Nine Wellesley College Students and Alumnae Win Fulbright Grants for Research, Study, and Teaching

For immediate release:
May 21, 2008

Contact: Molly Tarantino,

WELLESLEY, Mass. —Following graduation, one Wellesley College senior will tackle the challenges of water pollution, while another focuses her attention on how migration affects a Turkish clash of values. Students will research and teach in locations from Denmark to Vietnam with support from the Fulbright Program, which has awarded grants to seven Wellesley College students.

Full grants have been awarded to seniors Catherine Jaffee, Catherine Kunce and Tina Yen for research and study. Seniors Meghan Burland, Christina Chang, Sarah Chung and Kaitlin Staudt have received English Teaching Assistantships, and seniors Paige Boncher and Sharon Shin have been named as alternates for the positions. In addition, alumna Samantha Huq ’06 has received a full grant and Mary McCoy ’04 has received a Fulbright Garcia-Robles Binational Business Grant.

Catherine Jaffee, of Boulder, Colo., will research how internal migration influences Turkish secularity using a comparative study of two neighborhoods in Istanbul and coursework at Bogaziçi University.

Every year, Turkish cities such as Istanbul and Ankara receive an additional quarter million residents who have moved from rural to urban areas. As rural areas tend to be much more religious than urban settings, Turkey’s position as an Islamic secular democracy may be tested by such migration, Jaffee said.

“Internal migration impacts not only Turkish cities’ structure and economy, but also their ideological and social environments,” said Jaffee, a political science and religion major. “A clash of values may be inevitable with large numbers of rural dwellers moving into urban settings.”

Catherine Kunce, of Jefferson City, Mo., will study aquatic environmental biology at the University of Southern Denmark to gain expertise in aquatic pollution. The Fulbright will fund the first year of a two-year master’s degree from the university.

The project will be a continuation and enhancement of the collaborative research with the university she has carried out during her senior year on combating eutrophication in freshwaters and wetlands.

“Eutrophication is a condition in which excess nutrient run-off from fertilizers, sewage and several other anthropgenic sources creates an explosion of algae in the water called an ‘algal bloom,’” said Kunce, a geosciences major. “This algal infestation severely reduces the water quality and destroys other forms of aquatic life.”

Tina Yen, of Richardson, Texas, will study at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, researching how Beijing’s urban development influences people’s experiences of the city and changes their conceptions of community and space.  Her project will also address Beijing’s architectural and urban history, the impact of the Olympic Games and the narrative of the city within the context of old and new Beijing.

“In the past two decades, China’s political, cultural and national capital has undergone dramatic changes in urban form as the city has grown and developed,” she said. “Old buildings have been replaced with shiny, new buildings towering in their place. Public transportation systems have been dramatically improved to better air quality.”
Meghan Burland, of Boothwyn, Pa., will teach at a higher education institution in Vietnam. An international relations and history major, she is looking forward to experiencing daily Vietnamese life.
“I am really thrilled to be going to Vietnam because it is a new program, and it shows the important and developing diplomatic connections between the United States and Vietnam,” Burland said. “Vietnam is undergoing a lot of rapid change right now, so it will be a very exciting time to be there and to see the transitions that are occurring. “

Christina Chang, of Flushing, N.Y., will pursue a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship in Korea. Chang, a political science major, was influenced to teach by a trip to Korea. While there, Chang found that students need to attend pricey after-school prep courses to truly excel academically and in the English language, something vital in Korea’s current job markets. While visiting her cousin, Chang was upset to learn that she was the only one among her friends who could not attend a prep school because of tuition costs.

“In conversations with my cousin, she conveyed a sense of pessimism,” Chang said. “She understood and seemed resigned to how her future was limited because she did not have the opportunity to attend a prep school. I believe helping students gain a stronger grasp of English will not only give them a brighter future, but also promote a greater sense of capability.”

Sarah Chung, of Vernon, Conn., will teach secondary high school students in South Korea. Chung, a biology major, has already studied for four months in Seoul, South Korea, which provided her with an understanding of the difficulties and intimidation involved with learning a foreign language.  She hopes to inspire an environment of openness and fearlessness in her classroom that will help students learn English.

“Fear – of being misunderstood, of being perceived as unintelligent, of being disappointed – is a tremendous barrier to understanding and appreciating other cultures,” said Chung.

Kaitlin Staudt, of Germantown, Tenn., will pursue her teaching assistantship in Turkey. This past summer, Staudt taught English at the Robert College Summer Program in Istanbul, Turkey, during which she gained an appreciation for the country’s rich cultural heritage and identity. Strategically placed at the crossroads of many cultures, Turkey has held a unique place in absorbing and shaping global culture, she said.

“Turkey has something to teach the world,” Staudt said. “(The Turkish people) are able to maintain their own uniqueness in the face of increasing contact with other nations.”
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, gives students, scholars and professionals the opportunity to do international research, study or teaching. It was launched in 1946 after Senator J. William Fulbright presented a bill in Congress to use the proceeds from the sale of surplus war property for the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.” The program awards about 1,200 full grants annually and sends students to more than 150 countries.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries.