University of Vermont

University Communications

Record Number of UVM Students Receive Fulbright Scholarships for the Coming Academic Year

Six University of Vermont students have been awarded prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholarships to pursue independent research or teach abroad – a record number for the university.

University of Vermont senior Kirsti Dahly has been awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship to Russia for the 2011-2012 academic year. She will teach English as well as American government, history and civics at Ugra University, in Khanty-Mansiysk, and she will also serve as an adviser to Russian teachers who teach English.

A Basking Ridge, N.J. native, Dahly was abroad in Norway for a year after high school; while there she transcended cultural and linguistic barriers to make several Russian friends. When she returned to the U.S. and began her studies at UVM, she began taking Russian classes so that she would be better able to communicate with her friends and learn more about their culture.

She became a Russian major, and she credits Russian professor Kevin McKenna for pushing her academically, as well as supporting her as she continued to advance intellectually and personally. Dahly spent the spring of 2010 studying abroad in St. Petersburg as she continued to work on her language skills and volunteered with the teaching of English in a university classroom. As a Fulbright Scholar, Dahly will have the chance to perfect her Russian as well as her teaching, and when she returns to the U.S. she has expressed interest in becoming a Russian teacher.

University of Vermont graduate student Amanda Egan ’12 has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to Ukraine for the 2011-2012 academic year. Egan, a candidate for a master’s degree in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, will spend the coming academic year working with colleagues at the Institute of Ecological Economics, Ukrainian National Forestry University investigating opportunities for forest carbon projects in the Carpathian region in Ukraine. Forest carbon projects have the potential to mitigate climate change by incentivizing forest conservation. While strong potential for forest carbon projects exists in the Carpathian region, it has little experience developing these projects. A member of the UVM Carbon Dynamics Lab, led by Bill Keeton, and the UVM Forest Carbon and Communities Research Group, led by Cecilia Danks, Egan has spent her time at UVM studying community participation and engagement in forest carbon projects and other market-based forest conservation programs. Upon completing her research, Egan will present her work as part of her master’s thesis.

Climate change originally inspired Egan to pursue her Fulbright project. This Fulbright grant will be her first opportunity to work on this issue on an international scale. Egan, an Exeter, N.H. native, is UVM’s second graduate student from the Rubenstein School to win a Fulbright Scholarship to the Ukraine. In 2008, Sarah Crow, a former graduate student studying Natural Resources, won a Fulbright grant to study community-based forestry for sustainable development in the Carpathian region.

Madeline Murphy Hall ’10, a double anthropology and political science major, Green and Gold Scholar, Boren Scholar and Honors College graduate has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to Kuwait. Murphy Hall will partner with American University of Kuwait to study women’s suffrage. Her work will enable researchers to better understand how women are adjusting to their citizenship roles and responsibilities.

Hall, a Windsor, Vt. native, worked throughout her UVM career to become an advocate for women in the Middle East. She pushed herself to learn Arabic, and in 2009 she was awarded a Boren Scholarship to study abroad in Jordan. The Boren, which is one of the most prestigious national awards available to undergraduate students, acknowledged Murphy Hall for her outstanding academic achievement, her determination to perfect her Arabic skills, her desire to better understand the role of women in the Middle East, and for her goal to pursue a career in public service. She credits professors Peter VonDoepp, Jonah Steinberg and Gregory Gause for helping her pursue research related to women’s rights in the Middle East, and then further guiding her as she pursued the Boren, the Fulbright and other opportunities that would enable her to continue her work. In addition to her academic work and international experience, Hall was a dedicated and decorated member of the Lawrence Debate Union at UVM. She says that team coaches Alfred Snider and David Register offered her tremendous support as she pursued her academic and intellectual goals.

Christopher Morriss ’11 has been selected for an English Teaching Assistantship to Venezuela. Prior to his May notification from the Fulbright Program, however, Morriss had accepted an equally coveted opportunity with the Peace Corps in Ecuador. And so, while he is not able to accept the Fulbright award, Morriss will be pursuing similarly enriching work over the next two years in Ecuador where he will be working on issues related to public health. A double Biology and Spanish major and an Honors College student, Morriss excelled in the classroom; he was on the dean’s list during every semester at UVM, and in 2010 he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Outside of the classroom, Morriss spent many hours volunteering to tutor refugee students in the Burlington area. As a pre-medical student, his goal is to become a bilingual physician, and he believes his time in South America will both enable him to perfect his Spanish language skills and introduce him to hands-on work in public health that will greatly benefit him in a future medical career.

Meryl Olson ’11, an agroecology doctoral candidate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to study sustainable agricultural practices in Sierra Leone. Olson will spend the year working with colleagues at Njala University in Freetown as well as with OneVillage Partners researching the benefits and limitations of lowland swamp rice farming done by small-scale farmers in eastern Sierra Leone. Her work will give farmers and policy makers a greater understanding of the opportunities as well as the barriers related to successful swamp rice farming, which will have a significant impact on farmer income as well as local food supply.

As an environmental engineer turned agroecologist, Olson has a tireless passion for working with poor people around the world and helping them develop a model for agriculture which meets human needs for food and crop production, as well as other ecological and environmental needs. Olson has previously conducted research in Latin America with small scale agriculture, but her Fulbright grant to Sierra Leone allows her to extend her research expertise as well as work in an area that has been historically neglected by agricultural researchers. Upon completing her studies, Olson will present her work to the Ministry of Agriculture in Sierra Leone, and from there she has expressed a desire to work for a nonprofit organization addressing environmental and poverty issues for small farmers in the U.S. as well as internationally.

Olson, a Bedford, N.H. native, credits Professor Ernesto Menendez for his guidance and support as she’s pursued her doctorate and her Fulbright award. She is UVM’s first Fulbright winner to Africa. The continent is perhaps the most competitive region in the Fulbright U.S. Student program.

April Orleans ’10, a community and international development major, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to Trinidad and Tobago. Orleans will organize a large-scale community outreach and action plan in Tobago for raising awareness of the harmful effects of unsafe wastewater disposal on the islands. Part of the plan will be providing education for greater understanding of water quality in order to improve the country’s maritime ecosystem, fishing industry and economy. Orleans hopes her work on Tobago will be transferable to other islands in the Caribbean region.

Her Fulbright work in Trinidad and Tobago will be the third development project she will pursue in the Caribbean region. In 2007 she took Sustainable Development and Island Economies with Professor Gary Flomenhoft, a service-learning course where students spent two weeks working on community projects in St. Lucia. After her course was completed, she partnered with a UVM graduate student to create “Football for Lives,” an education project in St. Lucia based on a similar program started in Africa to teach AIDS prevention. She became a teaching assistant for the course, and continued to visit the island throughout her UVM career. In 2009 she continued her development work by taking Renewable Energies Workshop, another service-learning course where students spend time in Dominica. Orleans, a Virginia native, is currently working in Homer, Alaska; she will depart for Trinidad and Tobago this fall.

Dahly, Egan, Hall, Morriss, Olson and Orleans are six of more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2011-2012 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

In addition to the Fulbright Scholarship winners, UVM students or recent alumni this year have also won two Udall Scholarships, five Gilman Scholarships, a SMART scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense; and two National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. UVM also had a Truman Scholarship finalist and five Fulbright finalists, in addition to the six winners.

Since 2005, when the university put a centralized fellowship outreach and support program in place, 60 UVM students have won or been finalists in the country’s most prestigious and competitive competitions, including the Fulbright, Rhodes, Goldwater, Marshall, Udall, Truman, Madison, Gilman, and Boren Overseas scholarships.