KINGSTON, R.I. – May 4, 2020 — Five University of Rhode Island students have been awarded Fulbright grants to conduct research abroad.
The recipients are Paul Carvalho, a doctoral student from Torrance, California, studying biological and environmental science; Tabatha Lewis, a native of Brookfield, Connecticut who graduated in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and management; Aria Mia Loberti, a senior from Johnston, Rhode Island, studying philosophy, communication studies and political science; Cynthia Malambi, a senior political science and French major from Providence, Rhode Island; and Jessica Vandenberg, a doctoral student studying marine affairs from Huntington Beach, California.
Carvalho will spend his Fulbright grant studying coral reef fisheries in the Philippines as a continuation of his doctoral research on Indonesian coral reef fisheries. “I’m half Filipino but have never visited, so the Fulbright provides a great opportunity to continue my research and learn more about my heritage,” he said.
Once he completes his Fulbright year, he hopes to find a postdoctoral fellowship to further his studies of marine fisheries in tropical or temperate environments.
Lewis applied for the Fulbright grant because of her interest in water and sanitation issues in Indonesia, where she will work with the Islamic University of Indonesia to carry out research on well water contamination from the improper installation or management of septic systems. She also plans to explore the social stigmas around sanitation systems and their impacts on human health.
“I absolutely love Indonesian culture, people and language, and I’m eager to get back and start my research,” said Lewis, who spent a year studying the language and culture of Indonesia as the recipient of a Boren Scholarship in 2018. “It was the best year of my life, and to be able to return to do research in my field is a dream come true.”
She plans for a career in international development, focusing on water and sanitation systems in Indonesia with a goal of strengthening the systems and the communities that use them.
Loberti will pursue a master’s of research degree in rhetoric at Royal Holloway, University of London, during her Fulbright year, focusing on how females are portrayed in Ancient Greek texts. Legally blind since childhood, she has spent many years as a disability activist, including serving as the first legally blind youth delegate to the United Nations and a delegate to the U.N. International Human Rights Summit. She was also a U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women Youth Forum.
“To hold a Fulbright in my hands is incredibly validating,” she said. “Since I have been an activist for as long as I can remember, I have always been curious about how we use language to cultivate justice and understanding, with which my grant program is uniquely equipped to address.”
After completing her time in London, Loberti plans to earn a doctorate in rhetoric at Pennsylvania State University on her way to a career in academic research, while continuing her gender- and disability-rights activism.
Malambi will spend her Fulbright year earning a master’s degree in conflict and development at Ghent University in Belgium and conducting research on the Congolese diaspora, an interest stemming from personal experience. She and her family were forced to flee the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent seven years in a refugee camp.
On being awarded a Fulbright grant, she said she “felt validated. I felt like not fitting in has always been the right way to go. I know winning one of the most prestigious awards has forever changed my attitude towards going for what I want in the future. I feel fearless and daring.”
The Fulbright Award was the latest in a long list of major awards Malambi has earned, including a Benjamin Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. State Department allowing her to spend a year studying in Rennes, France, a Beatrice Demers Language Fellowship, and a Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellowship. When she completes her Fulbright year, she hopes for a career working for the State Department, United Nations or a non-governmental organization.
Vandenberg applied to the Fulbright program to continue her research on coral reef conservation in small island fishing communities in Indonesia. While there she plans to examine how social networks influence the adoption or rejection of destructive fishing practices.
“Destructive fishing poses a serious challenge to improving coral reef ecosystem productivity through conservation efforts,” Vandenberg said. “Applying a social network perspective to help understand the complex factors that lead to the continued use of destructive fishing practices may be useful in identifying under-appreciated flows of influence in fisher communities, and may help direct policy in more meaningful and effective ways.”
Upon completion of her Fulbright year, she will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington to conduct research on global marine plastic pollution and how it impacts island and coastal communities. Her long-term goals are to continue to work on conservation and sustainable fisheries management issues from a marine social science perspective.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by providing high-achieving students with the opportunity to research, study or teach abroad. The Fulbright Study/Research Awards program, which is funding this year’s URI recipients, enables applicants to design their own research projects to work with institutions abroad.
Named for a prominent U.S. senator who was the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges in all areas of endeavor, including the sciences, business, academia, public service, government and the arts.
URI students and recent graduates who are interested in applying to the Fulbright program should contact the URI Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities for guidance and institutional endorsement.