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Casa Alums Earn Fulbright Scholarships... Again.

Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010

We are proud to announce that for the second straight year, two Casa alums have received the prestigious Fulbright scholarship here in El Salvador. That puts the total of Casa alums earning a Fulbright scholarship to eight!

Here are our eight Fulbright scholars, and some information about their research:

Steve Hege (Fall 2001)

Mike McMahon (Spring 2005)
My Fulbright Teaching Assistantship took me to Madrid, Spain. In addition to conducting social research, I also worked part time as an English Teaching Assistant in a bilingual program in a secondary school. I trained my students in Model United Nations (MUN) rules and procedures, formal writing and debate skills, and research methods in preparation for the city-wide MUN conference that took place at the end of the term.

Students researched and debated such topics as Global Warming, Genocide in Darfur, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of achieving Universal Primary Education. One of my students was selected to participate in the International MUN Conference in New York City.

The research component of my Fulbright Grant was aimed at studying the social effects of globalization in Spain. I focused on current immigration trends and the response of the government and Spanish society at large. I took courses on globalization and immigration at La Universidad Complutense in Madrid, interviewed Spanish and American professors about current trends, participated in various seminars throughout the country, interviewed dozens of undocumented immigrants in Madrid and compiled their personal narratives, and presented my research at La Escola d'Orient's annual conference on globalization in Mallorca, Spain.

Maggie Hargrave (Fall 2005)
My Fulbright Research Grant provided me with the wonderful opportunity to study and live in Sucre, Bolivia. My research looked at the effects of rural to urban migration amongst Quechua women and children in the department of Chuquisaca, Bolivia. As a point of focus, I explored the use of traditional medicines and the practice of ritual healing in an urban setting. The idea was to get to the heart of what it means to live within the Quechua cosmovision in an increasingly urbanized and westernized space. On the flip side of that is the question of what it means for the city of Sucre and those that identify as non-indigenous to have such a strong indigenous influence in their urban/non-indigenous culture and tradition. I worked closely with women in the market place and children at a Quechua cultural center for child workers (lustrabotas, chicleros, lavanderos).

My Casa experience was very important to my research. Casa -- and the thinking that I was inspired to do by my many Casa-mates -- helped me to view academic research in a comfortable and productive way; I began to view 'research' in the language of conversation and understanding.

Allison Ramirez (Fall 2005)
Allison Ramirez returned to El Salvador on a Fulbright grant from 2007-2008. Along with another Fulbright researcher, she produced a documentary entitled The Safety Valve: Understanding Contemporary Salvadoran Society, which focused on the economic, social, and cultural impacts of the civil war, the phenomenon of migration, and the growing epidemic of gang violence on El Salvador. Allison did research both within El Salvador, and along the route Central American migrants take through southern Mexico. Additionally, Allison has been involved with COFAMIDE, the Committee of Family Members of Migrants who have Died or Disappeared, since 2006. As part of her Fulbright year, she created a proposal to help fundraise for the group to travel to Mexico on a 'Journey of Hope,' to search for their family members and demand respect for the human rights of migrants. Allison continues to collaborate with COFAMIDE and plans to continue working in this area.

Christopher Hallberg (Spring 2007)
Lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death in low-income countries. Nebulizers are medical devices used to treat a wide variety of respiratory ailments, but traditional nebulizers require electricity to operate and are cost-prohibitive in developing contexts. Lars Olson, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, invented a low-cost nebulizer that doesn't require electricity. Chris Hallberg worked with the Ministry of Health to implement the nebulizer in rural El Salvador.

Beth Tellman (Fall 2007)
Beth divided her time between disaster relief and disaster research after devastating rains following Hurricane Ida in November 2009. Her research focuses on community resilience to 'climate shock' in the context of deadly landslides due to Ida in the municipality of Santiago Texacuangos. She presented her work at UN University Institute for Environment's Protecting Environmental Migrants Summer Academy (July 2010). Her research inspired the founding of Colectivo CEIBA, an NGO working to reduce social vulnerability to disasters (see or to donate via PayPal). After raising $30,000 with the help of other Casa alums, CEIBA was able to implement programs in trauma therapy, art therapy, organic gardening for food security, and community organizing focusing on disaster prevention. She decided to stay in El Salvador for another two years with the support of VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement) to coordinate and fundraise for CEIBA.

Jenna Knapp (Spring 2008)
I will be researching the effectiveness of the gang violence prevention and rehabilitation programs that Catholic Relief Services affiliate Quetzalcoatl runs in San Salvador. I aim to explore the effects of the increasingly hard-line political approach toward gang violence on the work of grassroots violence-prevention NGOs like Quetzalcoatl. Additionally, I hope to assess the successes and challenges of restorative justice programs given the shortcomings of the current corrupt, punitive justice system.

Olivia Holdsworth (Spring 2009)
I will spend this year working with Probusqueda and accompanying mothers of the disappeared. Probusqueda is a human rights organization which promotes the the search, reencounter, and reintegration into families of disappeared children. It also works to reestablish the victims' right to identity and promotes their moral and material repair. I think this will be an exciting and challenging opportunity for me to collaborate with an NGO doing work unique to El Salvador, to create a space for these mothers to tell their stories, and hopefully to design a study that looks at the psycho-social effects these disappearances have on women that can be useful to the organization in the future.

Olivia Holdsworth