A Q&A with 2016-17 Fulbright winner Noaquia Callahan

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Noaquia Callahan, P.h.D. candidate in history at the University of Iowa and 2016-17 Fulbright grant winner.

Noaquia Callahan, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Iowa, is one of 14 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant winners from the UI for 2016-17. Callahan was chosen as the top candidate out of this year’s 75 Fulbright awardees to Germany to receive a special Germanistic Society of America Fulbright award, commemorating the past hundred years of collaboration between the United States and Germany.  

Callahan will undertake research on collaboration between African-American civil rights leader Mary Church Terrell and German women activists from 1888-1922. She will be based at the Free University of Berlin and the University of Heidelberg. As part of her community engagement, Callahan will work with the German-American Fulbright Commission's Diversity Initiative to prepare Turkish, Afro-German, Muslim, and other students for study abroad in the U.S.  She was awarded a 2011 UI Stanley Graduate Award for International Research funded by the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, received the UI Jane A. Weiss Memorial Dissertation Scholarship in 2015, and was a Doctoral Fellow at the German Historical Institute in 2015-16.

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Degree and Field of Study: Ph.D. candidate in history, African American feminist transnational history

What will be the focus of your research?

The focus of my research will be on the role of Germany in the development of African American women’s internationalism and interracial feminist collaboration across the Atlantic. I will research the German experiences of Mary Church Terrell, who more than any other African American woman developed ties with German women activists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Terrell’s work as an activist in the U.S. is well documented; however, the story of her international career remains unwritten. 

What drew you to this dissertation topic?

I was fortunate to have studied abroad in Germany as an exchange student in high school and at the university level during my junior year. Such experiences exposed me to the long and rich history of minority communities in Germany. As I began to investigate this history more carefully for my master’s thesis at Iowa, I discovered the German language diaries (1888-1890) of Mary Church Terrell. This realization showed me that my personal and academic experiences in Germany were part of a larger historical intercultural exchange.

How do you see this Fulbright advancing your work?

The Fulbright will allow me to carry out the second half of a truly transnational project that incorporates research in both U.S. and German materials. Currently, as the Doctoral Fellow in African American History at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., I have been able to work in various archives in the D.C. area. The research I will be conducting while on the Fulbright will help me place the sources I’ve collected in D.C. into an international context. Following my Fulbright year, I expect to complete my dissertation in Iowa in spring 2018. 

How do you envision this will change your life?

I have always envisioned myself as a kind of cultural translator, as I have shifted between many domestic and international communities throughout my life and academic career. Fulbright’s dedication to facilitating cultural exchange and promoting mutual understanding is an inspiration. My Fulbright will allow me to serve as a conduit for other underrepresented students in the U.S. and Germany to explore life beyond their respective national borders.

Would you have any advice for future students interested in pursuing a Fulbright award?

Winning a Fulbright award is achievable! The application process is intense and rigorous, but all this means is that you have to stay focused and dedicated to your end goal – spending an invaluable year abroad. And be your fabulous authentic self. The Fulbright is not just about your academic achievements. At every round of the selection process, committee members need to be able to visualize you as an effective U.S. cultural ambassador.

The highly competitive Fulbright Program, created by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, provides grants annually for international research and teaching in an effort to foster global partnership and cultural exchange. For more information on applying for a Fulbright through the University of Iowa, visit our Fulbright page.

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