Wednesday, June 3, 2015

(From left to right:  Dr. Kellee Jenkins, Graham Ellis, Fanta Traore)

WASHINGTON (June 2, 2015)—Six Howard University faculty members and students have been selected for the 2015-2016 cycle of Fulbright awards—among them, three winning faculty, one winning student and two student alternates.

Dr. Kellee Jenkins, assistant director, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, School of Education; Dr. Michael Lipscomb, assistant professor, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Kehbuma Langmia, associate professor, Department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communication, School of Communications;  are this year’s Fulbright Scholars—Jenkins and Lipscomb to Brazil, and Langmia to Cameroon.

Graham Ellis, a third-year student from the College of Medicine and the winner of a Fulbright Fogarty Fellowship in Public Health, has elected to study sickle cell anemia in Malawi.

Fanta Traore, a member of the class of 2015, and School of Law student Oluwafunmilayo Ladeinde were chosen as alternates for the student program for Cote de I’voire and Botswana, respectively.

Jenkins will be studying self-efficacy and self-identity in Afro-Brazilian educators in Salvador, Brazil, while partnering with the Universidade Federal da Bahia.

“Brazil has such a complex history with colorism, racism, self-identity, how people see themselves, whether they think of themselves as Brazilian or Afro-Brazilian or mixed race,” said Jenkins, “so I thought Brazil would be the perfect place to go to to—in a sense—run a parallel study.  I’m studying teachers here, in the States, so let’s go to a foreign country that’s dealing with similar issues and see how they’re dealing with their own literacy lineage.”

Ellis will build on the project of 2014-15 Fulbright winner Brett Heimlich from Georgia Regents University by searching for the most prevalent documented infectious complications of sickle cell disease, like Streptococcus pneumoniae, in a group of patients Heimlich has already identified.  Ellis also will be looking at malarial complications in children as indicators for screening these pediatric patients  for the disease.

Ellis will be hosted by the University of North Carolina Project-Malawi (UNCPM), a public health consortium between UNC and the Malawi Ministry of Health, based at Kamanzu Central Hospital in the nation’s capital, Lilongwe.

“Sickle cell disease is a disease that the morbidity and mortality is really defined by the complications,” said Ellis. “In the United States, those complications really include infections with pneumonia, different bacteria, and so, the treatment and the medicine of sickle cell patients is really directed towards preventing those complications from occurring.”

“In southern African, where you have a different infectious biome, people are consumpted with very different pathogens,” said Ellis.  “It’s really unclear what people with sickle cell disease are becoming infected with, what sorts of complications they’re suffering.  So, the first step is coming up with guidelines for how to treat these diseases in different parts of the world, we really need to define what complications they’re suffering.”

Ellis will be on leave from his work as a medical officer with the U.S. Navy.  He says he is  excited to continue his family’s tradition of service in Africa , where some worked as missionaries and aid workers.

“The opportunity to work in this part of the world will give me experience in diplomacy, in interacting with different international teams of governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and obviously, peoples of different countries with different perspectives on the United States and on Americans, ”said Ellis.

“I also hope that this experience with sickle cell disease will lead to further research with the Navy on sickle cell disease and on the physiological effects of this disease on the human body, because the Navy, in particular, has a great interest in this disease, because we don’t quite know to what extent it limits human beings, as far as exertion is concerned.”

Traore, who applied for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) through the Student Scholar program, is a recent graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. in political science and economics who served as president of the African Student Association and as an intern with the U.S. State Department Bureau of African Affairs. 

Her application has an unusual back story, tied to the death of a Malian relative. According to Traore, in the fall of 2013, a close cousin was forced to travel to a different region to retake Mali’s post-high school exam, the Baccalaureat, which is  the equivalent of a college entrance exam.

“When she switched regions to go live with some other family members to take the exam, she ran out of her diabetes medication,” said Traore. “In that region, they prescribed her something that was not compatible with her body, and that’s what led to her passing. I think, that really speaks to Mali’s education system, as well as their health structure, and I’m really interested in preventing situations like this from happening.”

As an alternate, Traore isn’t guaranteed a fall posting, but she said she has already benefited from the Fulbright application experience.

“That essay has been the base of my essay for programs with South Africa and UCLA,” said Traore. “I’ll be going to South Africa this summer to do research pertaining to my interests, as well as going to UCLA to further that research with professors. I think it’s given me a confidence boost. It’s opened up the door for other opportunities for me, as well.”

Dr. Kari Miller is the Howard University Director of Honors & Scholars Development in the Office of Undergraduate Studies and aids Howard applicants of the Fulbright program, especially guiding interest in the Fulbright student program.

“There are hundreds of different countries and, when we go outside, see what research others are doing, it informs our work and our work can inform theirs,” Miller said.

The Fulbright program, established in 1946, is an exchange program offered by the U.S. State Department to facilitate international educational exchanges for students, teachers and other professionals.

Since its inception, Fulbright has awarded more than 70 grants to Howard University faculty and students; 42 grants were to students.

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