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Sarah Glacel, a 2001 graduate of Lafayette, has received a prestigious Fulbright grant to study in Russia for ten months beginning Sept. 1.

She will study the efforts of a Russian nongovernmental organization to protect the environmental health of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, the world’s oldest existing freshwater lake and the deepest continental body of water, with a maximum depth of more than one mile. She also will perform volunteer work on behalf of the lake’s environment and take classes taught in Russian at Irkutsk State University, where she studied during her sophomore year.

This is the second straight year a Lafayette student has been awarded a Fulbright grant for study abroad. Sarah Eremus of Bryn Mawr, Pa., a 2000 graduate with majors in Spanish and Japanese Studies, did research at Japan’s Ehime University on a Fulbright in the 2000-01 academic year. Her study there built on a comparison of the education and social development of children in the United States and Japan that she undertook at Lafayette under the guidance of Yoshihiko Ariizumi, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures.

Two faculty members were also honored with Fulbrights in the last academic year. Mary S.J. Roth ’83, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, spent a year at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in Oslo, Norway, pursuing her research in multi-electrode resistivity testing, a method of studying the soil and rock materials below the ground surface. Roger W. Ruggles, associate professor and head of civil and environmental engineering, spent a year based at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, teaching courses and spearheading the application of Geographical Information System technology in solving environmental problems in the region.

Both Roth and Ruggles involved current Lafayette students in the research they conducted abroad.

A Marquis Scholar and a double major in Russian and East European Studies and International Affairs, Glacel, of Oak Hill, Va., graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most respected undergraduate honors organization in the United States; Dobro Slovo, the national Slavic honor society; and Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. She received several major academic awards from Lafayette, including the American Legion Scholastic Excellence Award, the Bethlehem Honorary First Defenders Award, the College President’s Award, the Leopard Medal, and the Reserve Officers Association Award. A member of ROTC, she plans to enter the field of military intelligence.

Joshua Sanborn, assistant professor of history, was Glacel’s adviser for her senior honors thesis on the politicization of the environment in post-Soviet Russia. He says the Fulbright Grant is one of the most prestigious academic awards in the country.

“Fulbright scholarships are one of the major vehicles on the part of the United States for forwarding the study of international affairs in other countries,” Sanborn says. “This is going to be great for Sarah. When she has finished her army tour, the doors will be wide open for her to do a great number of things.”

Glacel says, “Professor Sanborn is amazing. He expects you to do a lot of reading, to know a lot, to process a lot, and to express your opinions a lot. But he is willing to put in twice as much work as you do, if not more. He’s available all the time. He’ll take any little thing that you have a question about and talk with you personally to work on it.”

Glacel is the second 2001 Lafayette graduate to earn departmental honors with Sanborn’s mentoring and then win a major academic grant. Shannon Tyburczy of Nazareth, Pa., a double major Russian and East European studies and history, received a James Madison Fellowship for prospective teachers, which is providing up to $24,000 over the next two years toward completion of her master’s degree.

“He cares about all of his students,” Glacel says. “I can’t say how many hours he spent with Shannon and me and how many times we had doubts about our theses that he talked through with us. He’s brilliant and very enthusiastic about what he’s doing.”

Gladstone A. Hutchinson, acting dean of studies and associate professor of economics and business, says, “The Fulbright is an outstanding achievement not only for Sarah, but also for this institution’s nurturing of a student of high promise and ambition. Clearly, we’re trying to develop global citizens. Given the recent attention to Fulbright Scholars in Russia, the United States is being extra-careful as to who goes there. This tells us that Sarah is seen as being at the top of the list. I think she will be a great ambassador for the college and the country.”

Glacel also credits other faculty for their assistance, including Neil A. Englehart, assistant professor of government and law, who provided valuable advice on the Fulbright application.

“The small-school environment of Lafayette was conducive to working closely with professors to focus on things I wanted to do,” she says. “I had excellent thesis readers who really pushed me to write something I didn’t think I could write. They were willing to spend many hours to help me.”

Glacel’s upcoming trip Russia will be her fourth. She first experienced the country as a high school exchange student, spending six weeks in St. Petersburg. Between high school and college, she spent a year in Russia through the American Field Service, attending high school classes while living with a family one hour from St. Petersburg. During her sophomore year at Lafayette, Glacel stayed with a chemist at the premier institute studying Lake Baikal, located 40 kilometers from Irkutsk. The lake and the volunteer work she performed for a small, grassroots environmental group heightened her interest in the environment. Glacel helped both to establish an ecological festival for schools in the region and run ecological programs for a camp in Irkutsk. She also tutored Russian students in English.

During her junior year, Glacel assisted Sanborn as an EXCEL Scholar with work for a book he is writing on conscription, nationalism, and violence in Russia in the early 20th century. In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL program, students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend.

Glacel’s interest in the environmental movement was heightened by a course called The Green Revolution: A Study of Environmental Activism in the interdisciplinary VAST (Values and Science/Technology) seminar series, which exemplifies Lafayette’s character as a liberal arts college with strong science and engineering programs. It was taught by Robert Walls, part-time visiting instructor of English. “He is a great professor and encourages you to express your opinions a lot,” Glacel says.

These special educational experiences led Glacel to undertake her year-long senior honors project with Sanborn. She credits him with spurring her to write the best thesis possible.

“I kept raising the bar for her, and she never backed down,” Sanborn says. “She was calling people in Russia for interviews and setting up contacts there. She also went to Princeton to do research using Russian-language newspapers there.”

Viewing the Russian state through the lens of the environmental movement, Glacel’s thesis provided insight into Russian politics, he says. It also cast new light on areas such as globalization and the deals struck between multinational corporations and governments on all levels. “Some of the things she uncovered were new and interesting to me,” he adds. “I learned from her thesis.”

The Fulbright grant will allow Glacel to experience a hands-on, focused look at the political issues, impacts, and forces related to a particular environmental group. The environmental movement is not new to Russia, she says, but nongovernmental organizations took hold only after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“The environmental movement has changed a lot in the last 10 years because it doesn’t have Soviet power to deal with,” she says. “In the past, the environmental movement was an area where many dissidents acted simply because it was a more accepted way to act out against the government. They’re having a hard time now because (President Vladimir) Putin is against environmentalism. He thinks many environmentalists are spies, especially those from other countries.”

Assessments of Lake Baikal’s condition differ according to perspective, notes Glacel. Pollution is caused by numerous factories on its shores, including a large paper mill.

“Some say that the lake has an incredible ability to clean itself and is one of the cleanest in the world,” she says. “But if pollution completely stopped today, it would take 400 years for the lake to fill back up and get rid of all pollutants.”

Glacel hopes to investigate the possibility of staying an additional year and earning a master’s degree. That will depend partly on whether she can obtain another one-year deferment of her entry into the army.

Categorized in: Academic News