Fulbright, Boren Awards Send Students and Alumni Around the World

Posted: September 28, 2009 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: February 5, 2010 at 10:08 am

By Rashad Mulla

Seven current and former Mason students are traveling abroad this year to pursue their research interests in a foreign country. Winners of Fulbright and Boren awards for international studies, the students will receive funding to cover the expenses of their overseas experiences.

In all, four students received Fulbright awards, two students received Boren fellowships and one student received a Boren scholarship.

Kimberly Burge. Creative Services photo

Kimberly Burge. Creative Services photo

Fulbright winner Kimberly Burge, who completed her master’s degree in creative writing (nonfiction) this summer, leaves for South Africa in January, when their school year begins.

Burge’s project, “Finding Their Voices: Exploring the Lives of Gugulethu’s Girls through Literary Nonfiction,” focuses on the lives of the girls in the Gugulethu township near Cape Town, South Africa. Burge hopes to write a book after a year of studying the girls’ lives. She would also like to form a creative writing club among the girls.

“I’m planning on incorporating their writings into my book, so this will be a collaborative effort,” Burge says. “I’ll also be taking a course in oral history methodology at the University of Cape Town.”

Rachael Lyon

Rachael Lyon. Creative Services photo

Rachael Lyon, also a Fulbright winner, will travel to Vienna, Austria, in October to work as an English language assistant at a secondary school. She earned a master’s in English [creative writing, poetry] in May.

She will also work on her project, “The Women of Café Raimund: A Poetry Translation Project.” In her project, she will focus on poetry written since 1945 by female poets who aren’t translated very frequently.

“Their poetry is seen as crucial to contemporary Austrian literature, but unfortunately their poetic influence doesn’t extend very far outside of Austria,” Lyon says. “A big goal of my translation project is to share the work of these poets with a broader American readership.”

Amil Mehr. Creative Services photo

Amin Mehr. Creative Services photo

A third Fulbright winner, Amin Mehr, obtained his master’s degree in systems engineering in January.

He will travel to Barcelona, Spain, to research wind and energy technology and how to implement it in the country’s infrastructure. He will also explore Spain’s recent green movement, and how the population of the country is getting educated in environmental matters.

“The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, where I will be studying, has a strong focus on green technology and has world-renowned facilities for wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy,” Mehr says.

Pebenito. Creative Services photo

Ramon Pebenito. Creative Services photo

The fourth and final Fulbright winner, Ramon Pebenito, earned a master’s degree in political science this summer. He will travel to Lithuania.

His project will investigate mental health policy reform, with a focus on suicide prevention. He will study at the University of Vilnius’ Medical Faculty’s Clinic of Psychiatry. Pebenito will also write and co-write articles for international and local scholar journals. He will also interview representatives from the Youth Aid Psychological Centre, the Lithuanian government and the World Health Organization to explore the possibility of mental health policy reform.

“Lithuania has had among the world’s highest suicide rates since regaining its independence in 1991, and mental health experts in the country are working toward improving the mental health system with more community-based treatment,” Pebenito says.

Robert Donohue. Creative Services photo

Robert Donohue. Creative Services photo

Undergraduate Robert Donahue is spending the 2009-10 academic year studying Arabic and Middle East studies at the American University of Kuwait. Donahue, a cultural anthropology major with minors in Islamic Studies and Middle East Studies, won a Boren scholarship for the year.

Donahue will live with a host family in Kuwait and study Arabic, culture, history, politics, religion and government. He will take trips to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

“Studying Arabic in the Middle East for an academic year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will further both my academic and professional career goals of working for the U.S. government in a national security-related field,” Donahue says. “The knowledge gained from this study abroad program will facilitate an ongoing education throughout my academic and professional career.”

Aminah Teachout. Photo courtesy of Aminah Teachout

Aminah Teachout. Photo courtesy of Aminah Teachout

Aminah Teachout, one of two Boren fellowship winners at Mason, will travel to Egypt and Israel to work on her research project, “Lessons from Cairo: Policy Implications of Displaced Sudanese in Israel.” She is currently working on a master’s in public administration.

She will spend the fall semester studying at the American University in Cairo, focusing on migration and refugee studies, international law and human rights. In the spring, she will travel to Tel Aviv to intern for an organization that works with African refugees.

“I studied abroad in Cairo as an undergrad and engaged with the Sudanese community significantly during my time there,” Teachout says. “I’m hoping to draw on my past experience with displaced Sudanese in Cairo to highlight the importance of this same issue in Israel.”

Kimaris Toogood. Creative Services photo

Kimairis Toogood-Luehrs. Creative Services photo

The second Boren fellowship winner, Kimairis Toogood-Luehrs, will travel to Tajikistan to study the native language and complete her doctoral research, which explores civil society in the country. Toogood-Luehrs is a PhD student in the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Her project will focus on how nongovernmental organizations contribute to the country’s bid for sustainable peace.

“As a conflict resolution scholar and practitioner, the findings from this project will not only help U.S. government officials understand a vital country in Central Asia, bordering Afghanistan to the north,” Toogood-Luehrs says. “It will also [help] conflict resolution scholars understand the mechanisms that allow the sustainability of nonviolence.”

According to the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, about 1,500 awards are given each year. Last year, approximately 7,500 applications were received.

Six Mason students were among Americans who won Fulbright student awards last year. No Mason students won Boren fellowships or scholarships in 2008, but four students won in 2007–two undergraduates and two graduates.

For more information on applying for Fulbright scholarships and other postgraduate fellowships, contact Deirdre Moloney, director of the Postgraduate Fellowships and Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program, at 703-993-2917 or dmoloney@gmu.edu. Find out more about the Fulbright award, Boren Scholarships and Boren Fellowships online.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu