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Skidmore College

4 grads heading abroad for work, study opportunities

May 17, 2013
mackenna lewis '13
MacKenna Lewis '13

Four members of Skidmore’s Class of 2013 will soon leave the country to work and study abroad. MacKenna Lewis and David Schlenker have received Fulbright awards to work as English teaching assistants, and Julia Mazzarella has received a Fulbright research award for study in Germany. David Solomon is a Fulbright alternate who has received a State Department Critical Language Scholarship to attend university in China.

English major Lewis, from Seattle, Wash., is heading to Malaysia. She looks forward to immersing herself in the country’s mélange of cultures. She explains, “Everyone I know was surprised when I decided to apply for a Fulbright in Malaysia. Although I have no ties to the country and have never traveled anywhere near Southeast Asia, the choice makes perfect sense to me. Fulbright was founded with the mission of cultural exchange, and I want to fully take advantage of this opportunity by becoming a local in a place that may seem entirely different from the way of life I now know. I think that Malaysia, as an Islamic state that also mediates a melting pot of cultures and histories, will offer important lessons to an American.”

She credits “an impulse to explore” as the reason she came East to attend Skidmore four years ago. “I could not be happier with my choice. I now consider Skidmore one of my homes, and I hope that someday I will be able to say the same for Malaysia,” Lewis said.

A high honors student who spent a semester in Ireland, Lewis also served as an Admissions Office ambassador and an education assistant at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.

When she returns to the U.S., Lewis hopes to apply for positions in education and outreach at museums and nonprofit organizations. Her goal: “to help coordinate community programming that will extend the education of children and teens beyond the walls of a classroom.”

Julia Mazzarella '13
Julia Mazzarella '13

Julia Mazzarella of Columbia, Conn., will attend the Justus-Liebig Universität in Giessen, Germany. She will focus on two topics in visual perception of the three-dimensional world: shape estimation and shape representation. She explains, “Our brain receives a two-dimensional image of our surroundings from our retina from which it forms a three-dimensional representation of that image. I want to determine specifically what properties of the objects in this two-dimensional image the brain uses to estimate and recreate their three-dimensional shapes. I also want to know how the brain uses the visual information cast onto the retina to categorize the objects that we see.”

Mazzarella calls the Fulbright “a great honor, and an unbelievable opportunity for me as a young scientist. I have the great fortune to working with one of today's top researchers in the field of vision science: Roland Fleming at Justus-Liebig Universität. This research experience will prepare me very well for graduate school, as I am strongly considering continued studies in the field, in pursuit of either a master's or doctoral degree.”

She added, “I am particularly thankful to Flip Phillips for connecting me with Dr. Fleming, and to Professor of German Mary-Beth O'Brien for helping me polish my essays, and bring them to a level worthy of a Fulbright grant. I do believe that Skidmore made this opportunity possible for me, and I will be forever grateful for that. It certainly confirms that I made the right choice four years ago in selecting a college.”

Mazzarella is a dual neuroscience and psychology major who has consistently earned Dean’s List recognition. She was elected to the Skidmore chapter of Phi Beta Kappa as well as Skidmore’s own Thoroughbred Society for academically talented athletes. A member of Skidmore’s national-champion Riding Team, she won the individual title in the Open over Fences Division during the International Horse Show Association nationals in early May.

David Schlenker, a history and international affairs major from Newton, Mass., will be going to Turkey. He will draw on his experience in Istanbul during the spring 2012 semester, as well as his training in intergroup relations at Skidmore “to facilitate interdisciplinary discussions between diverse groups of people to promote intercultural education.” 

He says, “I wanted to do a Fulbright ever since I heard of its existence. The fellowship provides the best of postgraduate worlds: time to explore and time to gain experience. While in Turkey, I am not only expected to work but also to completely immerse myself in the culture to become a cultural intermediary between he U.S. and Turkey. This grant, along with my position as a Teach for America Corps member in Charlotte, N.C., beginning in July 2014, will give me a strong foundation for understanding the problems and effects of education inequality.”

David Schlenker '13
David Schlenker '13

Schlenker is a member of the College’s Periclean Honors Forum and the Skidmore chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society. Last summer, as an inaugural recipient of Skidmore’s SEE Beyond awards, he spent the summer as an intern with Project WHY in New Delhi, India.

He plans to pursue graduate studies in education policy, advocacy, and reform to better understand how to institutionalize quality education for everyone. He says, “My studies at Skidmore, especially in the international affairs program, taught me how to understand the countless factors (economic, political, environmental, and historical) influencing each person’s experience. My study abroad in Istanbul and New Delhi prepared me to enter environments extremely foreign to me, enabling me to begin enacting significant change from Day 1 as a Fulbright scholar.

“I cannot wait to begin this experience. I believe it has the potential to be truly transformational,” said Schlenker.

David Solomon, a government and international affairs major from Brookline, Mass., is one of approximately 610 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students receiving a scholarship this year from the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Program. CLS participants will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu.

Solomon will study intensive Mandarin at Suzhou University in Suzhou, China.

An effort to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages, the program provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. 

David Solomon '13
David Solomon '13

This program will be a continuation of the Chinese language studies Solomon undertook during his junior year in Beijing. He explains, “As China rapidly rises in political and economic global influence, its relationship with the United States will be paramount. Future global prosperity will require Sino-U.S. cooperation, not confrontation, and it is essential that young men and women from both countries reach across the oceans to understand the cultures of each other's country. Developing my Mandarin facility will strengthen both my cultural understanding of China and my ability to communicate with the people of an ancient civilization that is now rising rapidly.”

He continued, “This experience will also be complemented by a fall semester in the Inter-University Program in Intensive Mandarin Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. With stronger Mandarin, I hope to spend the next several years living and working in China and eventually attend graduate school to study foreign policy with a regional focus on East Asia. Ultimately, I hope I can add a positive professional contribution to this complex and exciting geopolitical relationship that will likely dominate the 21st century.”

Solomon is a member of Skidmore’s Periclean Honors Forum who has consistently earned Dean’s List recognition. At this year’s Honors Convocation he was recognized for academic achievement in government and international affairs.

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