Update 5:30 p.m. May 26: After the news release below was published, Courtney Jallo of Davis became the latest of six UC Davis students and graduates to be awarded a grant under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Both an alumna and employee of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, she plans to research land management practices and agroforestry important to the Kandy area of Sri Lanka. Jallo, who earned a master’s degree in international agricultural development in 2015, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania and carried out international development programs in Kosovo, Nepal and Senegal. She is currently the lead coordinator for the Cochran Fellowship Program in the International Programs Office.
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Five UC Davis graduating seniors and alumni will pack language skills — and experiences as varied as hip-hop music production and stand-up comedy — when they head overseas to be cultural ambassadors as Fulbright grantees.
Four have won the prestigious grants, awarded by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to promote educational and cultural exchange, to teach English in Morocco, Italy, Spain and Germany; the fifth, to conduct research in chemical engineering in Switzerland.
- Estevan Sanchez of Parlier, California
- Bradley Petkus of Sacramento, California
- Natalie Boyd of San Diego, California
- Albion Fitzgerald of Harrison, New York
- Rebekah Solomon of Thousand Oaks, California
The program of the U.S. Department of State awards about 1,900 grants annually to fund airfare, room and board, health insurance and incidental expenses for one academic year of international graduate study, advanced research and teaching in 140 countries. Students and young professionals are selected on the basis of their academic and professional achievement, record of service and leadership.
Sanchez, who is majoring in African American and African studies as well as history, was selected to teach English to university students in Morocco. Aspiring to teach Arabic in the future, he was awarded the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Oman in 2014 and continued his language studies through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in Amman, Jordan, in 2015. “I believe communicating across cultures is critical,” he said. “More opportunities should be available to individuals to learn about another culture or language.”
Sanchez, who has been producing hip-hop instrumentals for two years, is also interested in getting involved with the hip-hop culture that has been important to the political mobilization of youth in the Middle East and North Africa.
Petkus, a chemical engineering major, will conduct research on nanoporous membranes for controlled drug release at the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland. Planning on a university teaching or research career, he has conducted research in a UC Davis lab and during two internships at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. But Petkus’ experiments have also been crowd-pleasers: he’s both served as explosives safety officer and performed at the Chemistry Magic shows that are a highlight of UC Davis’ annual open house on Picnic Day.
Although the Swiss university community primarily speaks English, Petkus said, he has been studying French to support his broader interaction with the people of Switzerland. He also plans to try out for the university’s club soccer team and its intramural hockey team for graduate students.
Boyd fell in love with Germany when, after her freshman year at UC Davis, she studied world cinema in Berlin. She’ll return to teach in the same city with a 2014 bachelor’s degree in English and linguistics as well as certification in teaching English as a foreign and second language. Proficient in Spanish and at the intermediate level in German, Boyd is working at the American Language Institute and plans to further her education to become a college professor, teacher or linguist.
To immerse herself in her host city, Boyd said, she hopes to draw on her background in the arts to organize a theater class or teach dance for children or teens.
Fitzgerald, who received a master’s degree in English in 2015, started studying Italian in grade 7 so he could talk with his great-grandmother, who knew little English. It was only when he tried to have his first Italian conversation with her that he learned she spoke traditional Sicilian. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald pressed on to learn Italian.
Now assigned to teach in a public high school in Italy, he’ll be drawing on his teaching experience with an orientation course for UC Davis international students and English as a foreign language classes offered through UC Davis Extension.
Once a performer of stand-up comedy, Fitzgerald plans to arrange storytelling events and workshops to help participants fine tune not only English grammar and syntax, but also narrative techniques. “I imagine and hope for a space that encourages speakers of all languages — not just English and Italian,” he said, “to trade translations, narratives and empathy with each other.”
Solomon, who is graduating in June with a double major in Spanish and human development and a minor in linguistics, will be teaching English at a bilingual primary school in Logroño, Spain. She studied abroad at the University of Granada in Spain during her junior year, spurring her passion for the Spanish culture and language.
Currently, Solomon works as a peer adviser on campus and at the Center for Mind and Brain’s Language Learning Lab, investigating language development in infants and toddlers. “Nothing makes me happier than helping others, especially young people,” she said. While in Spain, Solomon hopes to volunteer with children with disabilities and take flamenco dance lessons. She plans to use her knowledge gained abroad working with Spanish speakers learning English to supplement her future education and career in bilingual speech-language pathology.
Language and linguistic studies
UC Davis offers undergraduate majors and minors in seven languages and master’s and doctoral programs in Spanish, French and German. Students can earn undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in linguistics.
UC Davis undergraduates and recent graduates interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program may contact Scott Palmer of Financial Aid and Scholarships; graduate students may contact Deborah McCook, the UC Davis Fulbright program adviser.