Baruch Alumni Win Fulbright Awards to Research and Teach in Brazil
May 10, 2022
Baruch College alumni Juan Garcia (’21) and Tiannis Coffie (’19) are winners of 2022-23 U.S. Student Fulbright Awards and both will travel to Brazil to gain international experience and advance their professional goals.
In partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide, the U.S. Student Fulbright Program offers “unparalleled opportunities in all academic disciplines to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals from all backgrounds.”
During their grants, Garcia and Coffie will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.
Juan Garcia: Creating a Photo Documentary of Indigenous Communities in the Amazon
Juan Garcia, who graduated with a BBA in Marketing from the Zicklin School of Business, won the Fulbright award in the field of Photography.
With this nine-month grant beginning in February, Garcia will be completing a photo documentary on members of indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest who choose to move to urban areas and adopt lifestyles in these regions. He will also take social anthropology classes at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas on to gain a better understanding of this topic.
Garcia’s interest in the Amazon began when he was 14-years old, living with and speaking to indigenous peoples for a significant stretch of time. That experience sparked a strong desire to help protect conservation efforts there, which eventually evolved into a career interest.
“My goal for the photographic essay is to show how important indigenous communities are for the conservation of the Amazon,” explains Garcia. “I hope this project will then convey how important it is to support the people that live there.”
Garcia plans to share his photo essay with organizations that are doing much of this conservancy work already, such as the Amazon Conservation Team.
“These organizations are helping communities find economic opportunities within their community as well as working with shamans and leaders to set up schools focusing on indigenous knowledge to help keep that knowledge alive,” says Garcia. “Without access to opportunity, education, healthcare, members of the communities may leave and very crucial knowledge on how to protect and conserve the Amazon will leave with them.”
When Garcia got the news that he won a Fulbright, he was shocked.
“I had to re-read the letter again and again because ever since I hit ‘submit’ in October, I had been dreaming about that moment if it ever came,” Garcia remembers. “Then all of a sudden it was right there in front of me and it was hard to believe. I was filled up with so much emotion!”
For Garcia—who recalls growing up with a camera in his hand, alongside with his dad, a professional photographer—this experience will create new opportunities.
“Hopefully in the future, I will be able to do photography stories about humanitarian and conservation issues. I see this Fulbright Award as a foot in the door if it all goes well.”
Tiannis Coffie: ‘Opportunity to Embrace a Culture Mirroring Both of my Identities’
Tiannis Coffie, who earned a BA in Corporate Communication and a minor in Journalism from the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, and is pursuing an MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability Management at The New School, won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to support emerging professors in Brazil.
She is looking forward to helping students gain confidence in their English-speaking abilities while expanding her multicultural awareness. Through this program, she will help teach the English language while serving as a cultural ambassador for the U.S.
“It was surreal to learn I won,” says Coffie, who had applied for the grant once before. “After months of anxiously waiting, it was an immense relief to know the wait was over and that I succeeded this time.”
During the pandemic, Coffie taught herself Portuguese as a means of exploring a new culture and the world’s most biodiverse country. She is seeking to become fluent in Portuguese, and the ETA program in Brazil will help her fulfill this goal.
“Brazil is said to possess ‘the body of America and the soul of Africa.’ As an American-Ghanian, an ETA position in Brazil presents an opportunity to embrace a culture that mirrors both of my identities,” Coffie states.
“I’m eager to learn about Brazilian approaches to climate and social justice issues” Coffie said. “I hope my experiences in Brazil will equip me with diverse approaches for generating solutions for solving the climate crisis.”
Looking ahead, Coffie has an interest in working with a climate justice non-profit that advocates for equitable and just environmental policies.
“I see my pursuit of a career in policy as integrated with my desire to teach and learn languages. It is ultimately through cross-cultural communication that we can make changes that matter, both locally and globally.”
Coffie is appreciative of her former Baruch professors and mentors Laura Kolb, Gisele Regatao, Elena Martinez, and Adriana Espinoza. She said “without their support and encouragement this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Award Application Assistance
Garcia and Coffie received support throughout the rigorous application process from Valerie Hymas, Baruch’s deputy director of the Office of National and Prestigious Fellowships Advising.
Learn more about how this office helps guide Baruch students through the steps to any kind of award, from building connections to faculty, to refining initial ideas and all the way through the stages of writing a proposal.
Besides Fulbright Awards, other opportunities available to students include a Gilman International Scholarship, Freeman-ASIA Scholarship, Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, Rangel Fellowship, Venture for America, and many more.
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