New Program for Fulbright Fellowship Advising at Soka University

After consulting with our colleagues at Pitzer College, which has one of the best Fulbright advising programs in our area, we developed a Soka University Fulbright program, led by faculty member Sarah England. Meetings at Pitzer College, and help from Nigel Boyle, then Dean of Pitzer College, helped us develop a program to recruit potential Fulbright fellows from among our Soka University students. This included a very proactive communication strategy and direct mail to the students in the summer encouraging them to apply for the program, followed by several workshops to explain the Fulbright program and help them develop their applications. The program worked extremely well, and we had eight applicants in the first year, with six finalists and two Fulbright recipients in 2019. In 2020, we had six applicants and two recipients. This year, even with the COVID pandemic, our students are very interested in getting a Fulbright fellowship and we are optimistic we can send some more of our students on Fulbright fellowships. The program is perfectly matched to our Soka University emphasis on Global Citizenship and since all of our students have taken two years or more of language, studied abroad and often have travelled to dozens of countries and served in international internships, our students are very competitive in the program. It has been a joy to develop this program and I am sure that it will benefit many students in the coming year and help them be more influential in their careers and lives as global citizens.  Below are some of the stories from the SUA website describing our Fulbright award winning students.


A new Fulbright Fellowship Advising program has been created at Soka University of America, to help advise students who are interested in being part of the Fulbright program, which awards grants to conduct research and teach English in more than 140 countries. The program was initiated by Bryan Penprase, dean of faculty, who appointed SUA anthropology professor Sarah England as the inaugural Fulbright advisor, with the support from SUA VPAA Edward Feasel. Professor England in her first year as Fulbright advisor was able to advise eight SUA students who completed applications for Fulbright fellowships in six different countries (Spain, Colombia, Indonesia, France, South Korea, and Portugal). Of these eight students who applied, six reached semi-finalist status, where the Fulbright commission recommends them to the host country. Of those six finalists, two were granted Fulbright Fellowships. The two SUA Fulbright recipients for 2019 are Sofia Dugas, who will be an English teaching assistant in Medellin, Columbia, and Miranda Almeida, who will be an English teaching assistant in Spain. The other applicants include Jessica Lee, Celeste Marquez, Suzanna Stockey, Zoe Frye, Michael Note, and Khyla Horton.

The Fulbright US Student Program is designed specifically for US citizen students with a degree from a US university to study, research, engage in an artistic activity, and teach English abroad. Grants are for one year and follow the US academic calendar. The program includes fellowships for research in one of 140 participating countries, or fellowships enabling students to serve as a teaching assistant in one of 75 participating countries. Fulbright awardees are also expected to carry out some form of community engagement project in addition to their research or teaching.

Soka University of America, with its commitment to developing global citizens, is an ideal training ground for students interested in Fulbright and other international fellowships. After the success of the inaugural year of SUA’s Fulbright Advising program, new workshops are being planned for students to apply next year. In the next round, we are hopeful to have even more applicants, and we will also help advise our domestic and international students interested in fellowships through the Princeton in Asia/Africa/Latin America programs, which offer a similar opportunity to work abroad to help NGOs and educators in a wide variety of countries.

Photo Courtesy of Soka University Archivist and Photographer.

Two students in Soka’s Class of 2020—Isolde Pierce and Trey Carlisle—have received Fulbright fellowships to continue their studies and contributions abroad.

Carlisle has accepted a research fellowship in Nanjing, China, and Pierce will be an English teaching assistant in the Canary Islands of Spain. The fellowships, which will start in January, are part of the Fulbright US Student Program.

Trey Carlisle ’20

The program, administered by the US State Department, is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and other countries, which makes Soka students natural candidates. Two years ago Soka created a Fulbright Advising Program to help students navigate the rigorous application process. And now the program, led by anthropology professor Sarah England, has helped SUA students receive two Fulbright grants two years in a row.

Carlisle, whose Soka concentration is Social and Behavioral Sciences, will be looking into how Black and Latinx music and dance, such as Hip Hop and Zumba dance, can be used to foster appreciation for and understanding of the histories and cultures of the US and China. Carlisle, from Los Angeles, was inspired by his semester studying abroad in China.

“Even though Black and Latinx art forms are popular in China, there is still a lack of awareness toward the history and experiences of Black and Latinx people,” Carlisle said. “Similarly, although Chinese cultural expression, for example Tai Chi and Kung Fu, are extremely popular in the US, there is a great ignorance among Americans toward the history and the experiences of Chinese people.

“The goal of my research is to explore how both Chinese and Afro-diasporic art forms can be used as bridges to enhance cultural appreciation, rather than perpetuate cultural appropriation.”

Pierce, from Davis, California, said three international travel and education experiences at Soka sparked her interest in teaching abroad. As a freshman she was in Peru with biology professor Anthony Mazeroll’s Amazon research center. Before her junior year, she taught English to children in a service learning program in Chile. During her semester abroad in the Dominican Republic, she continued to hone her Spanish language skills and her awareness of Spain’s influence over Latin American culture.

In addition to teaching English on the Canary Islands, Pierce, whose Soka concentration is Environmental Studies, will work on a community project involving conservation in marine ecosystems.

“I hope to connect with the students in a way that inspires them to appreciate the environment and take care of nature,” Pierce said.