Two URI students named Fulbright Scholars

Posted on
Cranston resident headed to Mexico, Phoenix resident to Germany

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 25, 2007 – During her five years of undergraduate study at the University of Rhode Island, Sharon Ruggieri spent two months on an internship in Puerto Rico, six months studying in Spain, and six months interning in Mexico. After graduation in May with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and Spanish, the Cranston resident will return to Mexico for 10 months, this time as a Fulbright Scholar.

Melissa Lake, a URI senior from Phoenix, Ariz., majoring in English and German, was also named a Fulbright Scholar, the second year in a row that two URI students were so honored.

“I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am and what it means to me to get a Fulbright,” said Ruggieri. “My entire university career has been about the globalization of engineering, and I wasn’t ready to work as an engineer staying in Rhode Island. The Fulbright is a wonderful opportunity to get more international experience.”

Lake and Ruggieri were selected for the highly competitive Fulbright Scholar Program after a lengthy process that began last September and included an application, essays, letters of recommendation and interviews. Ruggieri’s final interview was conducted entirely in Spanish.

Ruggieri is one of eight students in the nation selected for the Fulbright Binational Business Grant, which will fund her stay at the Technological Institute of Monterey, Mexico, where she will take graduate classes at night and intern at an international manufacturing company during the day.

“I had a natural talent for Spanish in high school, and I also loved physics,” Ruggieri explained, “so when I was looking for colleges, I didn’t know whether to pursue the science or the language. When I heard about URI’s International Engineering Program, I knew it was the program for me because it allowed me to do both.”

In the summer of 2005, Ruggieri was awarded a Dwight Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the Federal Highway Administration and spent two months at the University of Puerto Rico studying how to reduce the damage to concrete bridge supports caused by salt water. She then spent a semester studying at the technological campus of the University of Navarra in Spain.

“It was in the Basque country, so while I took classes in manufacturing processes and computer aided design, I also learned a lot about the history of the area,” she explained. “I was the only English speaking student at the whole university.”

In March 2006 she continued her international travels, this time to Aguascalientes, Mexico to work as a quality engineering intern at Texas Instruments, where sensors are produced for the transmission systems of Nissan automobiles.

After her Fulbright experience is over in the summer of 2008, Ruggieri will seek a management position with a company that works in Latin America. “Better cross-cultural understanding at global companies would lead to greater success at solving engineering problems,” she said.

With that in mind, Ruggieri is also learning to speak German. “The more languages you can speak as an engineer, the better.”

Lake is completing her undergraduate education at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany and volunteering at a language center to help Germans improve their English. She will use her Fulbright award to serve as an English teaching assistant at a high school in Germany while also coordinating an after-school English literature program.

“I also plan on organizing cultural presentations about the U.S. to enhance cultural understanding between Germany and the United States,” Lake said. “Ultimately it is my hope to bring about a better idea of what it means to be an American.”

Lake applied to the Fulbright program to improve her German language skills and gain a better understanding of German culture while also sharing her love of languages with others.

“It’s an honor to be awarded the Fulbright scholarship,” she said. “I am particularly excited about being given the opportunity to spread cultural understanding, especially at a time when the United States has so many different faces to its population.”

Return to view other stories about our 2007 scholars.

URI News Bureau photo of Sharon Ruggieri by Michael Salerno Photography.