St. Lawrence Student Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Kenya

A St. Lawrence University senior and Kenya Semester Program participant has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to support her teaching efforts in Kenya.

Allison Paludi ’14 has been preparing for this opportunity for most of her St. Lawrence career. Even before going to Kenya in the spring 2012 semester, Allison was taking Swahili language classes, watching Kenyan TV shows and even cooking traditional foods. Taking part in the University’s Kenya Semester Program, she said, “transformed” her as an individual and as a student.

“Living and learning in Kenya while interacting with host families and locals completely changed how I interact with students, professors and even family members back in the U.S.,” said Allison of Delanson, N.Y. “I was no longer the shy, reserved student that didn’t have a voice in the classroom.”

During her stay in Kenya, Allison spoke Swahili with her host family and while interacting with locals, which helped her better learn the language and also helped her understand that learning can take place outside of formal learning spaces. She also saw the potential of experiential learning while she interned one summer for a Colorado program called Book Trails, which provided children with summer literacy programming on local ranches.

“I believe that learning can take place beyond the walls of the classroom,” said Allison, who will graduate on May 18 at St. Lawrence’s Commencement ceremony as a global studies major and African studies minor. “I’ve also been a part of the Global Dialogue Center at St. Lawrence. And, I’ve seen that by creating a space for people, informal learning can take place through their discussions and debates.”

As part of the Fulbright, Allison will be assigned to teach English at a school in Kenya. And because in Kenya people often come together over chai, or tea, she plans to initiate a “chai time” program, where people can practice English skills outside the normal classroom by discussing things such as current events. The experience will help develop her own teaching skills while fulfilling her passion for intercultural communication.

“Allison’s Fulbright award is the culmination of several years of engagement with East Africa both on and off-campus,” said Matthew Carotenuto, associate professor of history and coordinator of St. Lawrence’s Africa studies program who received a Fulbright-Hayes doctoral dissertation research award to Kenya in 2003. “Coming home from Kenya, she continued studying Swahili, took additional coursework in African studies and was awarded a research fellowship to return to East Africa for further study.”

That research fellowship allowed her to complete a Senior-Year Experience at an American-based, nongovernmental organization in Uganda, where she will return on May 28 to work as a volunteer coordinator before beginning her Fulbright assignment in Kenya.

“My head is still kind of spinning at the moment,” she said. “All of the stars must have aligned for me to return to East Africa right after graduation. This is going to be a good jump start for me before I begin working in Kenya.”

Carotenuto said Allison epitomizes the ways students can integrate off-campus study into their academic and professional goals.

“All these experiences culminated in her successful application for the Fulbright,” he said. “Allison’s prestigious award shows the potential St. Lawrence students have to compete with the very best across the country and secure professional placements around the world.”

Allison also credits her learning experiences to the global studies program, where the courses she took helped prepare her to ask questions about why things are the way they are. In addition, the faculty in the department, including her adviser Professor and Chair of Global Studies John Collins, helped bring all of her educational experiences together for her to arrive at this particular moment.

“The major has impacted me in more ways than one, and I feel I owe the department and faculty a lot of credit,” Allison said. “This accomplishment definitely wouldn't be possible without the incredible support from the global studies professors inside and outside of the classroom, and it really shows how study abroad, theoretical studies, and faculty-mentored research has culminated in this amazing opportunity.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually.

What struck and has stayed with Allison most about her experiences in East Africa was witnessing the desire to learn students had despite adversity in their lives.

“I think we in the U.S. really take for granted all the resources and facilities that we have at our disposal,” she said. “There’s this place that has less resources than we’re used to, but they are still just as eager – if not more eager – to learn.”

List of St. Lawrence University Fulbright recipients:

  • 1986 Erik Craft, West Germany
  • 1991 Susanne Steinmann, Morocco
  • 1997 Thomas McFadden, Germany
  • 2000 Brendan O’Dell, Germany
  • 2008 Alexander Tedeschi, Russia
  • 2010 Joanna Fassett, India
  • 2012 Andrew Nguyen Le, Trinidad and Tobago