Three LSU Ogden Honors College seniors have received Fulbright awards to work in Spain and the Czech Republic, and two of them are from Acadiana.
Sanaa Alam of Lafayette, Jacob Miller of Crowley and Revathi Menon of Baton Rouge received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and Study/Research awards.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.
The English Teaching Assistant, or ETA, Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers. ETAs help teach the English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S.
Applicants for study/research awards design their own projects and will typically work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education.
Alam is a biological sciences major in the LSU College of Science [lsu.edu] who will be heading to Spain as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Alam wants to acquire hands-on experience in the classroom because she believes the work of education is important for her future career working in global health. She has a longstanding interest in education. As a student in the Ogden Honors College, she started an organization that tutors elementary students on reading skills. Going to Spain, Alam is prepared to draw on her own experience learning languages to implement ideas that will engage students in the classroom.
Alam has spent many years learning Spanish, although her attempts to spend substantial time in Spain were thwarted due to COVID-19, she wishes to supplement her knowledge of Spanish culture and language with actual experience living in the country.
“For nearly the past decade, I have been nurturing my love for Spanish language and culture in school, which nearly culminated in a semester abroad in Spain. Working as an ETA in Spain would afford me the opportunity to integrate my curiosity for diverse cultures, passion for educating and mentoring youth, and appreciation for Spanish culture,” said Alam. “Moreover, being a cultural ambassador for the U.S. will provide me with valuable skills that will translate into my career as a global health physician working with international communities to promote health equity.”
Alam attributes growing up as a Pakistani Muslim in South Louisiana among a tight-knit, multicultural Muslim community for helping her develop a nuanced understanding of the importance of cross-cultural exchange. The exposure to diversity during her formative years has instilled in her values that coincide with Fulbright's mission of fostering mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations while improving lives around the world.
“When I expand my cultural knowledge and swiftly adapt to foreign environments, I feel like I am reaching my full potential as a student, human, and global citizen,” said Alam.
In her time at LSU, Alam also spent three weeks studying Victorian literature and Ancient Greece in the Ogden at Oxford program, spent a week providing health care to a rural community in Honduras, and two months learning Urdu from professors in Lucknow, India through the U.S Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship program, which she was just awarded a second time for the Summer of 2022.
Upon completing the Fulbright grant, Alam hopes to pursue an MD/Master of Public Health dual degree. Her awareness of the vast health inequities in the world and her understanding of how they represent solvable injustices has led her to commit to a career in Global Health.
Alam hopes to specialize in Population and Family Health, focusing on policy and practice to improve health systems in underserved or unstable environments, especially refugee communities.
Miller is an electrical engineering major in the LSU College of Engineering [lsu.edu] who will be heading to the Czech Republic to build new devices for medical applications as a Fulbright Study/Research Grant recipient.
With the enforcement of new uniform safety standards for radiation therapy in the European Union, it has become more pertinent to provide healthcare providers with an effective way to optimize radiation therapy planning and exposure verification. A consortium was established with several institutions in the Czech Republic to create a radiation imaging device for small organs and for planning and monitoring administered radiation dose. The device will utilize a radiation detector for imaging ionizing radiation from radioactive iodine used to treat thyroid cancer.
Miller will work with two of the member institutions, Advacam s.r.o., a radiation detector manufacturer which will be building the radiation camera, and the Center for Advanced Preclinical Imaging, or CAPI, at Charles University. Miller will act as the liaison between Advacam and CAPI and will aid in both detector development and preclinical thyroid imaging studies performed in small animals.
“During my time there, I will begin to learn the nuances of Czech culture, history and the healthcare community,” said Miller. “I’m excited to establish new connections with researchers, garner the skills necessary for a combined career in medicine and engineering, and have a direct impact on patients who suffer from thyroid cancer. By giving patients access to individualized treatments and increasing our understanding of radiation therapy, this project will lead to improved healthcare outcomes worldwide.”
Miller works under the direction of Assistant Professor Jeffery Chancellor in the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy, head of its Space Radiation Transport & Applied Nuclear, or SpaRTAN, Lab. He is a part of the Tiger Eye 1 research mission [lsu.edu] team that is helping LSU become the first university in the world to put technology on the Moon.
Upon returning to the United States, Miller will apply to medical school and pursue a specialty in aerospace medicine with a master’s degree in Public Health. As an aerospace medicine physician, he will research the effects of spaceflight on the human body and the clinical implications of practicing medicine in an austere environment.
Menon is an international studies major and Spanish minor in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences [lsu.edu] who will be heading to Spain as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She will be teaching in a Comunidad de Madrid School and will be working under the Global Classrooms Program located in Madrid, which mirrors Model United Nations for students.
Menon has studied the relationship between poverty and education in the context of Louisiana and understands the importance of a strong education, which has inspired her to want to gain direct experience in the classroom.
“Teaching has been integral to my growth, from tutoring my mother’s elementary students during high school, to volunteering as a mentor for high school students, to finally founding a literacy program and creating lesson plans for underserved elementary students in collaboration with community partners,” said Menon. “I love observing students improve in their confidence because they have come to appreciate the value of education. Teaching elementary students online who have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the education system in my state because of a global pandemic has alerted me to social injustices in the United States and abroad.”
Menon has a great desire to serve as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. in part because of her own experiences living in a multi-cultural community in the United States. As an Indian-American growing up in Louisiana, she has ample experience in acting as a cultural ambassador in her own right.
Menon’s interest in immigration will allow her to gain insights into Spanish attitudes about immigration that she could bring back to the United States after her grant ends.
During her time in Spain, she plans to interact with the community by volunteering with non-profit organizations that assist refugees and immigrants seeking to integrate to Spanish culture—one example is ONG Rescate, a Madrid organization that assists not only Middle Eastern immigrants, but also Latin American immigrants escaping poverty and violence.
“I hope sharing these experiences will help students understand that they are not alone in trying to learn a different language and it will build a bond between the students and their surrounding community, encouraging them to volunteer due to a heightened awareness of societal issues in their communities,” said Menon.
After returning to the US, Menon hopes to pursue an International and Comparative Law degree, which will allow for reflection of the U.S. legal system compared to other countries and teaches students how to navigate crossborder issues.