Some of Rowan's BRIGHTest
Call it a Fulbright Program scholarship trifecta.
For the first time in Rowan University history, three students have received scholarships through the prestigious - and highly competitive - Fulbright Program.
Simone Miliaresis, Melissa Genovese, and Mary Spanarkel are representing Rowan this year in Cyprus, Vietnam and Turkey respectively. Each will spend nine months as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in school settings.
The Fulbright Program provides opportunities for international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. The program, which draws applicants from the nation’s top institutions, awards grants based on applicants’ academic merit and leadership potential. Thirteen Rowan students in the past 11 years have landed Fulbright grants.
“Applying for a Fulbright means competing with students from the best colleges in the country,” says History Professor Corinne Blake, Rowan’s Fulbright program adviser. “Even extremely well-qualified students don’t always win grants. It’s thrilling that three of our students were recognized this year.”
Here’s a look at each of Rowan’s newest Fulbright awardees:
In September, Miliaresis, a Washington Township resident, will begin teaching at St. Peter and Paul Lyceum, a high school in Limassol, Cyprus.
The aspiring school psychologist, who graduated magna cum laude in 2010 with a degree in psychology, credits her travels to Greece with helping build the confidence to pursue a Fulbright. As a child, she attended Greek School for six hours each week, something she disliked at the time but now appreciates.
“Knowing Greek opened the door to me to other cultures,” says Miliaresis, who studied in Greece in spring of her junior year at the American College of Thessaloniki Study Abroad Program on a full scholarship.
Teaching in Cyprus, she says, will provide her with perspectives of the educational systems in another country and that will help in her career, she says.
Since graduating from Rowan, Miliaresis has worked as an autism support trainer for the Burlington County Special Services School District. Additionally, she has worked one-on-one with people with autism in home settings. She’s looking to get involved in autism groups in Cyprus.
“I don’t think there are as many services available in Cyprus for students with special needs,” she says. “That’s something I’m so interested to see.”
Miliaresis knew the odds of landing a Fulbright to Cyprus, a Mediterranean island nation, were tough.
“Dr. Blake told me the odds were terrible,” she says. “I knew I’d be competing with people from Princeton and Harvard. But I just had a gut feeling that I’d beat the odds.
Upon returning from Cyprus, Miliaresis plans to enroll in graduate school for school psychology.
Says Miliaresis, “I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life.”
A Farmingdale resident who graduated summa cum laude in December with degrees in history and secondary education, Genovese leaves July 29 for Vietnam.
“I’ll be teaching at Nam Dinh University of Technology Education in the Nam Dinh Province, about 75 miles southeast of Hanoi,” she says.
“One of the appeals of the Fulbright ETA is that you are able to relate to people your own age.”
Genovese, who on two backpacking trips to Europe found lodging by “couch surfing,” said it’s a great experience getting to know a country from its locals.
“We found people’s couches to stay on and had the best time,” she says. “They take you out to show you the town. I love meeting people and seeing everything I’ve read about in history books.”
“It’s eye-opening to experience how other cultures live, especially halfway around the world. In Asia, they have a very different outlook on education. I’m interested to see their teaching techniques—and how students learn as well.”
Rowan history classes on Asia and the Vietnam War piqued Genovese’s interest in Asian Studies. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field after completing her Fulbright ETA.
“People have many misconceptions about Vietnam,” says Genovese, who has visited 14 countries. “It’s one of the most stable countries in Southeast Asia. I hope my Fulbright experience will help me change the way people in America view Vietnam.”
Spanarkel, of Tinton Falls, graduated summa cum laude in May with degrees in history and secondary education. In September, she’ll begin teaching at Balikesir University in Balikesir, a town in northwestern Turkey.
Spanarkel’s interest in the country began after she took Blake’s “Ottoman History” course sophomore year.
Two summers ago, Spanarkel completed a field-intensive study abroad program in anthropology/archaeology at Galen University in San Ignacio, Belize. That certainly prepared her for her Fulbright. But serving as a resident assistant (RA) at Rowan helped as well, says Spanarkel, recipient of the Gary Hunter Excellence in History Medallion this year.
“Being an RA prepares you for the unknown,” she says. “You learn to talk to a lot of different people. It makes you appreciate the people around you. I gained a lot of confidence by being part of the Residence Life staff.”
Spanarkel, who is considering middle school teaching, grad school and even law school after she leaves Turkey, expects to grow even more through her Fulbright experience.
“Getting the Fulbright scholarship showed me I can do whatever I want,” she says. “It’s opening my eyes to other things.”
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