Fellowship Winner Profiles

Naomi Rosen

Naomi Rosen

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow

Naomi Rosen has a Bachelors in Science in Theater from Northwestern University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. While at SSA, her concentration was in clinical social work with a focus on art-based methods, LGBTQ Affirmative Practice, and Trauma-Informed Practice. Her project as a German Chancellor Fellow explores art as a tool for trauma healing and restorative dialogue with immigrant and refugee communities affected by FGM and other forms of gender-based violence.

What drew you to the Humboldt fellowship? What about it seemed like a good fit for you and your work at the time that you were applying?

I was drawn to the Humboldt Fellowship because although I had just finished my Masters, I wanted an opportunity for further learning about the fields of art therapy and social work before entering into direct work with clients. This fellowship allowed for a year of exploration, learning about other cultures, and finding ways to consolidate my years of knowledge and learning. I also wanted to work in an international context and learn more about the field from a variety of perspectives and experiences. I was interested in learning another language and becoming immersed in another culture and after a visit to Berlin in 2012, I had always been interested in Germany. Finally, I wanted to meet other like-minded colleagues who could be potential collaborators in the future. The German Chancellor Fellowship offered all of these opportunities.

As the fellowship period draws to a close, is there a particular experience that has been memorable or that stands out to you (or that perhaps has even surprised you)?

It has been an incredible year! I have learned so much about myself professionally and personally. I have met lifelong friends who inspire me with their passion, hard work, creativity, and insight. I have become conversational in German, arriving only speaking a few sentences, and I have learned so much about the Germany, including the history, politics, and culture. As we celebrated our final meeting and had a certificate ceremony, honoring each Fellow, I was amazed at the support and warmth I was surrounded by. Each of the forty people were loudly cheered for and congratulated. They were greeted with smiles and jokes. We exchanged hugs and talked about how much we would miss each other and when we could visit each other in our home countries. We discussed possibilities for future projects in Germany and beyond. We shared how much we had learned from one another and reflected how close we had all gotten. While I expected this fellowship year to be one of personal growth and expanding my professional knowledge, I had never expected this to be a year where I would develop such a strong community and group of peers, colleagues, and friends.

The Humboldt Foundation's emphasis on leadership experience can be daunting for many graduate students. Is there any advice you would offer students who are thinking about applying?

The Humboldt Foundation emphasizes future leadership, not necessarily being a leader in the here and now. They are looking to support the development of a person, not a project, as they always tell us. Your connectedness, passion, drive, and dedication to your work and to the larger society is more important to them than your resume, although that is important too. They are looking for people who will be bridges between their home country and Germany and who are invested in collaboration and working together towards a better future. A future leader does not necessarily mean running your own organization or working with Senators, although it might. It means being invested in making a difference in the world and taking concrete, successful steps towards that goal. So expand your definition of what being a “leader” means. How do you emulate those values? In what ways has your work and experiences exhibited potential for your leadership in the future?

Kevin Blankinship

Kevin Blankinship

Fulbright-Hays Fellow

Research Description

My research is about intellectual exchange networks in the medieval Arab-Islamic Mediterranean. I take as a case study the Syrian poet and iconoclast Abu’l-`Ala al-Ma`arri (d. 1058), whose prolific writings were widely anthologized, imitated, and commented upon from Damascus all the way to Spain and North Africa. This process reveals how cultural products leave the nest and circulate across time, culture, and language as objects to be interpreted.

What drew you to the Fulbright-Hays program? What about it seemed like a good fit for you and your work at the time that you were applying?

I applied to the Fulbright-Hays program for two reasons, one pragmatic and the other idealistic. On the pragmatic side, I was narrowing down a list of year-long funding sources to continue doctoral research, and Fulbright-Hays presented no major obstacles in terms of eligibility or program focus. On the idealistic side, several sources from my ongoing dissertation research pointed toward another big project waiting to be tackled in Moroccan libraries and archives. The fact that I was looking for a funding award as well as a way to get to Morocco made the Fulbright-Hays program a great fit for me.

As the fellowship period draws to a close, is there a particular experience that has been memorable or that stands out to you (or that perhaps has even surprised you)?

The main purpose of all Fulbright grants is to foster cultural exchange. One example stands out in my memory. While traveling here in Morocco, I had a conversation in Arabic with a Moroccan store employee. He asked where I was from, and I told him that I’m American, which I like to do as often as possible so that people in the Middle East can see a personal example of an American who cares enough about the region to spend time learning about its languages and cultures.

But many Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims still labor under negative impressions of westerners, and so I wasn’t surprised when he asked me defensively, “Do you believe everything they say about us on TV?” “Of course not,” I said. “I’m here, I can see it with my own eyes. I speak Arabic and I study Islam. I love Arabs and Arab culture, which is why I’m living in the Middle East. I want to learn more.” He paused, then relaxed a bit. “Go back and tell everyone in America that we’re not the way they show us on TV.” I nodded my head and promised him I would.

To me, this experience boils down the main goal of Fulbright-Hays into a single conversation. Research is important of course, but even more important is the chance to build relationships all over the world with people that would otherwise be nameless, faceless statistics. This will help even from a purely professional standpoint, since finding work depends greatly on personal connections, let alone from the perspective of making a positive impact at a time when it’s needed the most.

Fulbright-Hays is known to have a rigorous application and selection process. Is there any advice you would offer students who are thinking about applying?

In terms of contractual obligation, Fulbright-Hays is very open-ended. You set your own deadlines, the terms of your research, working relationships with colleagues, and so on. What that means from an application standpoint is, successful applicants are those that can prove that they will use free time and money wisely. Everything should follow from this general principle. The project proposal should demonstrate independent efforts already completed to lay the groundwork for research in the host country, while materials that speak to your background — including CV, transcripts, and recommendation letters — should prove your ability to initiate projects and see them through to completion. Also, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of relying on internal university grant coordinators and other staff whose job description is to track best practices for successful applications to Fulbright-Hays. They will be able to give you specific, actionable advice on how to play to your strengths and shore up your weaknesses to put together the best portfolio.

Ji Yoon Noh

Ji Yoon Noh

Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellow

As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Korea, Ji Yoon Noh ('15 MA in Social Services Administration) is focusing on developing a curriculum that fosters socioemotional development and collaborative learning by using Responsive Classroom as well as other resources to establish a collaborative learning culture in the classroom.

What drew you to the Fulbright ETA program? What about it seemed like a good fit for you and your work at the time that you were applying?

I was first drawn to the Fulbright program for the possibility of traveling to a foreign country -- especially to South Korea -- full expenses paid. It was really important for me to travel to Korea where my family is originally from. The choice of country was an easy one, however I was nervous about the teaching component. While I had experience working with young people, I had never taught in the classroom. However, after learning that no teaching experience was necessary to qualify for the program, I pursued the program in hopes of going to Korea.

As the fellowship period draws to a close, is there a particular experience that has been memorable or that stands out to you (or that perhaps has even surprised you)?

My grant year came to a close in July of 2016. However, I was lucky enough to renew with Fulbright Korea for another year (2016-2017), which is a very unique quality of the Fulbright Korea program (you can renew up to three years). From my first grant year, the most memorable experience was teaching in an all-boys middle school. I had never expected to enjoy teaching boys so much; they were so energetic, kind, and forgiving of my rookie mistakes. The best memories include playing frisbee with my students during lunch time and watching endless streams of K-pop videos in my classroom. I also led a group of 9th graders to create and present their perspectives of English Teaching Assistants at the Fulbright Korea Spring Conference. 20 students in this extracurricular group created a presentation where they made recommendations for how to improve English teaching to Fulbright ETAs. Watching students grow in their confidence in English and comfort in speaking to foreigner was incredibly rewarding.

Writing the statement of grant purpose can be challenging for the ETA since, for many graduate students, their teaching experience may not necessarily include teaching English as a second language. Is there any advice you would offer students who are thinking about applying?

I'd like to offer two pieces of advice for those interested in applying. The first is regarding the statement of purpose. The Fulbright program prides itself on its support of cultural ambassadorship or cultural exchange. Highlight past experiences of working in different cultures and show growth amidst uncomfortable situations. While teaching is an huge part of the ETA experience, teachings is often a means to provide insight into the American culture and redefine/challenge stereotypes of what "America" is like.

Second -- and perhaps more importantly -- when working with students, I strongly believe in the concept that we (i.e. adults) need to meet students where they are "at." Young people are constantly inundated with expectations and pressures from their environment. And it's not an easy place to be! Showing humility, kindness, and non-judgemental support is HUGE. Assume the best intentions with young people; they're still trying to figure it out! And especially when working with students whose first language is not English, be gentle and patient. You are entering into THEIR world. Take caution and have the upmost respect because you are ultimately the foreigner.