University of Rochester

University of Rochester Graduates Earn Record Number of Fulbrights

June 2, 2008

Six graduating seniors and a recent alumnus will receive prestigious Fulbright Scholarships for 2008-09 to study and perform research abroad.

The new total of seven marks a record number of Fulbright Scholars chosen from the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at the University of Rochester. The College also reached a record in 2007 when six graduates were selected.

The latest recipient is graduating senior Sarah E. Burnham, of Toledo, Ohio, who will be heading to China, the first student from the College chosen to study there.

Other Fulbright Scholars for the coming academic year are: Christine Kenison '08, of Londonderry, N.H., to Poland; Emily Lyman '08, of Needham, Mass., to Mexico; Rebekah Porter '08, of Pittstown, N.J., to Taiwan; Benjamin Schmitt '08, of Greece, N.Y., to Germany; Brett D. Stark '07, of North Bethesda, Md., to Taiwan; and Ashley Van Vechten '08, of Brighton, N.Y., to Germany.

Burnham earned her bachelor of arts degree with a major in history and a minor in Chinese, and received a Certificate in International Relations in May. She entered the University as the recipient of the Genesee Scholarship, a four-year, half-tuition award. During her college years, she nurtured her interest in social history through an internship in the Department of Rare Books and a yearlong independent study of a manuscript collection of letters from the late 1920s.

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Burnham will spend her Fulbright year at Tsinghua University in Beijing studying Chinese international relations and history while researching the effects of social globalization on China in the late Qing and early nationalist periods (1850-1949). She also expanded her knowledge of Asian languages and history while at the University of Hawaii where she studied Korean and Thai, and continued her China studies. Burnham plans to pursue graduate study after her Fulbright year in preparation for a career that will combine Chinese language and culture with her interest in archival materials. She is a graduate of Roy C. Start High School in Toledo.

Four of the Fulbright winners—Kenison, Porter, Schmitt, and Van Vechten—arrived on campus as full-tuition Renaissance Scholars, who are selected from the top 1 percent of undergraduate applicants to the College each year.

Kenison, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in German and French and a Certificate in Polish and Central European Studies, will spend her Fulbright year studying Polish literature of the 1950s at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She has received numerous academic honors since her arrival at the College, including election to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior and prizes in both German and French from the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

She spent her junior year abroad in Germany on the Cologne Exchange Fellowship and also has studied in Poland and France. Kenison held the principal flute chair in the University of Rochester Wind Symphony and has played in the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra. She plans to pursue a doctorate in German literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill following her Fulbright year. She is the third University of Rochester undergraduate to win a Fulbright to Poland since 2004. She is a graduate of Londonderry High School in Londonderry, N.H.

Graduating senior Lyman received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and Spanish with a minor in American Sign Language. Her Fulbright plan is to conduct research on early intervention for autism with Professor Carlos Marcin, a noted Mexico City scholar of clinical psychology and developmental disorders. Previously, she studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, and lived with a Chilean family in an immersion program.

In the last two years, Lyman has researched multiple foster care and foster care parenting projects at the Mt. Hope Family Center, which is affiliated with the University, and has completed a separate two-semester independent study focused on the impact of domestic violence on child development. Her commitments to community service included projects for Circle K and the Community Service Network. On her return, she expects to pursue a doctorate in psychology. Lyman, who was recently elected to Phi Beta Kappa, graduated from Needham High School in Needham, Mass.

Porter, who received a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics with minors in Chinese and music, will spend her Fulbright year in Taiwan as an English Teaching Assistant in an elementary or junior high school while pursuing fluency in Chinese. She has received the Book Award in Chinese from the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures and studied abroad in Beijing during her junior year. While in China, she volunteered on weekends to teach English in a local community of migrant workers.

She spent last summer living in an orphanage in Delhi, India, where she tutored children in English. At Rochester, Porter was very involved in the Music Interest Floor and several musical performance groups. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Porter aspires to attain a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate and live and work in the Chinese-speaking world. She graduated from North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, N.J.

Schmitt, who is a double degree graduate with a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy, and a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics as well as German, will spend his Fulbright year in Germany conducting physics research at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, and pursuing a master's degree in astronomy and astrophysics at Heidelberg University. He has previously conducted research at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Cornell University's Laboratory for Elementary Particle Physics, and the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. Schmitt has co-authored several scientific papers and intends to pursue a doctoral degree in physics and a research career in a government or an academic laboratory setting.

An Eagle Scout, Schmitt is a recipient of the Book Award in German, and a member of the Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society. He has participated in the College's Sailing Club and College Bowl Team, and he has served as a volunteer event coordinator for local and regional Science Olympiad competitions. He has studied voice since childhood, including private vocal lessons with the Eastman School of Music's Jane Günter-McCoy, and has had leading vocal roles in several Eastman Opera Theatre performances. He is a graduate of Greece Arcadia High School in Greece, N.Y.

Stark received a bachelor of arts degree in 2007 with a major in political science, an individualized major in Cultural Identities, and a minor in English literature. For his Fulbright year in Taiwan, he will be an English Teaching Assistant while learning Mandarin Chinese and studying the formation of Taiwanese national identity. Since graduation, he has worked as a researcher at the World Bank and as a paralegal at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.

While an undergraduate at Rochester, Stark was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and to the Keidaeans Senior Honor Society, and he was awarded the Ascher Prize in Political Science. In 2006, he was selected as a Humanity in Action Foundation Fellow to Berlin for a summer program in human rights and minority issues. He founded two organizations during his College years: UR Hip Hop and the Jewish-Muslim Forum. Among other activities, he was a teaching assistant in political science, a writing fellow, and a literacy tutor in the Rochester public schools. He is a graduate of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md.

Van Vechten, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in German and history, will spend her Fulbright year in Germany as an English Teaching Assistant in a secondary school while continuing her study of German language and history. She has been a leading member of the women's varsity soccer team since her freshman year, earning such honors and recognitions as the 2008 Garnish Scholar Athlete Award, All-UAA First Team, NY State Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007, and NSCAA/Adidas Scholar All-American in 2006 and 2007. She is the only women's soccer player in the 32-year history of the sport at Rochester to be recognized for three consecutive seasons.

She has studied abroad twice, first in Berlin in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures' summer program in 2006, and during her junior year at the University of Ghana in Legon on a University-affiliated program. While in Ghana, Van Vechten also volunteered to teach math and science in a nearby village secondary school. She is a member of the Keidaeans Senior Honor Society and has published an article on the genealogical history of her paternal family in Rochester. She hopes to pursue graduate study in German history following her Fulbright year. She is a graduate of Brighton High School in Brighton, N.Y.

A record number of 21 undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from the College and the University of Rochester Medical Center applied for the 2008-09 Fulbright Scholarships.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and is the largest U.S. international exchange program for students, scholars, and professionals. The program was the vision of U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas to "enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." It was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946.