Doctoral student and alumnus will take their research abroad
May 21, 2007
By Melissa Evans
For some people, there's work, and there's life -- the two don't overlap. For Catherine Cutcher, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
The doctoral student has spent more than 10 years as a volunteer for grassroots organizations focusing on sustainability and social justice. Her dissertation research -- and next year, her research as a Fulbright scholar -- will focus on all that people can learn when they join a community group, especially when they lack formal education.
"I'm really interested in how people who've been left out of schools and universities and people who've been told they're not intelligent in that way become social change agents through their organizations," says Cutcher, who teaches an Ohio University course on education and cultural diversity.
Along with alumnus David Porter, Cutcher joins five Ohio University undergraduates and one alumnus who have received U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar grants so far this year. Other finalists are still awaiting word on their applications, which could arrive any time before the end of June.
Cutcher, a doctoral student in cultural studies in education who also is pursuing a graduate certificate in women's studies, will research how grassroots organizations in rural Kenya have taught life skills to women without access to formal education. One group she'll study was started by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, who in 1977 led women in a fight against deforestation. The group has planted 30 million trees in 30 years.
"This is after the government told them they can't do it because they're not professionals," she says.
Cutcher, who with her husband has an organic farm in Meigs County, Ohio, and is a staff member for the Athens-based nonprofit Appalachian Peace and Justice Network, says she plans to bring her research back home after her time abroad.
Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Francis Godwyll is Cutcher's academic adviser and supported her throughout the application process.
"From the time Catherine took a class with me on poverty education and international development, I knew she was outstanding," he says, remembering Cutcher's dedication to each of her research assignments.
Porter also is taking his research abroad next year. The alumnus says he tried for a Fulbright twice before, but this year's application yielded the result he'd hoped for: a ticket to Estonia to study information and communication policies.
"David had not lost any enthusiasm," says College of Business instructor Vic Matta, who supported Porter on two of his applications. "He had the same objectives, and more focus, which can be hard to do."
Porter, who earned both his undergraduate degree and MBA from Ohio University, will travel to Eastern Europe to study the economic impact of the Estonian government's information and communications technology policy. He says he has been interested in "New Europe" ever since he lived in the Slovak Republic as a teacher and consultant.
"I think the experience I get will cause me to grow in ways I can't even imagine now," he says. "Everything is going to change."
Last year, Ohio University led the state for the fourth straight year for its number of Fulbright grantees and is ranked nationally among institutions such as Princeton University and Boston College.