Tawni Sasaki ‘16 has received a prestigious Fulbright fellowship for international study, through which she will teach English in Taiwan next year.
A double major in international relations and modern languages (French and Mandarin Chinese), Sasaki is co-president of Model United Nations, Discourse editor for The Knox Student (Knox College's award-winning, student-run newspaper), and a member of the executive board for Advocates for Choice. As a junior, she was a member of the Student Senate's Diversity Committee.
She received a Gilman Scholarship and Critical Language Enhancement Award to study abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China, while a junior, and she studied French at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon, France, during part of her senior year. She also is a McNair Scholar at Knox.
Sasaki is one of three Knox students—the others are Charlie Harned '16 and Adrian Secter '16—to be selected in 2016 for a Fulbright.
Here, she answers a few questions about the Fulbright.
Please explain your Fulbright award as much as you can, in terms of what you will be doing, when, where, etc.
I received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to teach in Taiwan for the 2016-2017 academic school year. I'm not sure where in Taiwan I'll be staying, but I'll be there from August 1 to around the end of June 2017. While abroad, I hope to become engaged in the surrounding community; I'd like to get involved in speech and debate activities in addition to volunteering my time to teach extra English courses.
What motivated you to apply for a Fulbright?
I first spoke with Mariangela Maguire [in the Vovis Center for Research & Advanced Study] about Fulbright during my sophomore year. At the time, I was applying to study abroad in China and mentioned being interested in a career that would give me the opportunity to travel and engage in cross-cultural exchanges. This, coupled with being able to improve my Chinese language skills while encouraging a new generation of students to have a more global mindset, makes Fulbright the perfect segue between Knox and graduate school.
What do you hope to accomplish—and learn—through the Fulbright experience?
While in Taiwan, I really hope to use my position as an English teaching assistant to make connections and find common understandings between our two worlds. I think culture manifests itself through language and I'd like to show my students that speaking a language is just as much about attaining some sort of cultural fluency as it is understanding vocabulary and syntax. My own ambitions to travel there stem from my interest in the region and Taiwan in particular—Professor Weihong Du from the Chinese department explained to me that Taiwan fosters a unique co-existence between ancient, pre-revolutionary Chinese society and a more modern, global society. I really hope to gain another perspective of this country and its people in a way that I wouldn't by staying in the U.S.
How do you think your Knox education and experiences contributed to your selection as a Fulbright recipient?
I feel like Knox gave me the tools to develop my interests and the opportunity to pursue them. The various academic and extracurricular programs—in addition to available funding—allowed me to have a multi-faceted background that I hope helped through the application process. I'm incredibly grateful for being able to utilize the various resources on campus to study abroad, do research, and participate in academic conferences.
Are there any particular individuals (faculty members, for instance) or classes at Knox that have greatly contributed to your growth and education here?
Absolutely! I could not have gotten through this process without the support from Mariangela Maguire in the Vovis Center and the numerous professors that took time to write recommendations and provide guidance. Sue Hulett and Anne Steinberg pushed me to grow into the student I am today and encourage me to challenge my understanding of the world. My first- and second-year Chinese classes, taught by Professors Weihong Du and Shuyan Shipplett, piqued my interest in East Asia and encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone to dive into a culture I knew nothing about. I can't list all of the people who helped me through this process, but I am very thankful.
What (besides the Fulbright) are your after-Knox plans—especially in terms of career and/or further education?
After Fulbright, I've got my eye on a J.D./M.A. program in international affairs. I'm sure this June won't be my last graduation, but I'm not opposed to taking a few more years off if I find another opportunity after my time in Taiwan.
More about the Fulbright
The Fulbright program was developed by the U.S. Department of State to strengthen international understanding between people from the United States and other parts of the world-on a face-to-face experiential basis.
Knox College has a long history with the Fulbright program. Since 2006, 18 Knox College students have been selected for Fulbright awards. Overall, dozens of Knox students, faculty members, and alumni have received Fulbright fellowships and scholarships.