SESP Students Named Fulbright Finalists

SESP Students Named Fulbright Finalists

Arzu SinghArzu Singh is one of seven SESP students who was named a Fulbright Student Program finalist.

Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy set a School record for the number of finalists for the Fulbright Student program, one of the most widely recognized and respected international exchange opportunities.

Seven undergraduates, including Reena Burt, Elizabeth Cornman, Halimeda Cronin, Ayana Davis, Lillian Guo, Hayley Krolik, and Arzu Singh were selected for awards, which support a year of study or research, or projects in the creative or performing arts, or teaching in more than 155 countries worldwide.

Northwestern, consistently ranked among the top Fulbright-producing research institutions in the country, had 22 students selected overall. SESP, Northwestern’s smallest college, had seven winners who comprised 31 percent of this years’ Fulbright finalists. It’s the second year in a row that SESP has set a School record.

The Fulbright competition is administered at Northwestern through the Office of Fellowships. The Northwestern campus application deadline is always early September for awards that last an academic year. Graduating seniors, alumni, and graduate students with U.S. passports are eligible to apply through Northwestern.

Though safety issues related to the COVID-19 virus might alter some of the Fulbright programs, the majority of the countries will adhere to the overarching Fulbright rule that no one will travel before Jan 1, 2021, according to Stephen Hill, senior associate director for operations at the Office of Fellowships.

“Fulbright is still deciding whether to allow the students in this cohort to have their full 9-10 months or to shorten to 6 months starting on Jan 1, 2021,” he said. “It seems likely that this decision will be on a country-by-country basis.”

Learn more about our newest Fulbright finalists:

reena burtReena Burt received a Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) which typically places candidates in non-profit and government-aided schools across India. Burt pursued a double major in social policy and economics after volunteering at a community organization in her hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, where she saw how public policies served as barriers to social mobility. She credited her Northwestern classes with helping find her passion for education policy in local and global settings.

 One of her most formative experiences included spending six weeks as a teaching fellow for the Breakthrough Collaborative Silicon Valley, teaching a literature and cooking class for first generation, low income students. The experience that taught her the importance of flexibility.

“When a can opener broke in my cooking class, completely stopping my lesson halfway through class, I immediately implemented an impromptu curriculum where students had to design their own signature dishes,” she wrote in her Fulbright application. “Regardless of how much you plan, I found that quick thinking and flexibility were key to teaching.” In 10 years, Burt hopes to be a tenure-track professor researching, initiating, and implementing innovations in education philosophy, policy, and practices.

 Notable Northwestern course: Burt took Introduction to Community Development where she was introduced to several methods of uniting people, despite their differences. “During this class, I took a step back from viewing problems by the way they are portrayed in the media. Instead, I began thinking about problems from the perspective of all the different actors involved. The demolition of the Cabrini Green public housing units, for instance, seemed like a success to those in neighboring areas but was devastating for residents. Understanding community organizing and compromise is especially important when a nation faces polarization.”

Liz cornmanElizabeth (Liz) Cornman (BS20) graduated with a concentration in learning sciences and specialization in out-of-school learning. She is scheduled to teach English in the Czech Republic, a country she said she was drawn to for its “natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.” At her placement school, she will be working with a team of educators to introduce more American literature into their English curriculum. 

At Northwestern, she worked as a research assistant with professor Cynthia Coburn, where she focused on research practice partnerships and applying educational research in school districts. She taught health education in Chicago high schools through Peer Health Exchange, developed after-school curricula for elementary schools with Supplies for Dreams, and participated in NU Women in Leadership’s 2019 Cohort.

After returning from the six-month program, she plans to enroll in Northwestern’s Master of Science in Education program to earn her elementary school teaching certification. 

CroninHallie Cronin, of Dobbs Ferry, New York, doubled majored in social policy and global health studies and plans to teach in Taiwan. She hopes her love of community, teaching, and working with children will help her integrate into the local community. “Learning cannot coexist with fear, so my first step will be to make sure that all my students are comfortable in the classroom with me as the teacher, their peers, and the subject matter,” she said.

At Northwestern, Cronin worked a tutor for a local Evanston non-profit called Books & Breakfast where she planned curricula and tutored children at below-average reading levels. She also taught sexual health education at Chicago Public Schools through Peer Health Exchange and served as educator for a day camp in Costa Rica.

Most fulfilling internship:  At Shape Up New York City, a free exercise class program run by the New York City government, Cronin was in public parks and recreation centers daily, interacting with participants, instructors, and community leaders while assessing the qualitative and quantitative impact of the program. “Watching the fitness instructors teach huge classes in public parks with students of all ages, sizes, and cultures was very inspiring and set an example for the environment I will cultivate in my classrooms in Taiwan,” she said.

Cronin plans to pursue a master’s in public health, live in New York City, and work towards improving education and health equity in urban communities.

Ayana DavisAyana Davis plans to teach and work with refugees in Spain, where she studied in 2018. During her study abroad experience, “I found myself existing between two worlds that did not seamlessly blend: the traditional Catholic Spanish culture within Muslim remnants and the ever-growing presence of African immigrants and refugees,” she said. But as she learned the history of the region, she began questioning what the dichotomy meant for both sides. “Just as my professors pushed me to think critically and against dominant narrative, I see myself encouraging my students to do the same by using perspectives,” she said.

Davis, who plans to continue teaching English as well pursue a master’s degree in secondary education, was drawn to the classroom after a six-week internship in the summer of 2019. There, she was able to combine the empathy and zeal she had over education and build relationships with students. “I infused my teaching with my love of learning to help the students ignite their love for knowledge as well,” she said.

Davis pursued degrees in art therapy, trauma counseling and secondary education so she “can fuse techniques into classrooms where care and creativity are needed,” she wrote on her Fulbright application. “When I look to the future, I see myself where I started, but giving to those who gave to me and need support.”

While in Spain, Davis plans to work with Madrid for Refugees, a non-profit that empowers locals who are refugees, asylum seekers and migrants at risk of being socially excluded. “As a Black woman in Spain, I was an outsider watching other outsiders who looked just like me; I felt helpless in bettering their lives in Spain,” she said. “I want to spend my supporting the African immigrants and refugees that come to Spain seeking work and a better life—an outsider helping outsiders.”

Her motivation: “I grew up in a low-income neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Seeing my parents spend all their time working so that we could have a comfortable life has always driven me to be successful; I want to help them rest. As an eager, young Black woman ready to bring change, I want to help bring success to Black people and see them flourish.”

lillian guoLillian Guo chose Taiwan as her Fulbright destination to leave her comfort zone and force her to be flexible and adaptable. She is also drawn to the country’s progressive nature – it was the first country Asia to elect a female president who was not from a political dynasty and the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. “It embodies the values of equity and tolerance and diversity in politics, and I want to see if and how that translates to classrooms in schools," she said.

At Northwestern, Guo participated in Jumpstart, which trains college students to provide additional support in preschool classrooms in low income communities. And as a member of the student group Sexual Health and Assault Peer educators, she ran workshops for other Northwestern students to talk about consent and sexual violence on campus.

Guo, inspired by a life-changing fifth grade teacher, hopes to complete a master’s degree in education and social justice and become a middle or high school teacher in social science. “I’m passionate about bringing decolonized history and ethnic studies curriculum to public schools so that diverse students of all identities can see themselves and their own histories reflected in what they learn in school,” she said.

Why a Fulbright? “It combines the intersections of my love for English and teaching, and my desire to engage deeply with my linguistic and cultural roots as a Chinese American,” she said. “It’s an ideal step as I prepare myself for a lifetime of work as an educator and ongoing student of the world.”

Hayey KrolikHayley Krolik grew up in Silicon Valley where innovation seemed part of her DNA. “My surroundings taught me that whenever I had a problem, the solution was out there – in an app, in a class, or in something never seen before that I would create,” said Krolik, who studied learning sciences. “All I had to do was rise to the challenge, and the possibilities were endless.” Krolik turned this persistent attitude toward education while working on a committee to reduce stress and create a healthier learning environment after a suicide cluster rocked her high school.

At SESP, Krolik developed her own curriculum to teach courses at her youth group summer camp and served as a summer teaching assistant in a 6th grade math classroom. She also pursued a Spanish minor at Northwestern to connect to a more diverse student population. 

While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, she tutored elementary school students in English with creative lesson plans that involved games and writing stories. Krolik believes strongly that  "passive education through traditional lectures does not enhance progress in learning a new language as much as interactive, innovative activities that activate new ways of thinking."

Krolik chose Colombia as her host country because it “embodies the innovative mindset I grew up with through national goals of an improved higher education system and increased research opportunities.” She hopes to eventually get a joint master’s degree in business and education and work in education technology or policy.

“The efficiency and entrepreneurial spirit of business can be applied to public sector work, like in education, to make effective change,” she said. “Nothing excites me more than the opportunity to support students in an environment of innovation. “

Why learning sciences? “Education is about understanding how people learn and cultivating an ability to develop effective teaching methods for various learning styles,” she said.

arzu singhArzu Singh had cemented her interest in education and social inequalities before she even arrived at SESP. In high school, she worked in the public schools in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and a small Gujurati village as part of a three-week program. There she saw the host of challenges facing India’s education system, but she knew she didn’t “have to look across the Atlantic to find young people struggling for access to a quality education,” she said.

After returning from India, she organized an after-school program to help underserved American students participate in extracurricular activities and immediately saw the barriers to education. “Even at 10 years old, they took care of younger siblings, helped parents with their work, and were often inhibited by unaddressed health issues,” she said. “I quickly realized that addressing the needs of students from underprivileged backgrounds required educators who were prepared to go beyond the curriculum written in the books.”

At Northwestern, Singh worked with the Northwestern University Tutors program for three years and served as co-chair for the Chicago Undergraduate Program, where she trained twenty-two Northwestern students to be peer mentors for incoming students. Her college experience was also profoundly shaped by competing on a competitive bhangra team, a group of dancers who perform a high-energy and upbeat folk dance from Northern India.

Singh, who grew increasingly interested in law while at Northwestern, interned at the Chicago Cook County Public Defender’s Office. She worked in a rehabilitative, education-based court that helped offenders battle their substance addictions to break the cycle of drugs, crime, and incarceration. Again, she saw the tremendous power of education: “When attorneys acted as educators, helping their clients understand their diagnosis and treatments and future opportunities, the clients’ legal outcomes were transformed,” she said.

Singh plans to enroll in Harvard Law School to advocate for those marginalized by the current legal system. But “the core of any successful public interest attorney is a teacher –– someone who is able to connect with, guide, and educate others,” she said.

Influential classes: In Childhood and Adolescence, Singh studied children's developmental stages and how educators could effectively cater to students at different stages. The class Moral Development introduced her to how educators cultivate culturally-sensitive practices.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 7/15/20