Providence College Commencement 2013
Academic Lives of Meaning and Purpose
Annie Wendel ’13 Awarded Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Nepal
~ Vicki-Ann Downing, Writer
Providence, R.I. - Come to Providence College and see the world — that’s what Annie Wendel ’13 did.
Wendel (Ridgefield, Conn.) spent eight weeks during the summer of 2011 working in social justice ministries in Australia and teaching at a boarding school in the Solomon Islands. During the spring semester in 2012, she studied abroad in South Africa while teaching seventh-graders and visiting Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Now Wendel is headed to Nepal — the recipient of a competitive, merit-based grant from the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government. She will spend a year teaching English and learning the Nepalese language while also developing a community service project.
Wendel, who will graduate summa cum laude with a degree in public and community service studies, selected Nepal as her destination because of her fascination with other cultures.
“I’ve had family friends tell me about their personal experiences traveling there, stories about the beauty of the landscape and people,” said Wendel. “I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the culture and learning another language, and to my homestay with a family.”
Wendel is one of about 1,700 U.S. students selected to receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant. She will be one of six students teaching in Nepal, chosen from among 56 applicants.
Dr. John B. Margenot III, professor of Spanish and PC’s Fulbright Program advisor, said PC’s Campus Evaluation Committee, which interviewed Wendel in October, was impressed with her poise and compassion. The committee gave her application its top ranking before submitting it to the national organization for consideration.
“Annie is a highly empathetic candidate with a very positive attitude who is wise beyond her years,” said Margenot. “She thinks pragmatically, is inquisitive and keenly interested in cross-cultural dialogue. She is an articulate and thoughtful speaker, and is intensely interested in her major as well as her professional goals.”
Public service at home and abroad
Wendel arrived at PC with plans to study English. But during her freshman year she discovered public and community service studies, a program that requires students to participate in service projects outside the classroom. It attracts “a really great group of students who are passionate and inspired and want to make a change,” Wendel said.
As a freshman, she began volunteering at YouthRAP, a program offered by the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation that provides homework help, field trips, and after-school and weekend activities for neighborhood youth. She tutored students in science and healthy eating and served as the PC liaison during her sophomore and junior years.
She found opportunities to serve others internationally, too. While studying abroad in South Africa, Wendel fulfilled her community service internship for PC at a primary school attended by mixed-race students who spoke Afrikaans. She taught the students art, culture, and life skills, and learned their language best in informal sessions outside the classroom, a technique she hopes to employ in Nepal.
As a Father Philip A. Smith, O.P. Fellow, Wendel traveled to Sydney, Australia, where she worked in social justice ministries with the Las Casas Centre for Justice, Peace, and Care of Creation at Santa Sabina College. In the Solomon Islands, she served with Rev. Christopher Cardone, O.P. ’80 & ’01Hon., bishop of the Diocese of Auki, and taught at a Christian boarding school.
Last March, Wendel participated in an Alternative Spring Break trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Working with Esperanza International, she joined other students in building a house for a needy family from the foundation to the concrete cinderblock walls.
Her experiences convinced her that she would like to work in international education, focusing on global youth development and literacy.
“An outstanding writer and speaker”
“What makes Annie Wendel special is her ability to combine her unique and creative intellectual abilities with a real collaborative approach to issues and problems,” said Dr. Richard M. Battistoni, professor of political science and public and community service studies.
“She builds relationships both with other students and her professors, and with folks in the community with whom she works. And on top of this, Annie is an outstanding writer and speaker, so she is able to communicate her story and her ideas in a compelling way, and to a variety of different audiences.”
Wendel, a member of the Dirigo leadership honor society at PC, thinks her work in community service won her the Fulbright.
“A lot of students do have international experience, but I think what helped was my public service background and hands-on experience while overseas and here in Providence,” she said.
Wendel was introduced to international travel by her family. She remembers that during a trip to Italy, Greece, and Turkey, she was most intrigued by Turkey — probably because it was so different from the other countries.
Her eight-month stay in Nepal will begin in July. She will teach English to students in a government school and develop a project that introduces them to community service, leadership, and civic engagement — she just isn’t sure exactly where.
“You have to be very flexible,” Wendel said. “It could be rural, it could be urban. I’m excited for both.”
“My passport is colorful,” she said. “I hope I’ll continue that.”