Two Mercer students have earned Fulbright grants to address problems in Asia through research and activism. Hannah Vann, a women’s and gender studies major from Rome, and Kathryn Doornbos, a biology major from Brasstown, N.C., both earned grants from the highly competitive program to extend their interests beyond graduation. The two are both graduating May 15. Doornbos plans to study tick-borne illness in northern Thailand and Vann will conduct research on the women’s movement in Indonesia.
Vann was a awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and will be teaching English 20 hours each week and plans to devote the remainder of her time to researching Muslim women’s rights activists in Indonesia, the women’s movement, and Indonesian non-governmental organizations that focus on women’s issues. She hopes to leave in August for the yearlong assignment.
“I am excited and terrified and overwhelmed and a hundred other emotions all rolled into one. I decided to apply for the Fulbright after Dr. Chris Grant suggested it, but I never really believed I would get it,” Vann said. “The more I learn about the country, the culture, and the people, the more excited I get. I have no ties to Southeast Asia, either experiential or academic, so I don’t know what to expect. But I am confident that, because of my Mercer experience, my classes here, and the outstanding professors who have invested in me and trained me well, I am prepared to handle whatever comes — even a six month monsoon season.”
Vann has had a distinguished track record as an activist and student while at Mercer. She co-founded the Sex Trafficking Opposition Project and helped to organize a conference at Mercer against sex trafficking. For those efforts, Vann was awarded the Gulf South Summit Award for Outstanding Student Contributions in Service Learning at a regional summit in March. Vann began as an advocate by successfully persuading the Mercer administration to institute provisions for women’s health services in the Mercer Student Health Center. She also volunteered with Crisis Line and Safe House of Middle Georgia and participated in a Mercer On Mission program in Kenya. On campus, Vann is equally involved, having served her peers as a resident adviser, an English tutor and undergraduate teaching assistant.
Doornbos was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to work in association with Mahidol University in Bangkok and will be conducting research in cooperation with the tropical disease faculty at the university. Doornbos will collect and analyze tick samples in the forests of northern Thailand, with the hope of finding ways to combat Rickettsia bacterial disease.
Doornbos has also had a distinguished career at Mercer, founding the Mercer Empty Bowls project in Macon, an annual event raising money for local hunger-fighting agencies. Doornbos served on the executive committee for Mercer’s Caring for Creation conference in Macon, working to promote the event and to coordinate the conference’s service day. In addition to maintaining a stellar academic record, Doornbos was a research assistant for Mercer biology professor Dr. Alan Smith.
“Having been introduced to Thailand through a Mercer On Mission trip in 2009, I am beyond elated to return as a Fulbright,” Doornbos said. “I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined when I first enrolled at Mercer in the fall of 2006 that I would be leaving with the opportunities that I have before me today. I firmly believe that the experience and education I have gained at Mercer through service-learning, undergraduate research and the liberal arts curriculum have enabled me to pursue whatever I choose. I would especially like to thank Dr. Smith, my research mentor for the past three years, for inspiring my Fulbright proposal and supporting my interest in research from the very beginning.”
Doornbos has been accepted at the University of Alabama-Birmingham to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology and will defer her entry until she returns from Thailand next year.
The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Each year hundreds of students, scholars and professionals undertake international graduate study, advanced research, and teaching opportunities in university, high school and secondary classroom settings throughout the world. The program was established in 1964 to foster cultural exchange and ambassadorship between the U.S. and international community.