Three Graduate Students Win the Fulbright
Three graduate students from the University of Maryland have been awarded the prestigious Fulbright research fellowship. Saswathi Natta (Sociology), Samuel Miner (History), and Thomas Messersmith (History) will spend 2018-2019 in India, Germany and Austria, respectively.
According to the Fulbright Program these fellowships have "aimed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States, and the people of other countries" over the last 70 years. Furthermore, Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers. They include 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 71 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors. Since its inception in 1946, more than 380,000 'Fulbrighters' have participated in the Program.
Natta came to Maryland after completing a degree in Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. While there, she completed a great deal of work in the social sciences with a focus on South Asian Studies. After completing her degree, she had a fellowship, and subsequent research positon at Lok Capital - an impact investment fund, financed in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Bank. Concurrently, she did research with the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Advanced Study of India.
Natta's current research, entitled Family Aspirations for Girls in India: What are motives for Growing Girls' Education? examines the paradox of increasing female education, and decreasing female labor force participation in India. Her aim is to understand this recent development from a social structure perspective, and examine families’ aspirations, and motives for educating their daughters. She hopes that her findings will help inform Indian communities on how to facilitate female empowerment, and labor force participation. Her Fulbright work of 8-12 months based in Delhi will draw from her affiliation with the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), and the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), while also conducting interviews in the surrounding area, and the city of Vijayawada. She will also volunteer with Udyam Trust, an NGO that provides tutoring services, and community organization for disadvantaged children.
"As a scholar, the Fulbright is an amazing opportunity for a scholar to travel, and produce research. It is a great honor to be chosen because it indicates that my research has relevance to both the U.S. knowledge base, and India as the host country. It is gratifying to be a part of the long history of reseachers who have furthered the cultural exchange that was intended by this program," says Natta.
Miner agrees, "I'm incredibly thankful to the Fulbright Program for placing me in this illustrious, and historic program. One of the central contentions of my dissertation is that the exchange of people, and ideas between the United States and Europe in the 20th century has greatly enriched the lives of people on both sides of the Atlantic. To be a small part of a program whose stated purpose is to support that very same endeavor feels very fulfilling. I look forward to the opportunities presented by living amidst Frankfurt's exciting intellectual atmosphere through the mentorship of Professors Sybile Steinbacher of the Fritz Bauer Institute, and Martin Cüppers of the Research Center Ludwigsburg."
Originally from Ohio, Miner completed a degree in History at Ohio University. He is a recent recipient of the Cosmos Foundation's Cosmos Scholars Grant. He has had several research assistantships over the years, which have taken him to the National Archives, the National Defense University's Maxwell Taylor papers, the German National Library, and German National Archives.