An interview with WVU’s latest Fulbright Scholar: Alanna Markle
Published: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 08:07
For Morgantown native Alanna Markle, life is a gift she is determined to pay forward to those in need.
Markle recently graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in political science and international studies focusing in development, and has been named the West Virginia University’s 32nd Fulbright Scholar, which is the University’s record fifth for this year.
Although Markle’s heart wasn’t set on attending WVU after graduating high school, she said the University helped lay the ground work and prepare her for planning and receiving a research/study grant from the Fulbright Scholar Program.
"WVU was honestly not my top choice, but financially it did not make sense to go anywhere else. I also have a lot of family in and around Morgantown, so I wanted to be close to them for as long as I could before moving on for my career, "she said.
With the grant, she will travel to Nicaragua early next year for 10 months to study agricultural microfinance, the provision of financial support to low-income clients. Microfinance has been less successful in Nicaragua than in other countries, and Markle wants to find out why.
The Daily Athenaeum had the opportunity to interview Markle and discuss her research and her hopes for her future.
DA: Explain what it is you will be doing for your research/ study project; what will it entail?
AM: My research falls into the area of economic development; it will specifically look at the microfinance industry, which has faced many challenges in Nicaragua.
I plan to collaborate with my Nicaraguan university affiliation to identify and establish a relationship with institutions from four different categories that I have identified.
I will conduct interviews and surveys with both lenders and clients associated with those institutions to gather qualitative and quantitative data. This data will hopefully allow me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each institutional methodology and the sources of disconnect there may be between lenders and borrowers.
DA: What is it that interested you in traveling to work on this research project?
AM: I am generally interested in doing research abroad because I am fascinated by the complex global processes that connect all human beings. I think our generation in the U.S. largely recognizes that globalization has been rapidly shrinking our world, but it is important that we also examine and question the real impact of globalization on peoples’ lives and how our actions and lifestyle affects those of others’.
This research project looks specifically at Nicaragua because I have both an academic interest in the country and an emotional connection to a network of people there with whom I have worked for two years. This is a powerful combination that draws me to travel there longer term.
DA: What role did WVU play, or what opportunities do you believe the University gave you, that lead you to this achievement?
AM: I have had myriad opportunities to travel and develop as an academic while at WVU. Because I did not feel financially overburdened by the cost of attendance, I was able to complete a semester study abroad with Amizade; I was also funded by the university to attend academic conferences in Europe and the Middle East.
Most importantly, I found at WVU a network of students and faculty who shared my interests in international development and global justice.
This can most clearly be seen in my work with student group Fair Trade 2.0. Co-founding and working with this group has been my most memorable achievement as a student here. Without that experience I do not think I would have had the resources or knowledge to apply for a Fulbright, at least not this early in my career.
DA: Why did you want to apply for the Fulbright Scholarship program?
AM: I developed a love for travel as a yearlong exchange student to Brazil between high school and college. This experience also guided me toward furthering my knowledge of Latin America and international development. As a student at WVU I sought out international experiences as often as possible, and I always planned to live and work abroad for a time after graduating.
The Fulbright program made sense for me because I am interested in further pursuing academics; it will give me the opportunity to develop my skills as a researcher. I also wanted something that was country specific because I knew that I was interested in going to Nicaragua after doing work there with the student group Fair Trade 2.0 of West Virginia University.
DA: You seem to be truly inspired to go out and serve those who face low-income situations. Who is your role model, or inspiration in life, and why?
AM: I come from a line of strong, independent women who overcame significant economic and social barriers to bring my family to where it is today. The stories and examples inspire me.
My great-great grandmother, for instance, dropped out of school at 14 to work in the Seneca Glass (Company) factory doing heavy labor and ended up a single parent in the 1920 and ’30s who never remarried. Despite that, she became co-owner of a successful business and passed away at the age of 92 still living alone in the house she bought herself as a young mom.
Talk about a feminist! My own mom was also single for much of my childhood and still works tirelessly to give my brothers and me the opportunities we have. After seeing this, I recognize that my quality of life is the product of others’ hard work, and feel that I, in turn, should work hard to extend the resources I enjoy to others.
DA: What are your plans and hopes for when you return for your research, school and ultimately your career goals?
AM: I plan to apply to graduate schools from Nicaragua and to enter into a program in the fall of 2014. Since I will return at the end of 2013, I will have several months to wrap up my project, take a little break to spend time with family and relocate for school. I am looking at graduate schools primarily in the western United States.
I am hoping to narrow my area of interest as a Fulbright Fellow and to determine whether I am interested in a masters or doctoral program. Beyond that, my plan is simply to remain flexible and open for the next opportunity.
I do not have a specific set of career goals beyond wanting to work in international development, but I am confident that if I keep the right frame of mind, time will take me where I need to go.