A senior honors project will have added significance for Thomas Matusiak beyond his graduation in June after being awarded a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholarship to Colombia.
Matusiak will spend the 2013-14 academic year as an English teacher and unofficial goodwill ambassador at a still-to-be-determined university in Colombia courtesy of the United States’ Fulbright Program.
The flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government, the Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.
When applying for the Fulbright, Colombia was Matusiak’s destination of first choice, in part because of research he has been conducting on a genre of Colombian cinema.
“I’ve been working on an honors project entitled ‘No Future: Youth and Disenchantment in Colombian Cinema’ so that was a natural choice,” said Matusiak, a linguistics and Spanish major from Mequon.
His research focuses on a series of films representative of what he calls “cinema of disenchantment.” Although they’re not true documentaries, the films are shot on location, using non-professional actors and often offer gritty, brutal depictions of city life and urban violence.
“These are non-commercial films that are trying to make a statement about society,” Matusiak explained. “These types of movies began to emerge in Latin American cinema in the 1990s, starting in Colombia.
“As my research progressed, I was looking for an opportunity to go to Colombia and have time to think and write about these movies in context,” added Matusiak, who has previously studied abroad in Spain and Poland, but will be making his first trip to Colombia. “The Fulbright scholarship will be a great opportunity to do just that.”
It also will allow him to pursue one of his passions.
“I’m interested in teaching, especially teaching language, so this award is almost perfect since I’ll be able to do both,” said Matusiak, who has been a tutor in Lawrence’s Center for Teaching and Learning for the past three years, including the past two as head tutor. “I believe in teaching language through culture and using film is a perfect way to give students a visual idea of what culture is like.”
Matusiak, who already had been accepted into Princeton University’s Spanish doctoral program before he received word of his Fulbright award, will now put his graduate studies on hold for year.
“I’m excited and looking forward to spending time in Colombia,” he said.
Professor of Spanish Gustavo Fares described Matusiak as “one of the brightest and most dedicated Spanish majors” Lawrence has had.
“Being awarded the prestigious Fulbright grant is an honor that not only will help him with his research in Latin America, but it is only the beginning of a brilliant academic career,” said Fares.
Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.
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