Skip to main content

Fulbrights are for 'asking new questions and exploring the world'

The Duclos siblings – Benjamin ’08, Joshua ’04 and Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello ’95 – have much in common, from sharing the same alma mater to a passion for learning.

In February, they’ll add one more item to the list. All three will have studied or taught abroad on Fulbright Fellowships.

Connecticut College is recognized as a top producer of Fulbright fellows, but for three siblings to have won grants in consecutive years is a coup.

“Much of the credit belongs to the excellent – truly excellent – education we received at Conn,” Josh said. “We studied with brilliant professors, worked with attentive and passionate advisors and when it came time to write Fulbright applications, I think the quality really came through.”

Fulbright fellows receive a stipend and research allowance to pursue their interests abroad. They are encouraged to get involved in cultural and community activities during their time away.

Josh, an adjunct professor of English at the New Hampshire Technical Institute, started the Fulbright trend. He taught English and researched philosopher Jan Patocka in the Czech Republic from 2007-08.

He learned about Czech language and history from Professor Eva Eckert, and says Bruce H. Kirmmse, Lawrence A. Vogel and J. Melvin Woody were also influential professors.

“[Eckert] was a terrific teacher, and it was her courses that planted the seed to apply,” Josh said, “and professors Kirmmse, Vogel and Woody gave me the academic support and training necessary to get the Fulbright.”

Though Josh didn’t directly influence his siblings, he may have inspired them to apply.

“My Fulbright might have made Ben and Liz realize that they also had a very good chance of receiving a grant, especially since they are each very gifted in their fields,” Josh said.

Ben followed Josh, using his 2008-09 Fulbright award to teach English in Germany and expand on his Connecticut College senior honors thesis.

As a senior, Ben researched and wrote about the history of soccer in Germany and the inability of the 1990 World Cup to foster a national German consciousness at the time of East-West reunification. In Graal-Müritz, he took a more hands-on approach as a Fulbright fellow, opting to join a soccer club and experience firsthand what role the sport played in creating a local identity.

“Through playing soccer, I was able to integrate myself into the local community, learn about the club’s history under the East German government and help the team win the ‘Double,' or league title and league cup, for the first time ever,” said Ben, who is now back in Germany teaching English and American studies.

Elizabeth will head to Luxembourg this February. As a recipient of a faculty Fulbright award she’ll teach two undergraduate courses focusing on American history, literature and policy at the University of Luxembourg.

An assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and coordinator of American studies at Salem State College, Elizabeth wants to learn how her colleagues in Europe teach about the United States.

“I am hoping to share some of my current work and perhaps re-imagine some of it with a more global focus,” she said.

Just as the Duclos siblings had very different reasons for applying for Fulbrights, they also had different reasons for applying to Connecticut College, listing small class sizes, the Freshman Focus program, great study away options and a campus-wide commitment to civic engagement.

All three said financial aid was an important factor. As one of six children of a single mom, Elizabeth, the first to apply, said that she was initially worried Connecticut College might be too expensive for her family.

“We were struggling to get by at the time,” she said. “When I was accepted my financial aid package made it possible to say yes.”

Elizabeth said that at Connecticut College, she “was allowed and encouraged to explore.”

“Above all I learned that life is messy, ideas and theories are never fixed and that there is so much more to learn and know,” she said. “The Fulbright is my way of asking new questions and exploring the world.”

Read more about Connecticut College’s success as a top Fulbright producer.

-Rachel Harrington

December 4, 2009