Three East Asian studies students at Kalamazoo College have earned prestigious competitive grants, allowing two to study abroad in Japan in the 2017-18 academic year, and a third to serve in an English teaching assistantship in Taiwan. Ihechi Ezuruonye ’19, of Southfield, Mich., and Molly Brueger ’19, of Arlington, Va., secured Boren Awards. Dejah Crystal ’17, of Standish, Maine, has earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award.
Boren Winners to Study in Japan
Boren Awards are worth up to $20,000 depending on the student’s financial need and how long the student stays overseas. Ezuruonye and Brueger were granted the maximum. The grants are funded by the federal government through the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields deemed critical to U.S. national security.
The awards are named after former U.S. Sen. David L. Boren, the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program. Boren Scholars (undergrads) and Fellows (graduate students) study in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. The winners commit to federal service for at least a year after graduation. Ezuruonye and Brueger will study from September 2017 to August 2018 in Kyoto, a former Japanese capital, at Doshisha University.
Ezuruonye, an international and area studies and East Asian studies double major with a Japanese concentration, sees similarities between Asian and African cultures, prompting her interest in Japan’s language, history and food. She hopes to work at the U.S. Embassy in Japan as an ambassador or deputy ambassador after graduation to fulfill her federal obligation. The study abroad program first attracted Ezuruonye to K.
“Learning the language and the culture helps us understand the people,” Ezuruonye said. “If we’re more willing to talk and we’re learning the same language, it brings us one step closer together.”
Brueger, an international and area studies major with Japanese and Chinese emphases, first learned of K through the “Colleges That Change Lives” book by Loren Pope. Pope is a higher-education expert and former New York Times education editor, who describes 40 dynamic colleges, including K, that excel at developing potential, values and initiative in students, while providing the foundation for success beyond college.
Brueger wants to serve abroad in the Peace Corps as an English teacher to fulfill her federal service requirement. She credits East Asian studies Professor Dennis Frost, International Programs Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft, Adviser and Assistant Professor of Chinese Yue Hong, and two of K’s previous Boren winners – A.J. Convertino and Amanda Johnson – for a combination of encouragement, recommendations and essay assistance.
“I was surprised because (Boren scholarships) are so competitive,” Brueger said. “I’m really honored to receive the maximum. I’ll definitely put it to good use in becoming proficient in Japanese.”
Brueger will intern at the Chengdu Consulate General in China’s Sichuan Province this summer before heading to Japan.
Fulbright Recipient Traveling to Taiwan
Crystal is graduating in June with a degree in East Asian studies on a China track after just three years at K. Her study abroad experience took her to
Capital University in Beijing, although she will serve in an English teaching assistantship for 11 months beginning in August on the small Taiwanese island of Kinmen. After this opportunity, she would like to continue teaching in East Asia or seek a graduate degree there.
Crystal agrees she has found her professional calling in teaching because she has loved working with children through K experiences such as Community Advocates for Parents and Students (CAPS). CAPS is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization, which provides tutoring opportunities to Kalamazoo Public Schools students from kindergarteners to adults.
Crystal’s Fulbright-application process began as a first-year student when she heard another student was applying for a similar opportunity. After a couple of years of reviews from K’s Fulbright Committee, essay assistance from faculty, and general support from family, she thanks people such as her mom, stepmom and dad, Frost, Hong, Wiedenhoeft, K Global Health Director Diane Kiino and Professor Madeline Chu.
“I’m incredibly honored and excited,” Crystal said.
The federal government created the Fulbright Program in 1946, naming it after U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries through education, culture and science. Crystal is one of about 1,900 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research or teach abroad through the program in the coming academic year.