HARTFORD, CT, May 29, 2014 – Almost from the day she first set foot on the Trinity campus, Stephanie Clemente '14, aspired to be a Fulbright Scholar. Given the competitive nature of the fellowship, Clemente’s chances may have seemed remote. But the Posse Scholar from Elmhurst, NY was undeterred. And in March of this year, she found out that she will be going to Indonesia on a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.
The Fulbright Student Program is the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government. In recent years, Indonesia has been a popular destination for Trinity students, and Clemente, who minored in Arabic, is thrilled to be headed there.
First, however, the double major in international studies and anthropology will be going to Jordan, having won a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Arabic. She will return to the States in August, long enough to do her laundry, repack and depart for Indonesia. She doesn’t know yet where in that Southeast Asian country, the fourth most populous in the world, she will be stationed. It could be anywhere in the archipelago, which consists of 13,466 islands.
But before she lands in Indonesia, she will take advantage of the fully funded summer language institute for American college students, a program sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The CLS program offers intensive summer language institutes in 13 foreign languages deemed critical to U.S. interests by the State Department. One of them, obviously, is Arabic.
The students who are accepted into the program are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period and apply their language skills in whatever professional career they choose.
That Clemente is a double winner, so to speak, is not surprising to Joseph Barber, director of community service and civil engagement at Trinity. “Stephanie’s dedication, passion, enthusiasm, work ethic, competence and good nature made working with her on a regular basis an absolute pleasure,” said Barber in a letter he wrote on her behalf.
Barber dealt with Clemente mostly through their association with Trinity’s chapter of Amnesty International, for which Barber is the adviser and Clemente twice served as president.
When Clemente first joined Amnesty International, it was in a rebuilding phase, and she plunged in, continuing the chapter’s work on capital punishment (vigils and discussion groups); hosting a monthly movie series; organizing Smacktivism (the observance of International Human Rights Day); sponsoring a lecture series on human rights; turning International Women’s Day into a month-long educational program; and planning and carrying out events about refugees.
“Stephanie probably spent two months planning the second program…which was a talk by the executive director of the Human Trafficking Awareness (HTA) Council, Joseph Burlett,” said Barber. “Stephanie’s hard work bore results as Mr. Burlett gave a powerful presentation to a standing-room-only crowd about the trafficking of immigrants in the U.S. as modern-day slavery.”
Clemente, whose parents emigrated from the Philippines, said she has long been interested in the plight of refugees, having studied in 2012-13 in Jordan and Denmark, two countries with relatively large refugee populations.
Indeed, her interest in refugees was apparent in Clemente’s first year when she enrolled in the “Global Migration” class taught by Janet Bauer, associate professor of international studies, and then took other classes such as “Immigrants and Refugees.”
“Over her four years at Trinity, Stephanie has nurtured and developed her interest in refugee studies, in the Middle East and Muslim societies, and in the field of public health through her leadership and activism in the Trinity chapter of Amnesty International, through her study abroad experiences, and through her academic work,” said Bauer.
Although Clemente has been awarded a Fulbright teaching assistantship, she said that she never gave much thought to being a teacher. While in Denmark, she volunteered at a Muslim school and “got to thinking about being a cultural ambassador. Having a Fulbright is a good way to do soft diplomacy,” she said.
Clemente also was a research team leader on Bauer’s Global Hartford Immigrant Entrepreneurship Research Project this spring and conducted research among the Iraqi refugee communities in New Haven and Hartford for her senior thesis, “Fragmented Communities: Addressing War and Injury-Related Trauma through Community Building among Iraqi Refugees in Hartford, Connecticut.”
“The Iraqis that Stephanie interacted with were impressed with her skills in the Arabic language and in her kindness and generosity,” said Bauer. “She will bring a great sensitivity to and respect for the culture and life ways of others to her teaching Fulbright in Indonesia.”
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by Congress to “enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.
The Fulbright Program receives its primary source of funding through an annual appropriation from Congress to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions in foreign countries, and in the United States, also contribute financially through cost-sharing and indirect support, e.g., through salary supplements, tuition waivers, and university housing.
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given 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.
More details about the Fulbright Program can be obtained by visiting the Web site: http://fulbright.state.gov