashley Hartman ’09, and Kathleen Keefe ’09, have been named Fulbright Scholars. Additionally, Tracy Bassett ’06 and Katherine Nolan ’12 were named alternates. The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is widely recognized as the most prestigious international exchange program in the world.

Koua Cheng Xiong ’12, an International Relations and Political Science major from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Vietnam and will be working alongside the faculty at the Yen Bai Teacher Training College in Yen Bai City, which is about 3 hours north of Hanoi, to teach English.

“I chose Vietnam because I'm dedicated to giving back to the Southeast Asian community. My parents were refugees of the Secret War in Laos, which was significantly linked to the Vietnam War,” Xiong said. “To be able to go back to Vietnam and do this Fulbright is unbelievable and symbolically powerful.  I know it's going to be transformative and I look forward to growing personally and professionally.”

Alison Kyung-Hwa Lee ’12, a Biological Sciences major from Woodbridge, Connecticut, received a full grant to South Korea where she will get firsthand experience and exposure to Korean Oriental Medicine (KOM). Lee, who emigrated from Korea, is an aspiring physician-scientist. She will work with two advisors from Dongguk University, which has branches in both Seoul and Gyeongju. For the first half of the semester, she will study the basics of acupuncture by taking a class in Seoul then, in Gyeonju, she will learn about herbal medicine and work in a lab that uses Western techniques to validate the mechanisms of different herbal remedies and develop natural drugs for treating various diseases.

“I want to learn about how Koreans incorporate the elements of traditional medicine into today’s modern society, Lee said. “A few questions that I'm interested in answering are: How are these ancient philosophies being taught in the national school systems? What efforts are underway to further legitimize KOM, such as scientific research? What are the benefits that KOM offers over Western medicine? Why do people choose to receive KOM therapies?”

Sohini Pillai ’12, a Theatre Studies and South Asia Studies major from Lexington, Massachusetts, was awarded a full grant to India where she will conduct research on how the performing arts in India, specifically, different theatrical versions of the ancient epic poem The Ramayana, can promote positive messages of pluralism and harmony. The performances she plans to research range from the traditional Ramlila theatre in Old Delhi to an innovative Bharatanatyam dance-drama, and a rock-musical combining Indian folk dance and theatre forms with salsa, ballet, jazz, and Shakespeare. Sohini will conduct this research under the mentorship of Professor Bishnupriya Dutt at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Lucy Archer ’12, a Physics major from Berkeley, California, was awarded a full grant to France where she will be taking courses in Physics at Paris-Sud University and working at the SOLEIL synchrotron facility, a multidisciplinary instrument and research laboratory, where she took the data she used in her thesis.

Alumnae Ashley Hartman ’09 received a full grant to France and Kathleen Mary Keefe ’09, received an English Teaching Assistantship to Russia. Alternates Tracy Gwendolyn Bassett ’06 and Katherine Rose Nolan ’12 would receive an English Teaching Assistantship to Brazil and to Jordan, respectively.

The Fulbright Program, which was established in 1945 by a congressional bill introduced by Arkansas Senator William J. Fulbright, was designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Currently, it operates in over 155 countries worldwide.

“By sending bright, talented individuals overseas and welcoming others here, the Fulbright remains one of our State Department's most effective programs for increasing understanding between the United States and other countries,” said Ellie Perkins, Director of Fellowship Programs for Wellesley’s Center for Work and Service

According to the State Department Web site, Student scholars are chosen based on merit and exemplify achievement and potential to represent the full diversity of their respective societies.