Students awarded Fulbrights, will travel to Brazil, Finland and Singapore

From left to right, Erin Sweeney and Erika Ruhl. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

From left to right, Erin Sweeney and Erika Ruhl. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

Other study abroad scholarship recipients to focus on foreign language, cultural exploration

By Rebecca Rudell

Release Date: May 29, 2018

Elizabeth Lessner

Elizabeth Lessner. Credit: Claire Dibble.

Erika Ruhl

Erika Ruhl. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

Erin Sweeney

Erin Sweeney. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

“This year, in addition to our three Fulbright winners, two students were awarded Critical Language Scholarships and three won Gillman scholarships.”
Megan Stewart, fellowships and scholarships advisor
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — This year, the University at Buffalo has produced three Fulbright winners, three alternates and six finalists, in addition to five other study abroad scholarship recipients.

Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright Scholarships are awarded to nearly 8,000 students and scholars each year. The scholarship covers airfare to the country one is studying in and a stipend to cover housing expenses. It was proposed by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1945 as a way to promote peace and friendship among all the nations of the world.

UB’s three 2018 Fulbright winners:

Elizabeth Lessner, who studied media arts production at UB, is traveling to Brazil to conduct a creative arts project on embedded electronics. While there, she will teach workshops about physical computing and embedded electronics to university members and local communities.

“My research is focused on how sensory experiences bodily engage viewers. I make objects and installations that use sensory perception to reframe interpersonal interactions. I do this by combining traditional sculpture materials with embedded electronics to create multi-sensory experiences that are sometimes interactive. This work stands on the shoulders of Brazilian sculptor Lygia Clark’s use of immersive sensorial experiences to reframe viewers’ conceptions of self,” Lessner wrote in her Fulbright application.  

Lessner received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon and a master’s of fine arts from UB in 2016. She is from Bethesda, Maryland.

Erika Ruhl will head to Finland where she will continue her research into the subject of children’s identity and agency in pre-modern Finnish burial textiles. She says her dissertation topic examines community views of children in Finland through the burial practices at Oulu Cathedral and the churches of Haukipudas, Hailuoto, and Keminmaa between the 15th and 19th centuries. Her project analyzes the burial clothes of pre-modern mummies preserved under the floors of these churches.

“Children are often ignored or forgotten in archaeological research. By analyzing naturally mummified burials at pre-modern Finnish churches, I examine children’s active role in history, exploring what ‘childhood’ meant and ways communities responded to losing a child. This project contributes to the wider and cross-cultural understanding of children and childhood,” noted Ruhl in her application.

Ruhl is from Appleton, Wisconsin, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Marquette University. She received her master’s of arts from UB in 2014 and is currently a doctoral student in anthropology, expected to graduate in 2020.

Erin Sweeney will conduct research on designing innovative policy frameworks for a resilient food system in Singapore. She explains that as an urban planner, “I believe that engaging in local projects is vital to becoming part of the host community. Through my passion for growing food, I will volunteer at the city-run community gardens to meet Singaporeans of all ages and backgrounds to learn about local crops.”

“Although Singapore is among the most food-secure countries in the world, it imports 90 percent of its food, making it vulnerable to external shocks,” Sweeney wrote in her application. “Through qualitative research with farmers and policymakers, my proposed project will explore the question: how can policy effectively support farmers’ capacity to produce a more resilient food supply? I will produce a set of briefs that recommend policies to enhance Singapore’s food system resiliency and role as a regional leader in urban planning.” 

Sweeney is from Geneseo, New York. She received her bachelor’s of arts from Allegheny College and earned her master’s degree in urban planning from UB this May.

UB’s three Fulbright alternates are Kelly Aldinger, Avye Alexandres and Antara Majumdar. The six finalists are Harman Paul Brar, Michael Fiorica, Brentyn Mendel, Anna Porter, Stanzi Vaubel and Leslie Veloz.

Fulbright scholarships are one of the many opportunities available for students interested in studying abroad — and UB students have earned those as well.

“This year, in addition to our three Fulbright winners, two students were awarded Critical Language Scholarships and three won Gilman scholarships,” says Megan Stewart, fellowships and scholarships advisor at UB.

Critical Language Scholarships are awarded to those studying foreign languages the federal government deems as critical to national security and economic prosperity, while Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships help students from low-income families study in locations around the world.

Three other newsworthy items Stewart mentions are: the renewed focus on faculty members going on Fulbright; associate professor Patrick McDevitt will take on the role of Fulbright program advisor previously filled by assistant professor Colleen Culleton; and a Fulbright workshop review is being offered by the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships this summer for interested students, alums and faculty.

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