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Third history student wins Fulbright award

Aug. 30, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A graduate student at Western Michigan University, Brian Becker, has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship.

Becker earned his master of arts in history from WMU and will use the Fulbright Fellowship to work on his doctoral dissertation in Italy during the 2005-06 academic year.

He is the 18th student from WMU to receive a Fulbright Fellowship and the third from the University's Department of History. Fellow history doctoral candidate Travis Bruce received the award last year and is presently studying in Alicante, Spain.

"I was deeply honored to receive this prestigious award," Becker says. "Winning it was a team effort."

A Missouri native, Becker earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri before coming to WMU to do graduate work. He says he received help preparing his fellowship application from seven professors in two departments as well as family and friends. Among those singled out for praise by Becker was Dr. Larry Simon, associate professor of history.

"I owe a special debt of gratitude to Dr. Simon, my dissertation advisor and friend," Becker says. "Our weekly chats have always been educational to say the least."

Simon, a specialist in Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations in the western Mediterranean, also was the advisor for Travis Bruce. He noted that both students share similar scholarly interests and both were drawn from out of state by the strength of WMU's graduate programs in medieval studies.

"Brian is among the top four or five graduate students from among the 200 students I've had in seminar and the 25 to 30 whose work I've directed," says Simon. "He is focused, hard working, and much more than a fine scholar and diligent student. Brian is a complete human being. He is always helpful to his fellow students, kind, generous, conversant in modern politics, and an avid musician and sports enthusiast."

Becker, whose area of study is medieval Mediterranean history, also has been the winner of summer research grants from both WMU's Graduate College and the Department of History. While in Italy, he will focus on the Genoese State Archives to uncover information for a dissertation that will detail Genoese colonialism and the Aegean island of Chios.

"The richness of the documentation found in the Genoese State Archives make this a medieval history dissertation likely to be read by many early modernists, modern historians, sociologists and world historians," Simon says.

Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas proposed the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government's flagship program in international educational exchange, to the U.S. Congress in 1945. In the aftermath of World War II, Fulbright viewed the proposed program as a much-needed vehicle for promoting "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world." Congress approved his vision and the program signed into law by President Truman in 1946.

Media contact: Benjamin Myers, (269) 387-8400, ben.myers@wmich.edu

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