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Budding communication scholars receive research support in Fulbright scholarships

A graduating senior, a graduate student, and a recent alumna were the School of Communication recipients of Fulbright Program scholarships this year.

Graduating senior David Wille won a Fulbright to study in Egypt. The communication studies and Middle Eastern studies major first considered applying for the scholarship during his study abroad stay in Cairo fall quarter of his junior year.

Wille has studied Arabic for the equivalent of 12 quarters and says his opportunity to develop his Arabic abilities will be one of many great benefits resulting from the Fulbright opportunity.

“My goal since entering college has been to become more fluent in Arabic,” he said. “The chance to live and work in an Arabic-speaking nation for 14 months is the best possible situation for someone at my language level.”

Wille plans to study the “role of the journalist in Egyptian society” once he settles in Cairo this fall.

“The press has a long and dynamic history in Egypt, perhaps the most of any Arab nation, but most research into Egyptian journalism has gone into issues of press freedom,” Wille said. “My focus would be how these journalists conceive of their place in Egypt, what services they believe they provide, what responsibilities they believe they have, and how that relates to Egypt’s place as a media and cultural hub in the Middle East.”

Wille was one of a group of Northwestern students who visited the Northwestern University, Qatar campus in Doha this year. During the visit, the group toured the Al Jazeera headquarters, a highlight for Wille, who said, “The tour of the studio was impressive – the employees were diverse and very young, and the journalists we met were passionate about the work they were doing in challenging the established international media organizations like CNN and BBC.”

Victoria Fortuna, a 2012 doctoral candidate in performance studies, also won a Fulbright Program scholarship to conduct research in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“My research investigates the relationship between Buenos Aires-based contemporary dance practices and politics from the 1960s to the present,” Fortuna said. “My work is historical and ethnographic, so I anticipate spending time in national archives and private collections as well as attending dance performances and rehearsals and conducting interviews with Buenos Aires-based choreographers, dancers, and dance scholars.”

Fortuna will participate in seminars at the Institute for the Investigation of Movement Arts of the National University Institute for the Arts and hopes to present a paper at an art conference at the University of Buenos Aires. She will be in Argentina from February to November 2011.

“I am extremely excited and grateful to have the financial support to give my research the time and attention I believe the topic merits and honored to receive the prestige of a Fulbright,” she said. Recent graduate and Northwestern University-Qatar employee Rebecca Donaldson (C08) also won a Fulbright to study volunteerism, civic engagement, and civil society in the United Arab Emirates. She will study Arabic at the Hedayet Institute in Cairo, Egypt from July to September with the additional Critical Language Enhancement Award she received as part of the Fulbright to further her Arabic skills. From September to the following July she will be in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to begin the research grant.

“I was ecstatic when I first found out,” Donaldson said of winning the grant. “Down the road, I’d like to continue working with multinational and community-based nonprofit organizations abroad, especially those working on issues related to migrant labor, immigration, relocating refugees, or anything with the movement of people across borders to find better opportunity. Foreign labor is a huge issue in the Gulf region given the extent it’s used for national development, so studying civic engagement in the UAE will serve as an excellent case study for me to begin to understand the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that shape a civil society scene in a given country.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to the web site for the Council for International Exchange of Scholars. With this goal as a starting point, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 300,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit CIES. For more information about applying for a Fulbright scholarship through Northwestern, visit