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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI student earns Fulbright Scholarship
to study marine conservation in Thailand
Marine Affairs department hosts five Fulbright
scholars in three years

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 10, 2001 -- University of Rhode Island graduate student Heidi Schuttenberg enjoyed some breathtaking experiences studying sharks in Australia and coral reefs in Indonesia, but a vicious event that happened while she was in high school in Atlanta has had the greatest impact on her.

Her father was beaten and left for dead on the sidewalk by students rioting in response to the verdict in the Rodney King trial, in which a white police officer was acquitted in the severe beating of a black motorist.

"It made me think about things very differently than I did before and become open to ideas that I wouldn’t have been open to before," she said. "There’s a lot we can all learn from other cultures and other people. The U.S. doesn’t have all the answers. You can see that from what we haven’t done well – race relations."

This experience, coupled with her interest in marine conservation and her desire to understand issues from the perspective of other cultures, led Schuttenberg to apply for – and win – a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study in Thailand.

Named for the former senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, the scholarship is designed to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. Selected based on their leadership potential, approximately 4,500 graduate students from around the world earn Fulbright Scholarships each year.

URI’s Department of Marine Affairs is the epicenter of Fulbright activity on campus. Schuttenberg is the second student in the department in three years to earn a Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad, while three students from Indonesia and the Philippines have earned Fulbright’s to study marine affairs at URI recently. In addition, a former Fulbright scholar, Elizabeth Matthews, is now a doctoral candidate in the department. Lydia Napitupulu, a graduate student from Indonesia, is a Fulbright Scholar currently studying in the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.

"There are just a few places in the country to study marine affairs, and URI has developed a niche of prominence in this subject area," explained Professor Richard Burroughs, chairman of the department.

Professor Richard Pollnac added: "Because URI has the Coastal Resources Center and the Graduate School of Oceanography, both with excellent worldwide reputations, our students get plenty of great opportunities to get involved with marine issues."

Pollnac is one reason the international students have chosen to use their Fulbright Scholarships to study at URI. His research on coral reefs has taken him to Southeast Asia many times, and several students he met there – including Fulbright scholars and recent URI graduates Mahar Gorospe of the Philippines and Jodi Sangari of Indonesia -- have followed him back to Rhode Island. Both are now back in their home countries using what they learned at URI to protect marine resources there.

Abdul Halim, a native of Indonesia, earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 2000 and is now studying fisheries management at URI. Demand for grouper in his home country is very high and the wild population is in danger of being over-fished.

"Here at URI I want to research and evaluate the most effective policies for regulating the grouper fishery in order to accommodate the need for grouper market demand while ensuring the sustainability of this fishery in the wild," he said.

Halim chose URI for his graduate program because of the reputation of the Marine Affairs program and the partnership between Indonesia’s Center for Coastal and Marine Resources Studies and the Coastal Resources Center at URI.

Schuttenberg is using her Fulbright to study coral reef conservation in Thailand. Building on related research she conducted in Indonesia for the Coastal Resources Center, she will work to understand the relationship between the Thai people, their culture, and the coral reefs.

"If you don’t understand what people are thinking, you aren’t going to be effective in influencing their behavior. You have to understand it from their perspective," Schuttenberg said. "I didn’t feel I could make any recommendations for protecting the resources without having been in the area."

Following two months of Thai language lessons this spring, she will visit a marine sanctuary in Chumpone, an area in the Gulf of Thailand recently designated a no-fishing zone but which historically had intense fishing activity. She will also travel to several marine parks in the Andemin Sea on the opposite side of the country to create a "best practices guide."

"When you get one conservation strategy that’s working well, it can be copied in other areas," she explained. "I’ll create a cookbook of what’s working well in a Thai context, and then I’ll supplement it with international experience."

Schuttenberg acknowledged the entire community of Fulbright scholars at URI, as well as the University’s Honors Program, for helping her earn her scholarship, especially Matthews, Nathan Sage, who earned URI’s first Fulbright, and Cheryl Foster, associate director of the URI Honors Program.

"I got the idea to apply from Nathan. I wouldn’t have applied had I not known him," she said. "Watching him go through it made it easy for me to do it, too, since we had very similar career goals."

Thinking back on her father’s beating and slow recovery, Schuttenberg appreciates how that terrible experience has led to valuable experiences that have deepened her understanding of the world around her.

"People say that it must be scary going to these undeveloped countries, but my feeling is that inside the U.S. it’s pretty scary, too. But there’s also a lot of danger in not testing your potential, and just as much threat in not following up on all those things you wanted to do. So go for it."

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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