University of Rochester

Multiple Rochester Graduates, Current Students Awarded Fulbright Scholarships to Study, Teach, Research

June 6, 2011

University of Rochester recently graduated seniors Jenna Miller, Rachel Sitts, Kelli Summers, and Eastman School of Music graduate student Daniel "Felix" Ungar have been awarded 2011-12 Fulbright Scholarships to advance their studies, perform research, and teach English abroad while serving as young ambassadors to their host countries.

In the past four years, 34 Rochester students and alumni have received Fulbright Scholarships, including May graduates Nathaniel Lindsey and Hannah Watkins, and alumnus, David Liebers, who were selected to receive grants to the United Kingdom, which is among the most prestigious and competitive of the Fulbright student programs.

In addition to Rochester's seven winners in this year's competition, rising sophomore Jordan Shapiro was chosen to participate in the US-UK Fulbright Summer Institute, where she will spend six weeks studying in the United Kingdom. Eastman percussionist McKenzie Camp '11E also was selected as a Fulbright alternate to Sweden, and psychology major Margaret Close '11 was named a Fulbright alternate to the Netherlands.

"This has truly been a banner year for Rochester students in the Fulbright national grant competitions, with many significant 'firsts,'" said Belinda Redden, director of fellowships at Rochester. "I hope that these scholars' success will motivate many more of our students to include applying for a Fulbright among the important goals they set for themselves while at University of Rochester. Yes, the process is demanding, but the potential rewards are great."

Jenna Miller, a native of Richfield Springs, N.Y., will spend her Fulbright year as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Kazakhstan. She is the first Rochester Fulbright Scholar to be accepted to this country's program.

After spending a year in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, through the Rotary International Youth Exchange, Miller began her studies at Rochester with an interest in Russian culture. Graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in Russian and a minor in anthropology, she has studied the politics, literature, history, and language of the nation, while also earning a certificate in Literary Translation Studies. In 2009, Miller was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. State Department and studied advanced level Russian in Tomsk, Siberia.

"I really enjoy serving as a cultural ambassador in places 'off the beaten path,' so to speak," said Miller. "Teaching English in a corner of the globe few Americans consider is the perfect opportunity to learn about a new culture and share what I've learned abroad with those back in the States."

Miller was the recipient of the Kodak Young Leaders Scholarship when she entered the College and was recently elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She has served as a teaching assistant for intermediate Russian courses and was active in the Modern Languages and Cultures Undergraduate Council. Early in her college career, she was a member of the Slavic Club and Grassroots environmental club and later became involved in off-campus events through her church.

Rachel Sitts graduated this May with a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a minor in Spanish. The Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., native will serve as a Fulbright ETA in Spain, the first Rochester student to be accepted to that program.

"I'm excited to relate what I have learned in my Spanish literature classes in college to the actual lives of Spanish people," Sitts explained. "I feel that my experience with Spanish literature, language, and culture will not be complete until I spend time in their country of origin."

While in Madrid, Sitts hopes to volunteer with a human rights organization while assisting in a high school classroom, a space Sitts feels very comfortable in, due to her experiences as a tutor and mentor. Through Project CARE, Sitts tutored Rochester City School District kindergarten and first-graders in reading and math, and through the Science and Technology Entry Program, tutored and mentored high school students in math and science.

Sitts also has served as a medic assistant on the Medical Emergency Response Team and was president of the student group Emergency Club, which promotes an awareness of the plight of civilian victims of war. She also served as co-editor-in-chief of Rochester's Journal of Undergraduate Research. Sitts was awarded a National Merit Scholarship and the Rush Rhees Scholarship when she was admitted to Rochester, and earned the Sophomore Book Award in Spanish, given by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

A native of Colorado Springs, Colo., Kelli Summers will travel to Ghana on a Fulbright study/research grant. As a biomedical engineering major with a minor in studio arts, Summers' deep commitment to studying public health has led her to devise a research project that seeks to design and implement an effective, culturally sensitive program to help reduce morbidity and mortality for children suffering from pneumonia in a rural hospital in Assin Foso. This research will build upon a previous study Summers conducted on the World Health Organization's Child Lung Health Program. To bolster her knowledge of WHO's program, she will participate in Rochester's Malawi Summer Immersion Seminar before heading to Ghana. While in Malawi, she will visit hospitals that carry out the initiatives of the Child Health Lung Program.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Summers will work under the supervision of Dr. Ernest Asiedu, head of the Children's Ward at St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Assin Foso, whom she met when volunteering in Ghana during summer 2009. She also will take classes at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and shadow the resident pediatrician in a larger hospital in Kumasi.

"I'm hoping to produce work that builds upon the successful model developed by the World Health Organization," she explained. "My goal is to work with groups in the hospital to design a program that meets their needs."

Summers also brings laboratory experience to her Fulbright project. She spent three years working in Associate Professor Jim McGrath's biomedical engineering lab, serving first as a manager and then as a primary researcher on a project that looked at how cells migrate to heal a wound. An active member of campus, Summers co-founded UR Genocide Intervention, was the president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and was a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

Eastman School of Music student Felix Ungar will spend the 2011-2012 academic year at Taipei University of the Arts in Taiwan. A second-year doctoral viola student of Carol Rodland, Ungar will study contemporary Taiwanese works for viola with Ruei-Hsien Chen, including solo pieces and works for small string ensembles. Upon his return to Eastman for his final year of study, Ungar will organize a concert of works he collected and performed in Taiwan.

"One of the exciting opportunities this project entails is the recognition of the outstanding composers in Taiwan, whose backgrounds and compositional techniques span influences from Taiwan, Asia, Europe, and the United States," said Ungar. "It's thrilling to have the chance to be an advocate for their music here in the U.S."

Ungar is a teaching assistant for secondary viola students at the Eastman School of Music. He also teaches in the Eastman Community Music School. Last fall, he performed with Eastman BroadBand during the ensemble's concert tour in New York City and Mexico.

Ungar received his bachelor's and his master's degrees in music from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2007 and 2009, respectively. While an undergraduate, he also pursued a degree in East Asian Studies and minored in Chinese at Case Western Reserve University.

Jordan Shapiro, a native of Bennington, Vt., will spend six weeks this summer studying as a US-UK Fulbright Summer Institute participant. The program, which is in its second year, selects approximately 50 early college students from the United States and United Kingdom to participate in the summer academic and cultural exchange program at leading institutions in each country. Shapiro, who studies history and psychology, is the first Rochester student to receive this honor.

While in Wales, Shapiro will visit three different universities: Cardiff University, Bangor University, and Aberystwyth University, to study the culture, history, economy, and language of the country.

"I hope this program will help me understand what it means to engage in the international community and understand a different culture," she said, noting her interest in learning about the Welsh identity.

At Rochester, Shapiro worked under Director Richard Peek in Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation at Rush Rhees Library and participated in Rochester's club soccer team. During the 2011-2012 academic year, she will be a resident of the Community Learning Center, a special interest house for students who are committed to community service and civic engagement. In the fall, Shapiro also will serve as a workshop leader in an introductory philosophy class.

The Fulbright program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, offers opportunities for career-launching study, teaching, and research abroad and are designed to promote education and cultural exchange between the United States and other nations. Post-graduate scholars pursuing study or research design their own programs and arrange institutional affiliations in the host countries. The grants cover expenses such as travel and health insurance, and also provide a monthly stipend. Established by Congress in 1946, Fulbright is the largest federally sponsored international educational exchange program.