Fulbrights awarded to three soon-to-be Wooster graduates

Claudia Partridge ’23, Zoe Seymore ’23, Tomoka Adams ’23

Tomoka Adams ’23, Claudia Partridge ’23, and Zoe Seymore ’23 will represent The College of Wooster when they take their talents overseas as 2023 Fulbright honorees. Adams will be doing research in Panama, and Partridge will be attending graduate school in Finland. Seymore will be an English teaching assistant in Taiwan. Two other students, Noah Leonard ’23, political science and Spanish major, and Namara Rwakatare ’23, French and global and international studies, were selected as alternates for this year’s Fulbright awards.

Adams, a biology and Spanish double major, is headed to the Gorgas Institute in Panama City to study mosquitoes and learn to conduct ecological research. She also views the opportunity as the starting point for a fulfilling research career. Studying abroad in Panama in spring 2022, she decided to apply to for a Fulbright Research Award to gain additional research experience before attending graduate school and to get to know the country and culture on a deeper level. The technical skills she gained in the early introduction to research labs at Wooster and the experience of doing mosquito research for her Independent Study with faculty mentor Ferdinand Nanfack Minkeu, visiting assistant professor of biology, set her up for success to study abroad and later to apply for the Fulbright program, she said. Adams appreciated the support of the Fulbright committee and her other professors at Wooster throughout the Fulbright application process.

“I’m excited to overcome the inevitable challenges, whether with the actual research I want to do or simply with having to conduct research in Spanish,” Adams said. “I’m also looking forward to the connections I’ll be able to make in my host country and with other Fulbrighters in the future.”

Partridge earned a Fulbright LUT University Graduate Award to pursue a Master of Science in Technology for Circular Economics. The award covers her schooling, accommodations, and travel for two years conditional on her grades. The master’s program in circular economics is a non-neoclassical model that argues for a sustainable economic structure instead of one contingent on growth, she said. The field of study promotes clean energy, reusable and enduring products, and recyclable goods as opposed to hyper consumerism and planned obsolescence.

An economics major, Partridge, stayed a fifth year at Wooster to earn a minor in math through the Wooster Plus Program and to participate in track and field, where she received the Manges Athletic Prize as the best female graduate in her graduating class. She was a two-time North Coast Athletic Conference winner, a top-10 national winner, and holds two school records. She was a member of the conference-winning soccer team. Partridge also participated in Wooster Women and Gender Minorities in Economics, Black Women’s Organization, and Black Student Association.

Wooster’s undergraduate research opportunities prepared Partridge for the Fulbright. Her junior and senior Independent Study centered around environmental economics. When she studied abroad for a semester in 2020, she was introduced to environmental economics and living overseas. “I found independence and realized how important it is to step outside your comfort zone and pursue unconventional dreams,” she said.

With the support of several faculty members—Sookti Chaudhary, assistant professor of economics and business economics; Brooke Krause, associate professor of economics, business economics, and global and international studies; and Candace Chenoweth, director of off-campus studies—Partridge applied for the Fulbright program in Finland because of LUT University’s focus on helping society and businesses in their sustainable renewal. “I believe very strongly that there is a way to have a high standard of living in high-income countries without creating excessive waste and environmental degradation,” Partridge said.

The circle economics program is taught in English; however, because she is eager to speak and understand Finnish, she has already started to learn the language. She will go to Finland as a cultural ambassador. “I am looking forward to learning about Finland and at the same time sharing my own American culture with them,” Partridge said.

Seymore, a Chinese transnational adoptee, decided to apply for the Fulbright program, hoping to teach English in her native country. There were no Fulbright opportunities in China, but she was pleased when she was awarded the English teaching assistant position in Taiwan where Chinese is spoken. The psychology major, who also minored in math and Chinese, said working in Taiwan will be a new experience and allow her to work on becoming more fluent speaking and writing in Chinese. “I knew from my study abroad experience that being in Taiwan would help me with my Chinese,” she said.

Because her mother had gone through the Fulbright program, Seymore knew it existed. She attended an interest meeting and thought being involved as an English teaching assistant would be a backup option if she didn’t get into a clinical psychology graduate program after graduating from Wooster. However, it wasn’t until she attended the Fulbright interest meeting for next year’s applicants that she realized how prestigious it is to receive a Fulbright award. “Professor McConnell said that out of 12 people who applied, only three of us got the grant, and two people were alternates, which was a high number given the competitiveness,” she said.

Wooster has provided a strong foundation in independence and research to prepare her for the Fulbright experience, Seymore said. “It taught me about challenges, but also that I can ask for help, because at Wooster, the professors want you to succeed. Realizing that was encouraging,” she said.

Seymore, who will travel to Taiwan in July to prepare for a monthlong training in August, grew up thinking she wanted to be a teacher before she discovered clinical psychology. Her teaching experience includes time as a teaching assistant for an Introduction to Psychology course, as an online tutor for students, and as a camp counselor working with young children at summer camps. She enjoys working with younger children but will be happy if she is assigned to teach older students.

Being able to travel to other Asian countries during her overseas experience is another benefit of the Fulbright program for Seymore. Having been born in China but growing up as transnational adoptee in the United States in an English-speaking home, she is exciting to improve her Chinese language skills and to be immersed in the culture. “I just feel a connection when I’m in that part of the world,” she said.

“Through Wooster’s I.S. program, students have already undertaken a solo and mentored a research project, showing they are equipped to do a Fulbright,” said Wooster Fulbright committee member Beth Derderian, assistant professor of museum studies. “Our robust study abroad programs also give students a competitive edge and an invaluable cross-cultural experience before they serve as cultural ambassadors as Fulbrighters. We are very proud of all of this year’s applicants.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program and offers research, study, and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries for students and young professionals. Sponsored by the federal government, the program was established in 1946 in an effort to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and citizens of other countries.

Pictured are awardees Claudia Partridge ’23, Zoe Seymore ’23, and Tomoka Adams ’23.

Posted in News on May 4, 2023.

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