Sarah Tucker, SFS '11
Name: Sarah Tucker
School, Major, and Year of Graduation: SFS, IPOL/IDEV, 2011
Fellowship Won: Fulbright
Title of Project: Achieving Universal Education in Cameroon: the Challenge of Reaching the Marginalized
Description of Project: My research examines education and marginalization among the Bakola, Bagyeli, Baka, and Bedzang indigenous hunter-gatherers of Cameroon. I interview teachers, parents, and representatives from relevant NGO’s and government bodies to learn diverse perspectives on the definition and purpose of education for this population. To understand their culture and lifestyle, I used participant observation, living in forest villages and camps.
How did you become interested in this field and country? I first encountered the issue of indigenous forest people in Cameroon during study abroad with SIT in 2010, and I conducted a one-month study on education and Bakola-Bagyeli children as my Independent Study Project for SIT. This project allowed me to explore and apply ideas that I had come across working in education and youth empowerment in DC in the rural Cameroonian setting, and created an interesting and exciting fusion between my service activities and my academic interests. I had never heard much about Cameroon before arriving with SIT, but I fell in love with the affable people and the lush forests chattering with birds. The dire situation of marginalization and the dearth of information about the Bakola-Bagyeli struck me, and I knew I wanted to come back to explore the subject more deeply.
What were helpful strategies you employed in pursuing this fellowship? I believe my two most important strategies were starting early and asking for lots of help. I started researching the subject and drafting proposals during the summer of 2010, then honed and improved the application little by little. My professors, and the staff at the fellowships office, were extremely helpful once I found the courage to ask them for guidance. The Gervase team helped me understand the structure of a winning proposal, and my professors advised me on content and presentation. I did a mock interview with one professor to prepare for the interview panel. Dialoguing with these people and others helped to bring out my passion for the topic and put my heart into the proposal – I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and why it was important to me and to the people I would be working with if I received the grant.
What were some difficulties you encountered and how did you address them? During the application phase, I fought a persistent feeling that I was unqualified to do the project, and “not good enough” to win a Fulbright – I even avoided telling friends I was applying. But I knew that education and indigenous forest children needed to be studied in-depth, and by cultivating my passion for this topic I was able to let my enthusiasm eclipse my doubts. Working with faculty and staff also helped me have confidence in my proposal and myself. During the grant itself, I was targeted by individuals and organizations seeking to use the indigenous peoples’ struggles and my research to their own advantage, and had to learn to discern true partners from frauds. Logistics of living and working in forest villages also proved difficult, but I became better and better at developing and executing backup plans, always having plan B, C, and D ready.
What are you most looking forward to on your fellowship?
In the lead-up to the grant last fall, I was very excited about being completely immersed in the people and the subject of study. I was also looking forward to developing my own capacity as an independent researcher and a citizen ambassador, and pushing myself to be a “woman with and for others” in my work.
What are your interests outside this fellowship? I am passionate about service and social justice, and filled most of my time at Georgetown with activities with the Center for Social Justice. I am also interested in international development, though I am still figuring out what this means and what my place is in it. I also love cooking, reading, and running, but am terrible at making time for them regularly. I am very good at catching frogs, and getting better at doing backflips off diving boards.
What is your favorite memory from Georgetown? I cherish the victory of my FOlympics team during FOCI – the jubilation as the points were tallied after musical chairs ended around 2:00 AM. The feeling of comradery and the strength of our teamwork made it hard to believe that we had met less than a week ago. I was proud of my team not just because we were amazing at sponge dodgeball and hula-hooping, but for all that we had accomplished in service and reflection during the week, and the promise of our continued commitment to social justice in Washington, DC.
Fulbright has been one of the most formative experiences of my life, and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to grow as an individual and researcher, to contribute to work in my field, and to explore the world. I would like to thank my professors, friends, and the Gervase staff, and encourage anyone who is interested in this fellowship to apply.
There are no scheduled upcoming events at this time.