April 18, 2013
While many Hamilton seniors have been receiving and accepting job offers, a unique few have been granted prestigious post-graduate fellowships. Seniors Debbie Chen ’13, Eric Green ’13, Michael Breslin ’13 and Lauren Howe ’13 are recipients of 2013-2014 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships, the William J. Bristol Fellowship and Thomas J.Watson Fellowship, respectively. These fellowships allow students to travel to a variety of countries for one year and explore their interests further through independent projects and hands-on experience.
The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) will take Chen to Taiwan where she will become involved with and examine the Taiwanese education system. Chen is a creative writing major who has always had a strong interest in education, specifically education inequality. Influencing her decision to apply for an ETA are her experiences as a Hamilton student and as a volunteer in the greater Utica area..
“As a student of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), I know the obstacles preventing students from achieving their full potential” Chen said. “My experience teaching inner-city children in Utica has reinforced my desire to improve the current education system, ensuring that a child’s socio-economic status does not affect the quality of his or her education.”
Chen chose Taiwan after she saw that the country has implemented educational programs that closely align with her values.
“[Taiwan’s] Ministry of Education (MOE) established the Program for Education Priority Areas that provides additional resources to schools in disadvantaged districts. The MOE recently began the Education Safety Net Program, which ensures that economically disadvantaged children can continue to attend school. I want to be part of this progressive movement in Taiwanese schools.”
Apart from becoming involved in Taiwan’s education system, Chen is also excited to immerse herself in other aspects of Taiwanese culture, including the country’s food and leisurely activities. “I want to attend baseball games and participate in festivals so I can learn about Taiwanese traditions, such as ‘The Firecracker Game,’” Chen aid. “I want to become a member of the community, one who asks the local grocer about his mother’s health and learns t’ai chi from the 90-year-old woman at the town square. I will go to night markets and sample various Taiwanese delicacies. Being an English teaching assistant in Taiwan will allow me to see first-hand the benefits of offering comprehensive support to underprivileged children. This assistantship will improve my abilities to teach and interact with a diverse group of people, a skill I will use when I teach children from low-income communities in one of New York City’s inner-city schools.”
At Hamilton, Chen teaches math to middle school students from Utica through the Young People’s Project. She is also taking a Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Teacher Training Seminar course, in which students receive a 70-hour teacher training certificate and complete field study at Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.
Breslin received The Bristol Fellowship which is unique to Hamilton College. His project, titled “Gender Play: Displaying, Transgressing, and Transcending Gender Identity in World Theatre,” will take him to Germany, Poland, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.
“When studying abroad in Moscow during my junior year, I discovered my love not just for traveling but for seeing and creating theatre in a different culture,” said Breslin. “The Russian theatre scene is so rich and daring, and I thought to myself: What other countries in the world could have this type of amazing theatre that I don’t even know about? I was also struck by the differences and similarities in gender relations and performances in Moscow, and how these cultural differences reflected themselves in theatre. I and think more independently.”
Breslin has always been fascinated with the topic of gender play, from the ways a performer is able to manipulate gender to the consequences of this manipulation. He credits Hamilton’s academics as a resource that has fostered and shaped his interest.
The countries to which Breslin has chosen to travel may not be the most popular places to visit in terms of theatre culture, but they are the most compelling, representing “Eastern and Western theatrical traditions, and conventional and experimental theatre cultures” he said.
Breslin looks forward to experiencing these differences through interaction with artists and audiences.
On a typical day, he will find himself at rehearsals, acting and dance lessons and production meetings. Exposing himself to works of various cultures, he will practice different approaches to preparing theatre. He will also work from the opposite perspective, as a spectator at a range of performances. After these performances, he will converse with audience members, actors and directors about the piece. Breslin expects that his ideas and beliefs on gender play will be “challenged and reconstructed.” He also hopes to discover “different theatrical techniques and methods that can assist in playing with gender in multiple ways.” Apart from experiencing his fellowship through an education lens, Breslin looks forward to the personal aspect of the fellowship. “As for my own gender identity,” he writes, “I am open to allowing the different national and theatrical cultures to influence and change me.”
At Hamilton Breslin has performed in Slaughter City, Wet and Orestes 2. He is the performance director of one of Hamilton’s a capella groups, Duelly Noted, and was the director/producer of this year’s Shakespeare in the Glen production of Twelfth Night, in which he also performed.
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship was awarded to Howe for her proposed project“The Future of Food: Modern Technology and Traditional Agriculture Systems.”
After studying abroad in Australia, Howe was left with the travel bug and realized the many places she wanted to visit and topics she wanted to invest herself in. Howe decided to apply for a Watson after considering her last six years of experience in the fields of natural environment, food and social justice.
Howe has chosen to travel to India, Bolivia, Tanzania and Iceland to conduct her project, which, according to her proposal, will explore the feasibility of a “mechanized food and agriculture system” and “small-scale traditional farming.”
From traveling to these culturally, geographically and environmentally diverse countries, Howe hopes to gain a “balanced awareness of the issues surrounding food security and cultural continuity in a changing world where some would argue that technology is apotheosized, tradition is threatened, and the welfare of the natural environment is overlooked.”
Another goal of Howe’s is to study the attitudes that ordinary citizens have towards different types of food production.
“Different countries and cultures have varying opinions on issues such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and land grabbing (large-scale land acquisition, usually from foreign investors). I hope that by immersing myself in the daily lives of local people in Tanzania, India, Bolivia and Iceland, I can understand more about how their culture influences their own values and views of food systems.”
Howe is determined to achieve a well-rounded view of food systems, which has been developed at Hamilton, but only in a partial way. Howe wishes to know the full story of various food issues and to understand the “harsh reality that includes widespread poverty, political implications and cultural nuances.” She mentions how her experiences volunteering, taking certain classes and attending food conferences have further driven her to pursue her project.
Howe has a lomng history with food and food production. During high school, she worked at her local grocery store and volunteered at an emergency food pantry. In 2011, Howe interned at Grow Food Northampton, where she managed affordable and senior citizen Farm Share programs.
At the School of International Training in Australia, Howe conducted a five-week independent research project called the “The Eco-Potential of Farm Tourism in Australia: A Gap Analysis.” She was also a U.S. delegate to the 2012 International Slow Food Congress Terra Madre in Turin, Italy, and was invited to present a paper she co-authored, “Let’s Dig In! Adirondack Food Culture through the Ages,” at the Canadian Association for Food Studies 2012 Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.
At Hamilton, Howe is the co-founder of Slow Food International which promotes sustainable food and raises awareness about food issues through lectures, film screenings, farm tours and community events. She was a chairperson of the Food Systems Working Group for the “Let’s Get Real Hamilton!” food sourcing campaign on campus, a member of HEAG and a sustainability coordinator for the Recycling Task Force.