CHICO, Calif. - California State University, Chico graduate student Anna Rushton has received a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Award for 2013-1204, becoming the first CSU, Chico student to win the grant.
Rushton, who is pursuing her master's in anthropology, received a Fulbright Study/Research Grant and will spend nine months in Rwanda studying the integration of a group known as "Potters" into contemporary Rwandan society.
She plans to use her research as the basis of her thesis and an ethnographic documentary film created through CSU, Chico's Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology.
Fulbright grant recipients meet, work with, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences and engaging in the community to promote principles of peace, understanding and respect. The program covers round-trip transportation to and from the country, room and board, a living stipend and health insurance, among other things.
"Being awarded a Fulbright grant has been the biggest achievement of my academic life. It is very validating and has given me the confidence to pursue a doctoral degree," Rushton said, adding that she will begin applying for doctoral programs in the fall.
Rushton fell in love with anthropology after participating in sweat lodge and tipi ceremonies with the local Native American community. Those experiences sparked an interest in the ways that indigenous groups adapt to rapidly changing landscapes while trying to honor their past.
She has visited Rwanda twice already as a volunteer with COPORWA, a non-governmental organization dedicated to Rwanda's indigenous people, and she plans to continue her research there to complete her doctoral dissertation.
Rushton holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from CSU, Chico and works full time at the University as a financial aid analyst. She serves as a volunteer mentor for first-year and international students and has sponsored a student from Africa. She will be bringing her daughter, Amaya, 8, with her to Rwanda.
About 1,600 Fulbright U.S. Student Awards are given annually. Among other recipients, Rushton was selected from among 489 applicants seeking grants to study in Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, about 12 percent of applicants to that region were selected.
CSU, Chico anthropology professor Brian Brazeal has worked with Rushton throughout her master's program and assisted her with the Fulbright application process.
"Anna is an intrepid researcher who has made preliminary field trips to Rwanda," Brazeal said. "She has established the contacts necessary to study with an advocate for one of the most politically and economically disenfranchised groups of people in the world.
"We are proud of her success in this competition," he continued. "The real challenges lie ahead as she must bring her ambitious research project to a successful conclusion."
Rushton and her daughter will depart for Rwanda in August, returning in May 2014.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. Grant recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.