Rowan students land prestigious Fulbright fellowships

Rowan students land prestigious Fulbright fellowships

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Two Rowan University students will teach and conduct research abroad through the prestigious Fulbright program.

Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine student Roma Anjali Padalkar and 2018 alumna Imani Pressley both received Fulbright grants, making them the 24th and 25th Rowan students to land grants since 2001.

The flagship international exchange program, Fulbright grants are funded annually by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Rowan students and alumni have studied in a host of countries, including Mongolia, Vietnam, South Africa, Cypress, Turkey, Malaysia, Kosovo and Germany, among many others.

Mahaa Ahmed, a double major in biological sciences and Philosophy and Religion Studies with a minor in dance and a Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors Concentration in the Honors College, was named as an alternate for an extremely competitive Fulbright to the U.K. She'll attend Harvard University in the fall.

Learn more about this year’s Fulbright awardees below:

Roma Anjali Padalkar

Roma Anjali PadalkarCommencement, and the medical degree that it awards, will have to wait an extra year for Roma Anjali Padalkar,

Instead of graduating with the Class of 2021, the bright, energetic student at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine will wait until 2022 to receive her medical degree because she is the first Fulbright-Fogarty Fellow in Public Health from the medical school.

In August of this year, Padalkar will travel to Nakaseke, Uganda, where she will work with the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health and The Makerere Lung Institute of Uganda on a study that will analyze the effectiveness of adding an educational component on the standard of care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Her work will be part of the Global Excellence in COPD Outcomes (GECo) study, which is following results in thousands of people with moderate to severe COPD in Uganda, Nepal and Peru.

“Uganda was chosen as one of the cohort sites due to a high prevalence of COPD from biomass exposure and tobacco use, and its designation as a low-resource setting,” says Padalkar. “This project will investigate the benefits and feasibility of patient education and empowerment in the management of chronic respiratory disease, which will be especially useful in areas where health care providers and facilities are scarce.”

Padalkar will be working with the community health workers involved in the study along with some of the approximately 1,800 Ugandans enrolled in the study. Her duties will include tracking progress of the study participants and assisting them in completing questionnaires. In January 2020, her role will shift to analyzing the results to help determine the outcome of the study.

While in Uganda, she also plans to volunteer with a local non-governmental organization that focuses on advocacy and support for young girls in programs that emphasize the importance of reproductive health, personal hygiene and sanitation.

So, this summer, instead of preparing for the experience of beginning clinical rotations in New Jersey for her third year of medical school, Padalkar will embark on a different adventure, one that she knows will, ultimately, make her a better physician.

“I believe as a physician, it is not only our responsibility to treat illness, but to help patients develop care plans that are feasible, which means addressing financial, educational, cultural and social barriers,” she says. “I am interested in developing a more nuanced understanding of patient care, and the Fulbright-Fogarty Public Health Fellowship will give me that opportunity.”

Imani Pressley

Imani Pressley“I am here to teach.”

Imani Pressley states that with conviction…and passion.

“I believe,” she says, “that life’s experiences are ultimately what will make me a better teacher.”

If that’s so, then Pressley—and her future students—are in for quite an education. Pressley, who earned her bachelor’s degrees, magna cum laude, in early childhood education from the College of Education and liberal studies from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences last December, has secured a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to teach English in Taiwan.

In July, Pressley, who grew up in Hamilton Township and Williamstown, will leave for her 11-month ETA. She is the fifth Rowan education major and the third Liberal Studies major in the last five years to earn a Fulbright.

“Can July come sooner?” the ebullient Pressley asks, adding that she’s been working every day to learn Chinese, the language of Taiwan.

“I have always, always wanted to teach abroad. Throughout my journey as a teacher, I have been placed in setting that have encouraged inclusion, acceptance and tolerance—qualities necessary for every classroom teacher. In continuing this journey, I seek to perfect those qualities as I become a globally conscious, culturally-accepting teacher who encourages impactful life experiences in any classroom. Taiwan’s strong education system can teach me a lot as an aspiring educator.”

Pressley, who studied abroad in Spain in the summer of 2017 and pursued liberal studies sequences in American Studies and Writing Arts, has a thirst for exploration and cultural immersion.

“I’ve always had a desire to learn more about the world,” she says. “Studying abroad changed my perspective in amazing ways. It gave me more patience with people who speak another language and more appreciation for their struggles to lean a new one. You need real courage to do that.”

A recipient of an Achieving the Dream Scholarship at Rowan, Pressley expects to return from her Fulbright, land a teaching job in New Jersey and ultimately attend graduate school. She’s interested in studying play therapy for children.

Though she’s not sure yet what age group she’ll teach in Taiwan, early learners suit her, she says.

“I love how excited children are in early childhood,” says Pressley, who intends to also tutor at-risk children in Taiwan. “As a teacher, you get to see how powerful education is. I love how real, authentic, honest and pure teaching is.

“I hope my Fulbright experiences will inspire my future students to leave their environments and see different perspectives and cultures.”