Five New College of Florida Students Awarded Fulbright Grants for 2014

Five students at New College of Florida have been awarded prestigious Fulbright grants for 2014 and will study and work in Belarus, Taiwan, India, China and Germany.

This year’s recipients are Erich Barganier (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Robert Matthew Klinkel (Orlando, Fla.), Laura Robinson (Jacksonville, Fla.), Katharine Williams (Valrico, Fla.) and Richard Zay (Inverness, Fla.). All are expected to graduate in May.

New College now has 58 Fulbright recipients in the last 10 years, and 80 in its history. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks New College as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars, and the College has more Fulbright recipients per student than almost any other college.

Fulbright recipients often go on to significant positions in government, academia and the arts, including 53 who have received the Nobel Prize.

Here are snapshots of New College’s Fulbright recipients for 2014.

Erich Barganier, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Belarus

Erich Barganier may be best known at New College for his electronic music compositions. What friends and audiences may not know is that he has performed with jazz and classical groups, and his work is rooted in his proficiency with guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, upright bass, accordion and bouzouki.

And in his teens, his practice of those instruments led him in an unusual direction: the music of Belarus, where he discovered an elegance and complexity he had not heard before. That music, he says, was a catalyst to explore the rest of the country.

He will do just that with his Fulbright grant to be an English teaching assistant in Belarus. His professors expect any easy transition to the front of the class, praising his nimble mind, intellectual curiosity, leadership in the classroom and enthusiasm for Belarus culture. He is proficient in Russian and in Belarusian.

Barganier plans to incorporate his musical talents into the classroom, using folk, bluegrass, gospel and more to teach language and culture, while he also records songs by native Belarus musicians. He plans a career as an ethnomusicologist, working for a group such as UNESCO to preserve musical traditions and culture.

Matthew Klinkel, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan

During his four years at New College, Matt Klinkel has taught English to Spanish speakers in Sarasota, taught English to children in rural central China, volunteered at a child-care center in Guatemala, lived with a Nicaraguan family, and lectured at a Chinese university.

He’s near-fluent in Chinese, Spanish and French, tutors fellow students and works part-time for a company translating French and Spanish texts.

In short, Matt could hardly be more prepared for a Fulbright English teaching assistantship – the only question was where he would serve.

The answer is Taiwan, where Matt hopes to build his understanding of yet another Chinese-speaking community, one he notes will be increasingly important in the world because of its evolving relationship with mainland China.

Despite his skill with languages – one teacher calls him “the most talented language learner I’ve ever known” – Matt’s New College area of concentration was psychology, and his main interest is in the science of second-language acquisition. After his Fulbright year, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in the field.

Laura Robinson, Fulbright Research Grant in India

Laura Robinson's commitment to women's empowerment has its roots in a strong and capable mother. As a child, Robinson saw her mother, a nurse-midwife, volunteer for disaster relief missions in Latin America and work with marginalized youth in her hometown of Jacksonville.

At New College, Robinson has studied political science and international studies with a focus on gender issues. Outside of class, she began volunteering with the student affiliate of Planned Parenthood, then worked with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.

As her studies and volunteer work progressed, Robinson became convinced of the importance of increasing women’s political representation. That led her to internships with the Sarasota-based Center for Religious Tolerance and with Planned Parenthood in Florida and in Washington, D.C.

In fall 2012, she spent four months in India, studying and volunteering for two months with Astha Sansthan, a non-governmental organization that works for the inclusion and empowerment of women. She came back committed to a senior thesis on women’s representation in India’s state and national legislatures.

Her Fulbright research grant will return her to India. Robinson will take courses at University of Delhi’s Women’s Studies and Development Center. She will assist the Institute for Social Sciences in its conference for women representatives, and will collaborate with the institute’s director in research on the best practices for overcoming the barriers faced by women representatives in India. She also will undertake intensive training in Hindi, augmenting her language study at New College.

After her Fulbright year, Robinson intends to pursue a doctoral degree and a career focused on increasing women’s political participation globally.

Katharine Williams, Fulbright Research Grant in China

Katharine "KT" Williams is a student of the world, and she will continue her education in China.

Her mother, retired Maj. Nancy T. Williams, served 20 years in the Air Force, and so Williams and her family lived for seven years in Germany. Maj. Williams is of Mexican descent, and so Williams' parents also encouraged her to study in Argentina, to improve her Spanish fluency and to learn more about other Hispanic cultures.

During her time at New College, Williams mastered Spanish, added Mandarin Chinese to her repertoire, and incorporated economics into her studies. She produced a term paper on an inflation model for China and, with a classmate, created a business plan for manufacturing and marketing in South Africa -- projects that her professors said were among the best they had ever seen.

Williams will continue to expand her knowledge in both Chinese language and economics with a Fulbright research grant that will take her to the School of Economics at Zheijang University, on the East China Sea. There, she plans to take five courses and complete studies on alternative energy and sustainable development projects across China.

Though her Chinese language professor describes her as the "most passionate and focused student I've taught," and rates her as an advanced-level speaker, Williams will accelerate her Chinese skills via a Critical Language Enhancement Award, an additional Fulbright scholarship.  

Williams intends to work as an economist with the World Bank or United Nations, to assist developing nations in creating policies that promote both economic growth and sustainable development, with a focus on alternative energy policy. 

Richard “Drew” Zay, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Germany

Drew Zay can teach just about anything. In high school he was a drum line captain. At New College he ran the school’s Bike Shoppe, where he trained budding mechanics, and taught sailing though the College’s waterfront program. Along the way, he also wrangled 20 French exchange students for a month, and 64 gifted middle- and high-schoolers for a weekend.

His college studies have focused on German, and he will teach English there via his Fulbright grant. Zay has been building his German language skills and cultural knowledge for many years: He spent a year there via the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, where he even learned to dream in German.

He returned there last year to gather research for his senior thesis project on the films of director Werner Herzog, and used his fluent German to negotiate with Herzog’s business manager and a film museum for archival material.

Zay hopes to teach in eastern Germany, to balance his experience in the country, and plans to pursue a doctoral degree with the intent of teaching German language and culture.

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