Nine Students, Seven Countries, One Dream

Tameshia Rudd-Ridge (top), Matthew Sylvest (bottom)

Tameshia Rudd-Ridge (top), Matthew Sylvest (bottom)

by Darinda Sharp

For more than 20 years the Roy and Christine Sturgis Educational Trust has helped redefine what is possible for Fulbright College students around the globe. The initial gift established the Sturgis Fellowship, the University of Arkansas’ oldest fellowship, which gives incoming freshmen a four-year stipend for tuition, educational supplies and international travel. In 2014, the trust extended its support by creating the Sturgis International Fellows Program.

The program supports undergraduate honors students and graduate students with creative international learning opportunities and promotes J. William Fulbright's legacy of peace through education by encouraging mutual understanding between exceptional young scholars and people from other countries around the world. 

Mark Anthony Ayure-Inga Agana, Elizabeth Arredondo, Kaveh Bassiri, Holly Farris, Kaelin Groom, Kathleen Heil, Aimee Odum, Max Thompson and Malek Zuraikat will represent Fulbright College and the University of Arkansas as they conduct research around the world thanks to this gift.


Mark Anthony Ayure-Inga Agana | PhD | Environmental Dynamics | Germany

Agana will spend the fall 2015 semester in four cities studying municipal-level climate action plans. His project will involve in-depth case studies of local climate action plans in Hamburg, Munich, Heidelberg and Dresden.

“My research focuses on the broader geopolitical circumstances of the United States and Germany in local climate mitigation policies and the local specific factors that influence the innovation and capacities of local climate action plans,” Agana said. “This endeavor will not only serve as an important source of information for future policy direction, in terms of the formation, implementation and improvement of LCAPs, but also climate change mitigation in general.”


Elizabeth Arredondo | MS | Biology | South Africa

Arredondo will travel to Kruger National Park to research survival rates of African wild dogs, which are in decline. Her project will add to past census data to better understand population dynamics and demographics of wild dogs in the park, which will help others develop management plans to bring the population back to a stable level.

“The wild dog is an endangered social carnivore similar to the gray wolf and is currently suffering from extreme population decline, even in the park where they are largely protected from harmful human interactions,” Arredondo said. “Researchers are unsure why the dogs are declining inside the park, and I want to help advance the knowledge of the species in a way that will improve conservation efforts.”


Kaveh Bassiri | PhD | Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies | Iran

Bassiri will work with local poets who will be translated and included in an anthology of modern Iranian poetry. The project will include the work of 25 Iranian poets with an introduction of their work as well as a survey of contemporary Iranian poetry.


Holly Farris | PhD | Space and Planetary Sciences | Chile

Farris will travel to the Atacama Desert to research the stability of liquid water and how it might impact survival on Mars. Atacama is the driest terrestrial desert and one of the best Martian analog sites on Earth. The project is in collaboration with Alfonso Davila, a staff scientist and astrobiologist at NASA AMES Research Center and SETI Institute.


Kaelin Groom | PhD | Environmental Dynamics | Jordan

Groom will travel to Petra to study the relationship between tourism and landscape change. The research will ultimately help those at the site with the delicate balance between visitor experiences and heritage resource conservation. Groom will conduct interviews with Bedouin tribal elders, officials with governmental and non-governmental organizations, local residents and veteran tourists.


Kathleen Heil | MFA | Creative Writing and Translation | Germany

Heil will spend 10 months at the Inter-University Centre for Dance in Berlin. Her research will explore Berlin's international contemporary dance scene and the relationship between words and movement by creating poetry using compositional features common to both dance and poetic contexts such as breath, syncopation and spacing.

“While the U.S. was the birthplace of modern dance, Germany was the birthplace of expressionist dance theater,” Heil said. “I look forward to exchanging ideas about ways to collapse and enrich the space between poetry and dance.”


Aimee Odum | MFA | Ceramics | Iceland

Odum will spend August at the Nes Artist Residency in Iceland and the rest of the fall 2015 semester conducting research at the Iceland art Academy in Reykjavik. Her research will include interviews with locals, tourists, students and faculty, as well as conducting a workshop, making sketches for future art projects and giving a public presentation of the research and art work in a local venue.

“My dedication to an artistic career began with recognition of art’s ability to spur contemplation, action and expression,” Odum said. “My most recent work consists of videos depicting a surreal sense of place, displaying the process of human interaction within a new physical atmosphere.”


Max Thompson | MFA | Creative Writing and Translation | Russia

Thompson will spend the 2015-16 academic year at the Maxim Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow, translating the Kyrygz writer Chingiz Aitmatov's literary works into English. In addition to translating the novella Farewell, Buttercup! and a collection of stories titled Tales for the Mountains and Steppe, Thompson intends to form contacts with Russian translators and literary scholars.

“When I first tried a bit of prose in the spring of 2013, I doubted that I could render the polyphony of Aitmatov’s work in English, but I soon fell in love with it and grew committed to translating it full-time,” Thompson said. “Since then, it has become my goal to translate all of his major works into English so as to enable American readers to experience them as richly as I have.”


Malek Zuraikat | PhD | Medieval English literature | Jordan

Zuraikat will continue his work on a form-to-form translation Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Crseyde into Arabic verse. He wants to take some graduate courses in literary translation at one of the Jordanian universities and to attend training courses at some professional organizations of translation.

“Literary translation is not merely a literal transformation of a group of words from a language into another,” Zuraikat said. “It is a creative process that transforms the language, culture, and historical context of literary texts into a completely different culture.”


This is the second year that Sturgis International Fellowships have been awarded. The original class of fellows included Anthony Eller, an undergraduate honors student in biochemistry, who went to Costa Rica and Panama, Tameshia Rudd-Ridge, a master’s student in communication whose research took her to Ghana, Aaron Shew a doctoral candidate in environmental dynamics who conducted research in India, Matthew Sylvest, a doctoral candidate in space and planetary sciences who went to England, and Chadwick Totty, a master’s student in history who studied in Japan.   

Up to 10 Sturgis International Fellows are chosen each year. Fellows receive $15,000 to facilitate international study of a semester or longer. The funds assist students with tuition and fees for the University of Arkansas and for an international host institution, organization or family; expenses associated with an international internship or research project such as foreign or domestic transportation; housing; and personal expenses.

Applicants must be a current graduate or undergraduate student in Fulbright College and have a record of high academic achievement and outstanding leadership. Undergraduate students must be carrying a full-time course load with a declared major in Fulbright College, a rising junior or rising senior in the Fulbright College Honors Program and pursuing a career with international emphasis. Master’s or doctoral candidates must be a full-time student with a declared degree area anchored Fulbright College and going into their first or second year of graduate studies.

Gifts from the Roy and Christine Sturgis Educational Trust have established three prestigious programs within Fulbright College: the Sturgis Fellowship Program, Sturgis Study Abroad Program and Sturgis International Fellows Program.

Darinda Sharp

About the author

Darinda Sharp serves as director of communications for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.