Dominique DeAngelo didn’t expect the martial arts training she started at age 5 to lead her to Egypt as a Fulbright scholar.
DeAngelo, who graduated in December 2011, is one of 12 GW students and alumni who will spend the next year teaching or researching around the world as Fulbright scholars, a State Department-funded award that announced its 1,700 winners last week.
With her Fulbright grant, DeAngelo will conduct a study on the culture of female martial artists to examine the region’s gender equality.
“In much of the Middle East, the ideal female is shy, demure and delicate,” DeAngelo, who has been living in Cairo since June, said. “I am curious as to how female martial artists feel about these strict gender roles, and in what ways they feel they are either breaking them or conforming to them.”
The history and Middle East studies double major completed a three-month Arabic course last week to help her immerse herself in the region, and she will now spend nine months interviewing and surveying women who participate in taekwondo, judo, boxing, karate and Ju-jitsu – activities she said are “popular with women and girls here, especially after the Revolution.”
But the number of Fulbright awards like DeAngelo’s that fund research may start to dwindle soon, Director of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research Paul Hoyt-O’Connor said.
More than half of GW Fulbright grants this year went to English teaching assistantships, rather than research, a trend Hoyt-O’Connor would likely continue as the State Department looks to build stronger cultural ties in other countries.
“The [teaching assistantship] program, I think is the side of the scholarship that Fulbright sees the cross-cultural exchange really happening,” Hoyt-O’Connor said.
The University’s 12 awards were the 26th-most among research institutions. Last year, 16 graduate students and alumni won awards.
The number of teaching assistant grants under the Fulbright scholar program has rapidly expanded, taking away some spots previously given to research proposals, Hoyt-O’Connor said.
“Individuals doing research and operating on their own, at times I think is difficult for Fulbright to see the cross-cultural exchange the program’s looking for,” says Hoyt-O’Connor.
While DeAngelo said she sees the cultural value in the English teaching assistantship program, she said the practical side of her research will also immerse her in a new experience.
“Fulbright doesn’t want full-time students who spend most of their time hunched over books in the library,” she said. “Rather, they want people who are willing to immerse themselves in the community, talk with members of the society they are living in and act as cultural ambassadors for the United States.”