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Whitman Seniors Win Fulbrights: Graduates To Travel, Study in Sri Lanka and Korea

WALLA WALLA, Wash.—Two Whitman College seniors have been awarded prestigious national Fulbright Scholarships to spend next year conducting academic research in foreign countries. One of the two will also teach English as a foreign language while conducting her research.

A total of 17 Whitman students have received Fulbright grants in the past four years, according to Robert Tobin, Whitman professor of German, associate dean of the faculty and chair of the Fulbright evaluation committee on campus.

Whitman’s 2004 recipients are Lisa Moore, a politics major who has received a grant to fund nine months of academic field-based research in Sri Lanka, and Megan Berney Roberts, a geology major who will teach English as a Foreign Language in South Korea and study the geology of the Korean Peninsula during her time there.

Established by Congress in 1946, the Fulbright Student Program is considered the flagship of America’s educational exchange programs. Its goals encompass fostering mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries while simultaneously equipping students with the skills they will need to become leaders in an increasingly global environment. Under the program this year 1,125 American students have been offered grants to study and conduct research in 140 countries throughout the world beginning in the fall of 2004.

Moore spent the fall semester of 2002 studying abroad in Sri Lanka under the auspices of the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education Program (ISLE). Fully immersed in the culture, she lived with a Sinhala Buddhist family, attended classes at a local university from renowned scholars on the island and engaged in an intensive colloquial Sinhala course. Learning Sinhala enabled her to conduct interviews and field assignments during the semester’s culminating independent study period. The experience, she said, was profoundly challenging and rewarding and thus cultivated a desire to return to Sri Lanka to pursue additional research.

Her Fulbright project, “The Gendered Dimensions of Violence and Peace in Sri Lanka,” will focus primarily on the impact that ethnic and civil war in Sri Lanka has had on women in that country. The women’s movement in Sri Lanka, said Moore, gained momentum as the ethnic strife and violence of the conflict decreased with the declaration of a cease-fire in 2001. “As a Fulbright scholar, I will study the intersections between gender-based violence and the violence of war, the responses of the women’s movement to the peace process, and the efforts of both the government and the women’s movement to redress the grievances of women adversely affected by the war. Additionally, I plan to survey the ways in which both the government and the LTTE opposition have deployed images of womanhood and motherhood to mobilize troops and, consequently, I hope to illuminate how gender is militarized in ways the affect the lives of Sri Lankan women.”

Moore has also been selected to attend the Freeman East Asian Program in Kyoto, Japan, during June. She will attend this cultural arts program and then travel to Sri Lanka to work for five months as an assistant director of the ISLE 2004 study abroad program before beginning her Fulbright research. Moore will work alongside Whitman politics professor Shampa Biswas, who will be the ISLE program faculty director for 2004. Whitman is one of eight private liberal arts colleges that participate in the ISLE program.

Moore, who wrote her honors politics thesis on the politics of tourism, memory and commemoration at war and atrocity sites, said she aspires toward a career in international conflict resolution. Her post-Fulbright plans include travel and then graduate school, where she anticipates specializing in international and South Asian studies.

Moore’s numerous honors and awards while at Whitman include membership in the Order of Waiilatpu, a Perry Student-Faculty Research Grant, a William O. Douglas Merit Scholarship, the 2004 Robert Y. Fluno Award in Politics for the Best Thesis, and a Robert C. Byrd Congressional Scholarship. Her extensive extracurricular activities include participation in numerous clubs and committees including Model United Nations, Amnesty International, Council on Student Affairs, and the International Students and Friends Club, among others. Most notably, however, she has worked in the Intercultural Center as an intern for the past two-and-a-half years and served as ASWC Public Speakers Chair, organizing the visits of Ralph Nader, Howard Zinn, and Maya Angelou, among others.

Berney Roberts, a geology major who is also pursuing certification in elementary education at Whitman, plans to use her academic year teaching English as a second language to Korean middle- and high-school students to develop her teaching abilities and to expand her experience of diverse languages and cultures.

Berney Roberts has worked for America Reads (a national program to aid troubled readers) while at Whitman. She has taken the opportunity to help students at Walla Walla’s Green Park Elementary School improve their reading skills, and she has also worked with deaf students at Walla Walla’s Edison Elementary School.

In addition, Berney Roberts has taken advantage of her college-related travels to combine the study of geology with teaching English and absorbing and comparing other cultures she encounters. She spent the summer of 2003 studying geology in Mongolia’s Gobi with a group of students from the United States and Mongolia. While on this adventure, she made a concerted effort to communicate with the Mongolian students, who in turn sought her help polishing their English skills. She still communicates with these students via email, and was able to reunite with some of these Mongolian students this past spring in Virginia at the Keck Geology Consortium where the group’s research was presented. Berney Roberts’ honors thesis was based on the geologic study she did in Mongolia.

On the same trip, while traveling to Mongolia Berney Roberts met a group of deaf Koreans. As a student of American Sign Language and deaf culture, Berney Roberts sought to communicate with this group and discovered that there are many similarities between ASL and Korean Sign Language. Through their mutual language of sign, Berney Roberts help the group complete customs forms that were written only in English and Mongolian, not Korean. While teaching English in Korea, said Berney Roberts, she hopes to learn how Korean deaf culture and deaf education in Korea compare to that in the United States.

In addition to teaching and learning opportunities in education in Korea, Berney Roberts said she looks forward to the opportunity to study the geology of the Korean Peninsula. “I am especially curious about how the geologic history of Korea compares with that of Mongolia, given that they are in fairly close proximity to one another.”

In conclusion, she said, “I am extremely interested in teaching, sharing languages and cultures, and studying both deaf culture and geology. This Fulbright grant will give me the opportunity to further explore these interests.”


Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
Email: parishlj@whitman.edu

Published on May 18, 2004
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