Providence, R.I. – Emma Wright ’12 (Lake Hill, N.Y.), a history major, with minors in French and German at Providence College, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship that will combine her passions for international travel and sustainable food policy in Germany.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Each year, approximately 1,700 students receive a Fulbright U.S. student grant to go overseas. In 2011, two Providence College graduates were awarded Fulbright English Teacher Assistantships. Alexandra E. BetGeorge ’11, a global studies major and political science minor, went to Bulgaria, and Leah Glass ’11, a global studies major with minors in black studies and Spanish, went to Turkey.
Wright has visited Germany twice through an exchange program at her high school. She also served as an au pair in Germany and Martinique. In addition to working in an English-language classroom, the student — a dietary vegan — will compare American and German food policies and the health and longevity of people in both countries.
“Everyone should have food that’s healthy, that they know where it comes from, despite your income level,” Wright said.
Professors agreed that Wright is an exceptional student with a clear focus. She is a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program as well as the history and French honor societies. “She has a gift for language, and even more than that, she has a dedication,” said Rev. Leonard P. Hindsley, professor of humanities in foreign languages, Wright’s German instructor. “You can be gifted and not do anything. She’s both gifted and hardworking.”
Dr. John B. Margenot III, professor of Spanish and PC’s Fulbright Program adviser, who leads a committee that evaluates candidates, described Wright as very poised and focused. “We were very taken by her and we gave her application the highest rating we could,” he said.
Wright has not learned yet where she will be placed. Once in Germany, however, she will assist an English-language teacher 12 to 14 hours a week. In addition, she will lead an afterschool program for middle school students, fostering English language learning through cooking, movies, field trips, and songs.
She credits her excellent language teachers and her exchange experiences for motivating her to continue to study. “So many other high school kids, after they meet the [graduation] requirement, they drop off,” Wright said. “It’s important that they have that opportunity to interact with people from other cultures, to get the opportunity to learn more from them.”
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.
Fulbright selection committees rate candidates based on their academic or professional qualifications; the validity and feasibility of the applicant’s proposed project; evidence of maturity, motivation, and adaptability to a different cultural environment; the impression a candidate will make abroad as a citizen representing the United States; and demonstrated leadership potential.
Wright, who plans to attend law school after her Fulbright, is excited to study health policy in Europe, which has a long history of regulating food labeling and additives.
A vegetarian since elementary school, she made a New Year’s resolution in her junior year of college to be vegan — avoiding all animal products, including dairy and eggs. This decision stemmed from her volunteer work at a shelter for farm animals in her hometown. “When you see the animals and see how destroyed they are, it really affects you,” Wright said.
She wants to pursue a career working on sustainable food policy, possibly for a government organization such as the Centers for Disease Control or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and feels her international experience will be an asset.
“I truly believe that the movement towards sustainability in the food industry must take place on a global scale, and the best way to do so is through a cross-cultural exchange of ideas, information, and traditional knowledge,” Wright wrote in her personal statement for the Fulbright award.
Wright also wrote that she was inspired as a child by the world map that arrived with her copy of National Geographic magazine, hinting at all the exotic places she never knew. She is still in touch with a German penpal with whom she began exchanging letters in the fourth grade.
She is not of German heritage but developed a connection with the country through her trips. “I felt like I kind of grew up there because I spent so many summers there,” Wright said. She took German and French for four years in high school and visited with the German American Partnership Program. She continued her studies at PC, signing up for independent studies to pursue advanced German and enrolling in French during her junior and senior years.
Wright said PC gave her a strong academic and moral foundation. “I think PC is good, having a core that really exposes you to a lot of different areas,” she said. “You get a little taste of everything, and if you find something that fits you, you can explore it further, but you still have the base of everything else.”