WMU News

Two from WMU win Fulbright Fellowships

June 11, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A recent Western Michigan University graduate abandoned as an infant in Korea will return to the land of her birth, and a doctoral student will study Muslim-Christian interaction in the medieval Mediterranean as Fulbright Fellows for 2004-05.

Aimee Jachym, a recent graduate in English and business, and Travis Bruce, a doctoral candidate in history, have been awarded Fulbright Grants for Graduate Study Abroad.

The awards bring to 17 the number of Fulbright Fellowships won by WMU students, says Howard Dooley, executive director of international affairs and Fulbright program advisor. "Both these students are wonderful exemplars of the talents and cosmopolitan students who WMU is attracting to its undergraduate and graduate programs. Ms. Jachym is a Medallion scholar and a member of the Lee Honors College, earned a summa cum laude GPA, and has been involved in a host of extracurricular activities, including playing rugby. Mr. Bruce is a genuine polyglot, with language skills in Latin, Arabic, Spanish, Catalan, French and Italian--all essential to his research. They are exceptional Fulbright candidates."

Jachym, who grew up in Plymouth, Mich., will participate in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program. She'll be returning next month to Korea, the land of her birth, where she was abandoned as an infant nearly 22 years ago. Adopted by Americans Harry and Karen Jachym and naturalized as a U.S. citizen at age 2, she says her parents always encouraged her curiosity about her ethnic heritage and nurtured her love of learning.

"I am looking forward to immersing myself in the Korean culture in my classroom and during the course of my yearlong homestay by learning about a new language, food, and customs," Jachym wrote in her Fulbright application. "In short, I'm curious to learn everything--to whatever extent that is possible--about the people, the language, and the land in Korea.

"When I was younger, there were picture books about Korea and its people under my pillow and on my bookshelves. Now, some of the books are a little thicker, and the subject matter has changed slightly, but I still find myself reading and imagining with the same fervor that defined my youth."

Bruce, who originally hails from Alaska, will travel to Spain to study the 11th century Hispano-Muslim kingdom of Denia. He'll explore how the Western Mediterranean society interacted with its Christian neighbors, and work to determine the effects of the new Mediterranean economy on local populations. While in Spain, he will work in a variety of archives, at archaeological sites, and with ceramic and coin collections. Bruce plans to spend a full academic year pursuing his research overseas, beginning in September.

"The medieval Western Mediterranean offers a unique prospect for examining cross-cultural exchange, along with the long-term effects of radical social and economic change on local populations," Bruce wrote in his proposal. "The 11th century was a time when once introverted Western cultures and economies renewed contacts with the more diverse world of the Mediterranean sea. Denia was a focal point of the renewed Mediterranean commercial dynamic, as well as an important center of cross-cultural exchange between Islamic and Christian civilizations."

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Fulbright provides funds for students, scholars and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Of 5,300 applicants annually, only 1,000 are granted awards.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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