One of a Fistful of Fulbrights: Laura Kramer '07
This week, Bryn Mawr Now continues a series of profiles of four graduating seniors who have won Fulbright Fellowships for the 2007-08 academic year with a look at Laura Kramer, who will travel to Madrid, Spain, next year on a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. See last week's issue for the introduction to the series, and look for news about a graduate student and a faculty member who have been awarded grants by the Fulbright Foundation in upcoming issues.
Laura Kramer '07 is a native of St. Paul, Minn., and a double major in Spanish and political science. Both majors reflect lifelong interests that were nurtured by a family of activists — especially her grandmother, she says.
"I've been speaking Spanish ever since I was a kid," she says. "My grandmother spoke the language. She traveled extensively in Latin America working for social justice, and social activism and speaking Spanish both became family traditions. At birthday parties, we'd sing in Spanish, and I went to a Spanish immersion school from kindergarten through sixth grade in St. Paul. It is an important part of my identity, and I knew that I wanted to retain my fluency in Spanish and my commitment to activism in college."
Kramer has pursued both passions at Bryn Mawr. After two years of coursework in Spanish literature and culture, she spent the first semester of her junior year abroad in Chile. During the summer, a Bryn Mawr Alumnae Regional Scholarship allowed her to return to Chile to undertake an internship with the Chilean government, in the ministry of education.
"Chile had just inaugurated its first female president, and it was such an exciting time to be there," says Kramer.
Hoping to complement her office work at the ministry with some field experience, Kramer went to a nearby school and offered her help.
"They asked me to start right away," she says. "I taught English, science and math to first-graders. I got so attached to the kids that I wanted to teach again, but in a place I hadn't visited before. But I also enjoyed balancing my teaching with research I did for the ministry. The Fulbright encourages research projects, too, so it was very attractive to me," she says.
While in Spain, Kramer hopes to research the role of women in Spanish politics.
"The president of Spain has made half of his cabinet female," Kramer notes. "I'm interested in what, if any, difference this makes in the position of women socially and culturally."
Kramer is now finishing a political-science thesis that compares the transitions to democracy in Chile and Argentina, looking at both domestic and international actors and how they have aided or hindered the creation of democratic institutions.
As the founder of a campus advocacy organization called Students for Justice in Palestine, Kramer has continued her family's tradition of activism as well, addressing one of the most hotly contested issues on campus. Her family has close connections with antinuclear movements — her grandparents are the adoptive parents of the controversial Israeli activist Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison in Israel for revealing details of Israel 's nuclear weapons program, about which the Israeli government had maintained a policy of "deliberate ambiguity," to the press.
"I'm not sure how I'll be politically active in Madrid next year," Kramer says. "Maybe I'll get involved in a women's organization. It will be a learning process — figuring out how everything works and what kind of action is most effective," she says.
This summer, Kramer will work in Barcelona as an adviser to a summer study program for American high-school students; then she'll spend a month visiting friends in Chile before beginning her Fulbright year in the fall. She hasn't firmly settled on post-Fulbright plans.
"I may go to graduate school, probably in international relations. As for my career, I want to do something that has a direct, positive impact on people's lives. I guess it doesn't really matter exactly where I end up, as long as I can feel that I'm changing things, helping make the world better in some way."
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