Weeks before her graduation from William Smith, Tatianna Echevarria ’13 has been named the recipient of a 2013-2014 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to support an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Vietnam. With the announcement of a fourth scholar, this marks an impressive achievement for the Colleges – the most Fulbright Awards granted in a single year.
Echevarria, an anthropology major, previously studied abroad in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she formed a connection to the country and culture. It is this meaningful relationship that she hopes to deepen – and reciprocate – through the exchange of cultural ideas and values.
“Studying abroad in Vietnam opened up my mind and heart to the beauty of human diversity; I have come to value different lifestyles and beliefs systems more than ever before,” explains Echevarria, a recipient of the Carl M. Anderson Memorial Scholarship. “I witnessed thriving family businesses, skyscrapers being erected, and young professionals emerging as leaders of international companies. I admire the Vietnamese work ethic, and becoming an English teaching assistant will allow me to inspire youth as they develop a voice for themselves and their entire generation.”
While instructing English, Echevarria also hopes to inspire future architects of Vietnamese society and the international community, and to encourage youth in the country.
When not engaged in the classroom, Echevarria hopes to volunteer in the community, perhaps lending her time and talents to a local farm. The politics of food greatly interest Echevarria, who first immersed herself in the ideology when working on a community supported agriculture project with low-income families in New York City.
“Industrial development in Vietnam will affect the amount of land available for cultivation,” explains Echevarria. “I believe that expanding my knowledge of Vietnamese food traditions will provide me with a better understanding of these affects and prepare me for my future studies and work in the fields of development and sustainability.”
Echevarria is eager to aid in effective development in Vietnam, and credits community development programs with saving her life and helping her to thrive today. Following a tumultuous upbringing that saw her in the custody of New York State, in foster care, and surviving on public assistance, Echevarria was taken under the wing of The Point Community Development Corporation at age 15. The program helped Echevarria to provide for herself, and also learn the intricacies of social justice and sustainable community development.
Echevarria also completed a community service program in Pune, India, after The Point CDC recommended her to another youth development program known as Summer Search. Her work in India saw her working closely with development programs that provided services to children who are HIV positive as a result of their parents’ occupation as sex-workers.
“As a child of community development, I gained the skills and qualifications to take a path in life that many children like myself did not have access to,” says Echevarria. “Achieving higher education at HWS has been the greatest accomplishment in my life. It is my hope to touch the lives of other young men and women, who dream the way I do, but who still need someone to invest in their future the way that so many people have already invested in mine.”
Upon return to the U.S., Echevarria would like to pursue a master of arts in cultural geography. The degree will allow her to pursue a professional career with organizations seeking to improve the lives of the world population.
Echevarria joins Silene Binkerd-Dale ’12, Molly Krifka ’13 and Katherine Marino ’13 in receiving this prestigious award, as well as Devan Mizzoni ’13, who has been designated an alternate for the Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Germany.
Binkerd-Dale, who earned her B.A. in religious studies, has been granted an award for an ETA in Germany, and will study the social utility of language in addition to teaching. Krifka, an ethnomusicology and Spanish and Hispanic studies double major, will serve her assistantship in Peru while also exploring the Quechua language and the connection between gender, music, language and activism. Marino, a double major in dance and environmental studies, will journey to Argentina for her assistantship, and hopes to create a movement education program in the local community.
“This year’s group of Fulbright students is remarkable for the varied and yet uniformly impressive ways they have taken full advantage of opportunities here at HWS, and even more so for how they have built on their experiences to take on ever higher levels of scholarship, leadership, and service,” explains Scott MacPhail, assistant director of health professions and fellowship advising.
Created in 1949, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government’s flagship international exchange program. The program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and numerous nations around the world. Recipients are selected for their academic merit and leadership qualities, and will spend a year living, studying, teaching and conducting research abroad in effort to promote mutual understanding through intellectual freedom, academic integrity and openness.