Frank Mondelli '14 knew he would discover his Fulbright fellowship fate via email, sometime between February and late May. So he checked his account "furiously" until, one day, while he was in a friend's room, it came.
"We jumped for joy and read and re-read the email word for word, my heart pounding," says Mondelli, who graduated with a major in linguistics and Japanese. "Then my friend took out her phone to record my heading to the window to do a primal scream - just like Swarthmore had taught me."
One of four Swarthmore alumni to receive a Fulbright fellowship this year, Mondelli will travel to Okinawa, Japan, to engage with the indigenous Ryukyuan community in various endangered language preservation projects. Mondelli will work with the community to build an online talking dictionary for the highly endangered Yaeyama language, "using the tools mastered in my time at the Laboratory for Endangered Languages at Swarthmore," he says.
Another component of the research grant is building a larger infrastructure of online and print materials for cultural documentation and investigation into intercultural relations through the islands, Mondelli says. "Ultimately, my project aims to contribute to the understanding and preservation of the linguistic and cultural history of both the Japanese and Ryukyuan languages," he says, "and to the understanding of the history of human adaptation in Japan's outlying islands."
Also undertaking language revitalization efforts is Carolyn Anderson '14, whose Fulbright grant will take her to Canada. Anderson, who also majored in linguistics, will focus on technologies that First Nations communities are developing to teach and promote their languages. She will divide her time between University of Victoria, working with Salish communities on Vancouver Island, and McGill University, working with the Listuguj Mi'gmaq community.
Anderson will also observe the decision-making processes of language activists and educators in order to evaluate strategies for building and adapting technologies for indigenous languages. At McGill, she will work with Professor of Linguistics Jessica Coon on a mobile phone app for recording electronic flashcards to be used by students in the Mi'gmaq Mentor-Apprentice program. The project explores the effective use of technology to encourage youth engagement in language revitalization.
Representing Swarthmore's Class of 2012 in Fulbright fellowship are Jonathan Emont, who will examine competing visions of Indonesian history and the relationships between Javanese, Sumatran and other nationalist identities, and Jeffrey (Chris) Wickham, who will teach English in Spain.
Traditionally a top producer of Fulbright fellows, Swarthmore helps to prepare its students for these and other opportunities around the world. Mondelli credits the College for his strong foundation in linguistics and Japanese, the two key components of his project, and for deepening his curiosity of the world.
"The Linguistics and Japanese departments provided an unbelievably supportive environment, not just in aspiring to get the Fulbright but in working with the subjects in general," he says. "Beyond that, my four years at Swarthmore naturally helped me grow into a person more aware of the social complexities of the world, which better equips me to handle a project that by nature cannot and should not be purely scientific or academic."
The Fulbright program is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries," encouraging collaboration in developing ideas and addressing international concerns. Fellowships are awarded to American students, young professionals, and artists selected through a national, open, merit-based competition for study, research, internships, and/or service abroad. With a broad academic focus including the social sciences, humanities, and the sciences, the program emphasizes leadership development.