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Northwestern Fulbright students span the globe

EVANSTON - One is searching for archeological clues in Iceland that may help us better respond to climate change. Another is documenting the stories of Syrian refugees as they seek normalcy through the creation of social spaces in restaurants and cafes in Istanbul. Spanning the globe in pursuit of knowledge, they are among this year’s Northwestern University Fulbright scholars.     

Sixteen Northwestern students and alumni comprise the newest class of globe-trotting scholars and winners of 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Program — one of the most widely recognized and respected international exchange programs in the world. 

The flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants to teach, conduct research, study or participate in specialized internships.

For the past decade, Northwestern has ranked among the top Fulbright producing research institutions in the country. The University is one of only six universities to appear on every “top producing” Fulbright U.S. Student Program list published by the Chronicle of Higher Education since 2005.

“Northwestern’s record underscores our students’ disciplinary breadth and global reach,” said Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, director of the Office of Fellowships at Northwestern University. “Wildcats cover the world with their energy, enthusiasm and scholarly excellence.”

This year’s award winners have academic backgrounds ranging from global health to music and history, and they are serving in all corners of the world, from Germany and Italy to Taiwan, the Philippines, India and Turkey.

Fulbright recipients refine publishable ideas, develop new lines of inquiry and form life-long personal and professional relationships. Awardees regularly report that the fellowship experience transformed their lives.

“They return as global citizens with richer understanding of their discipline and research communities abroad,” said Stephen Hill of the Office of Fellowships.

More than 1,900U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100different fields are offered Fulbright Program awards to study, teach English and conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries throughout the world.

The Fulbright competition is administered at Northwestern through the Office of Fellowships. The Northwestern campus application deadline is always early September for awards beginning almost a year later. The Office of Fellowships reminds students, “It’s never too early to begin an application.”

Morgan Searles and Joe Popely contributed to this report.

The 2016-17 Fulbright winners

Kathryn Catlin


A Ph.D. candidate in archeology at Northwestern, Kathryn Catlin has expanded upon her previous study of Icelandic historical archaeology. She is investigating how we can better respond to global climate change by examining the ways in which Icelanders who worked at small, marginal farms in the 10th and 11th centuries adapted to social and environmental changes. “I know that my Fulbright experience will not only make my dissertation immeasurably better, it will also shape my career as a scholar and my identity as a citizen of the world,” Catlin said. She aspires to one day become a prominent scholar at a research university and to teach and use archaeological research to shape environmental policy toward a sustainable future.


Keith Clark

Beijing, China

 Keith Clark is in his second stint in Asia, this time as a Northwestern Ph.D. candidate in East Asian history. His first stay was as a marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan, which introduced him to the geopolitics of the region on a personal level. Undergraduate classes on American foreign relations and modern China sparked the Salt Lake City native’s interest in Chinese history. He currently spends most of his time in Chinese libraries for his dissertation on competition between Beijing and Taipei for the United Nations’ “China Seat.” Clark hopes to one day help shape U.S. policy on East Asia.  


Savannah Couch


A graduate of Northwestern with a double major in theater and Chinese language and culture, Savannah Couch is currently on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan. She spent the summer of 2013 studying public health at Peking University. During her time at Northwestern, Couch was involved with Seesaw Theatre, an ensemble focusing on creating multi-sensory, immersive theatrical experiences for children with cognitive differences.  In addition, Couch’s many talents include dance and choreography.  Upon return to the U.S., her career goal is to create more inclusive arts opportunities for people of all abilities by working as a teaching artist, director, choreographer and teacher.  


Carlos Pereira Di Salvo

Frankfurt, Germany 

Carlos Pereira Di Salvo is a Ph.D. student in Northwestern’s department of philosophy. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, and a naturalized U.S. citizen who spent his teen years in Cincinnati, Pereira Di Salvo is now living on a third continent.He has taken his long-held interest in globalization to Goethe University, Frankfurt, where he focuses on proposals for democratizing global governance as part of Goethe’s Excellence Cluster on The Formation of Normative Orders. “The work I am doing now will provide a foundation for future research into global poverty and poverty alleviation, as well as the global regulation of migration,” Pereira Di Salvo said.  


Jenna Harmon

Paris, France

A Ph.D. student in musicology, Jenna Harmon is conducting archival research for her dissertation, which investigates the appearance of printed popular songs in pornographic pamphlets from the French Revolution. She first discovered the topic during a trip to the Northwestern archives and was interested in the pamphlet’s irreverent humor and biting satire. “Northwestern’s commitment to providing interdisciplinary opportunities to its graduate students enabled me to pursue my interests in music, French history and sexuality studies from archival and theoretical perspectives,” Harmon said. She hopes to one day teach courses on the interconnected nature of music, politics and sexuality, and to maintain her own musical practice as a professional violinist. 


William Krinsman 

Berlin, Germany 

A Northwestern alumnus, William Krinsman is in Berlin conducting research that involves investigating how the mathematics of geometric objects can be applied to the statistical modeling of biological systems. The Arlington, Virginia, native said the rigor of Northwestern’s mathematics program and the year he spent studying mathematics in Munich prepared him for his current research, which is primarily developed by theoretical mathematicians.


Catherine McCarter

Aachen, Germany 

Catherine McCarter holds a position as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantin Germany, where she works to enhance cross-cultural understanding, improve her language skills and help students deepen their understanding of the United States. An alumnae of Northwestern’s department of linguistics, McCarter aims to emulate the teaching excellence of her Northwestern professors and to provide her students with the tools to succeed. She also spends her time baking American goods for her colleagues, students and friends in Germany. McCarter, who knows Italian, Gaelic, German, Korean and Spanish, hopes to continue adding new languages to her ever-growing list.


Laura Noboa

Florence, Italy 

A Ph.D. student in history, Laura Noboa is pursuing archival research for her doctoral dissertation, “Characterizing Consortship: Virtue and the Reception of Three Renaissance Court Consorts,” which focuses on the political interventions of Eleanor of Aragon, her daughter Isabella d’Este and her daughter-in-law Lucrezia Borgia and what effect these actions had on humanist political thought. “Northwestern has well prepared me to carry out my research in Italy’s archives,” Noboa said. “Both the paleographical training that I received with my advisor, Ed Muir, as well as the rigorous methodological training in gender history and Renaissance history I received within the department, have ensured that I am suited to complete this project.”  


Adelina Pak

Taitung, Taiwan 

Adelina Pak is working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantin Taiwan, where she assists more than 200 students in first through sixth grades. A Northwestern graduate with a degree in political science, she takes Chinese classes at a local university and meets with language exchange partners. A child of immigrant parents, Pak learned early the importance of language, and her experience teaching English to refugees as a Northwestern senior further inspired her to apply for a Fulbright teaching position. Pak was awarded an Outstanding Fulbright Performance Award recently at the mid-year conference for all Fulbright Taiwan grantees. She hopes to become a lawyer.


Vanda Rajcan

Slovak Republic

Vanda Rajcan is a Ph.D. candidate in history. Using Slovak retribution courts from 1945 to 1949, Rajcan is examining a dominant Slovak national narrative, which maintains that Slovaks were universally victim to Nazi aggression. Rajcan’s preliminary findings paint a more complex picture, including significant instances of collaboration, particularly regarding Jewish populations. The work is courageous, and Rajcan possesses the proper balance of scholarly training, extensive language skills and empathy to do an excellent job. Prior to Northwestern, Rajcan was a researcher at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 


Neha Reddy

Hyderabad, India

As a Fulbright researcher in India, Neha Reddy is investigating the integration of feminist values and rights-based frameworks within India’s rural health policy. A Northwestern graduate with a degree in anthropology, she aims to discern if and how the state engages with India’s vocal and active women’s rights community to promote reproductive rights and quality access to healthcare. On Jan. 21, as millions of Americans participated in the Women’s March, Reddy joined thousands of Indians participating in a nationwide protest against street harassment and sexual assault of women. Reddy hopes to earn a medicine and public health dual degree and to work in global women’s health with an emphasis on policy, clinical work and advocacy-based work.


Joy Sales

The Philippines 

Joy Sales, a Ph.D. student in history, is researching the migration of Filipino activists in the 1970s and 1980s and how they formed transnational networks and support groups aimed at toppling the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. The legacies of this activism can be seen all over the world, including Sales’ hometown of Chicago, where she began this project. At Northwestern, Sales gained the necessary experience of archival and oral history. She hopes to teach social movement classes at a small college and to work alongside other Filipino Americans who are dedicated to workers’ rights, women’s rights and immigrant justice.


Sarah Smierciak

Istanbul, Turkey 

Inspired by the resilience of the Syrian community, Sarah Smierciak's Fulbright project aims to paint a portrait of Istanbul's "Little Syria" through a combination of video, photography and long-form writing. She examines the proliferation of Syrian cafes and restaurants as microcosms of displaced Syrian society. A graduate of Northwestern and a doctoral student in Middle East studies at the University of Oxford, Smierciak illuminates the political economy of these entrepreneurial endeavors and how the establishments offer social spaces for a predominantly Syrian clientele. She also participates in events at a Syrian community center, which offers homework help, language classes and artisanal crafts providing a supplementary income to women. 


Scott Spicer

Tel Aviv, Israel 

A graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in linguistics, Scott Spicer is studying the origins of semantic differences across languages at Tel Aviv University. Spicer is using a survey to ask study participants to rate the appropriateness of sentences that employ a single verb in a variety of ways. He is also performing archival research on the history of Hebrew and creating a language change timeline that stretches from the biblical period to the present day. Spicer aspires to enter a Ph.D. program in linguistics, with his Fulbright research serving as a springboard for doctoral work.  


Weronika Wasilewski  

Warsaw, Poland 

The daughter of Polish immigrants, Weronika Wasilewski decided to experience her parents’ home country as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She teaches English conversation and American studies to undergraduates at the Philological School of Higher Education in Wroclaw, Poland. “I decided to apply for a Fulbright because it is a great combination of my love of education and intrigue in Polish culture,” Wasilewski said. “In classrooms, I work with a variety of students and must adapt to different types of work ethics, opinions and deadlines.” A Northwestern graduate with a degree in organizational change and psychology, Wasilewski hopes to one day work as an adviser in a fellowship or study abroad office in higher education.


Alexander York

Munich, Germany

Alexander York, a second-year master’s voice student at Northwestern, has immersed himself in Lied (German art song) culture, studying its poetry, history, interpretation, cultural significance and vocal technique and style. He is studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich while pursuing a classical singing career in Europe. With the help of his host institution and Fulbright funding, York will also participate in public master classes, festivals and prestigious competitions. In the spring, York will perform Franz Schubert’s masterpiece “Die Winterreise” in a solo recital both in Munich and Amsterdam.