Two Lafayette seniors received award in 2023-24
By Madeline Marriott ’24
Lafayette has added two new faces to its nation-leading list of Fulbright Grant recipients. Maria Bossert ’23 and Mackenzi Berner ’23 both will be traveling across the globe to fill their positions during the upcoming academic year.
The role of teacher has been a comfortable place for Berner throughout her life. “Tutoring is something that sort of came naturally to me,” she says. “I just always enjoyed it. My mom was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher, so it’s always been in my world.”
In fall 2020, Berner took a semester off from school to teach while students in New York were socially distant, working as a teaching assistant for a middle school history class.
“I really enjoyed it, and I really learned a lot about pedagogy, how different learners function, and how to appeal to those different types. I found that really interesting, so it just embedded me further into the world of teaching,” she says.
Berner has been set on becoming fluent in Spanish since a family trip to the Dominican Republic in high school, where she spoke Spanish a majority of the time. She has explored her passion for the Spanish language and culture during her time at Lafayette through her involvement with Refugee Action (RefAct), an organization on campus that supplements the work done with refugees at Bethany Christian Services, a resettlement agency in the Lehigh Valley. Berner serves as an ESL tutor and has worked as chair of the education committee for RefAct. This job allows her to coordinate tutoring and school registration for young refugees.
The teaching assistantship was a way for Berner to combine her love for teaching and the Spanish language. She will be participating in a program in La Rioja, a province in northern Spain.
“I could be responsible for anything from early childhood education to elementary school, middle school, high school, or vocational training, and I also could be responsible for giving English language instruction to the staff,” Berner says.
The first time Bossert traveled to Nepal last spring to study the Nepali language and conduct research, she fell in love with the community and the culture. Now, Bossert will return to take a more in-depth look at Indigenous culture and national parks.
“For my project, I spent three weeks conducting ethnographic fieldwork—mostly doing interviews, talking to people, and living with a host family in a small Indigenous community near the border of a national park,” Bossert says. “I was really interested in looking at the effects of the national park on the local people, specifically because there had been a lot of pushback from this Indigenous population about the national park’s rules and some of the regulations around land and resources.”
She used this research as part of her honors thesis, which explored the similarities and differences in the relationships between indigenous people and national parks in Nepal and Ecuador.
“For my Fulbright, I’m expanding that project, but looking at a couple of different locations in the larger national park region,” Bossert says. “I’m still going back and asking similar questions about how environmental policies are impacting local people, specifically looking at their traditional ecological knowledge of the environment and how that’s been changed as a result of the park and as a result of state policies. I’m immersing myself in the community to not just look at already existing data but instead hear people’s voices.”
During the 10-month program, Bossert will begin by taking refresher courses in the Nepali language in the capital of Kathmandu before moving south to resume her research.