Five recent Seaver College graduates have joined the elite rank of Fulbright Scholars, one of the most prestigious scholarly awards worldwide.
Carolyn Dapper ('14), Sarah Houston ('14), and Courtney Stabingas ('14) will live out the Fulbright Program's mission of promoting international goodwill through the exchange of students as they prepare to travel to the Slovak Republic, Turkey, and Greece, respectively, to embark on a diverse array of experiences as English Teaching Assistants (ETA) and researchers.
Steven Fleming ('14), who studied biology at Seaver College, will conduct research on forest chemical ecology in Germany. Business administration graduate Jerusalem Theodros ('14) will research public health in Ethiopia.
Meet the five Seaver alumni and hear how they will learn from their experiences, contribute to cultural research and relations, and fulfill J. William Fulbright's plan for his Scholars to "bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship."
Carolyn Dapper ('14, English/Political Science)
Carolyn Dapper had always planned on attending graduate school after completing her undergraduate studies at Pepperdine, but was equally passionate about taking a year off to serve in a different role, engage her brain in new ways, and live somewhere new. As a junior at Seaver College, she studied anti-communist rhetoric in the United States as a part of the Political Science Honors Program and, as a senior, dove into topics of civic identity and immigration in America as a part of her English Writing and Rhetoric thesis.
"I chose Slovakia, because it offers me the opportunity to pursue similar research topics in a post-communist society and one with an interesting understanding of civic identity and belonging," she explains. "Choosing Slovakia enabled me to pursue both of my passions, teaching and researching, in a way that is particularly focused on my research interests and future goals."
Beyond the academic opportunities that the scholarship will provide, Dapper will serve as a cultural ambassador for the United States while abroad. "Since narratives about the United States construct individual understandings about what the United States is, who Americans are, and what they do, it is highly important for me to be able to share narratives about myself and my life that give a clearer understanding about America and Americans," she says.
Following her Fulbright experience Dapper hopes to pursue a PhD in political science and will use the scholarship opportunity to prepare for her future in teaching and research. "It will give me ample experience working closely with students and honing my skills as a teacher in ways that will be quite valuable to me as a professor," she explains. "It also gives me a chance to experience field work for the first time, which, as a PhD I will hopefully do a great deal of as I research and write."
Steven Fleming ('14, Biology)
As a biology researcher in Germany, Steven Fleming's goal is to become a better scientist and to expose himself to a new culture--an experience that he hopes will enable him to function as a native by the end of his time abroad. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to grow as an individual as i leave my friends and the Pepperdine comfort zone.
In Germany Fleming will study forest chemical ecology and investigate how increased temperatures and drought may affect how forest trees are able to protect themselves against pests. "The guidance that i will receive from the scientists at the Max Planck Institute will better my scientific skills and techniques and will teach me how professional science is conducted," he explains.
"I am honored that the Fulbright board gave me a scholarship," he continues. "It is important to help break down stereotypes and to strengthen international relationships between countries."
His advice to future Fulbright applicants is to begin the process early. "If you plan to apply, start in the summer," he insists. "I started as school began and actually finished editing my essays seconds before the application deadline. That was so stressful, so start early!"
Courtney Stabingas ('14, International Studies)
When deciding where to apply for her Fulbright grant, Courtney Stabingas searched for a program that would hone her teaching skills and provide practical experience to bring back to her Elementary Ed graduate studies and eventual career as an elementary teacher. Coupled with her dream of living in a foreign country, the Fulbright/Hellenic American Educational Foundation was the perfect union of her two dreams. While abroad, Stabingas will work at the Athens College, a K-12 school where she will be living and working alongside 11 other Fulbright teaching fellows.
"I hope to be a liaison between American and Greek culture, and share a bit of that American culture with the students through literature, movies, and beyond," she muses. "Even more so, I hope to learn about Greek culture from my students and create a community in which both parties can learn and grow from each other."
Upon her return, Stabingas plans to work towards a teaching credential and apply the techniques and experiences gained in Greece to her future classroom. "I know that adventure, growth, and learning await, and I'm excited to get started in August."
Sarah Houston ('14, Film Studies, Political Science)
Sarah Houston caught the travel bug after studying abroad during her sophomore year in Argentina as part of Pepperdine's International Programs. "I feel like I am at my best, pushing myself and becoming a better student and person, when I am experiencing a culture drastically different than the one I grew up in," she explains. "So when I heard about Fulbright from other Pepperdine students and one of my professors, it sounded like a unique experience to get to know a different culture in a much more personal and intellectual way"
Houston chose Turkey because of the country's program wherein all Fulbright ETA recipients have the opportunity to teach at the university level and have the freedom to create extracurricular programs for both the university and community. "I wanted to teach university-age students, because I feel like it would be a very valuable way to learn about youth culture and the issues facing the generation that is about to take over the work force," she says. "I also love teaching and learn more about myself when helping others understand the world around them."
"I would love for my students to grasp the essence of the language, not just the rules. What I mean is that I want to introduce them to important cultural and social materials, so they can grasp certain American values and ideas. I would also love to start extracurricular clubs where women can discuss certain feminist literature or film and hope to establish a program where university students work with younger special education students."
Jerusalem Theodros ('14, Business Administration)
"My goal in pursuing a full-grant scholarship to Ethiopia is to examine factors that keep Ethiopian-born medical professionals practicing in their home country while many of their counterparts practice abroad," says Jerusalem Theodros. While overseas the recent Seaver College graduate hopes to study the effect of the "brain drain" that leads to the shortage of personnel support in the health care sector in Ethiopia.
She explains that, while reasons for migration from Ethiopia are well researched, factors that keep Ethiopian-educated medical professionals practicing in their home country are not as clear. "While I can hypothesize some of the reasons Ethiopian-educated medical professionals may stay in Ethiopia, I will work alongside my affiliates to create a survey instrument and interview hospital staff throughout the country."
As a first generation Ethiopian-American, Theodros has the desire to understand and improve U.S relations with Ethiopia to a greater degree. "Through this opportunity with the Fulbright program, I will be able to represent the U.S and enhance mutual understanding between Americans and Ethiopian citizens," she says. "I am looking forward to my time in Ethiopia, because of the contributions I believe my research will make to the Ethiopian community and other developing nations. The nine months I spend abroad will ensure challenge, transformation and growth that I am anticipating."
The Fulbright program, America's flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The program operates in over 150 countries worldwide.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
For more information on graduate fellowships, visit the Seaver College Graduate Fellowships website.