Abigail Gregg and Laura Wang, two alumnae of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, became the first USC graduates to receive J. William Fulbright-Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellowships, landing them professional placements as special assistants to foreign ministries.
The Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship is a part of the Fulbright United States Student Program, through which scholars gain hands-on experience working in foreign countries’ private sectors while also doing academic research.
“The Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship is significant because it’s a rare opportunity to assist in a foreign government building skills and acquiring knowledge, but also to serve as an ambassador of the U.S.,” said Katie Calvert, associate director of Academic Honors and Fellowships at USC.
Calvert said the selection of Gregg and Wang was an honor for the University as well.
“Having two USC alumnae chosen for this competitive award speaks to the caliber of our students’ work and the importance of aligning U.S. policy goals with the goals of foreign countries,” she said.
Both Gregg and Wang will be journeying to the Pacific to complete their assignments. Wang, who graduated from USC in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree from the Gould School of Law and a master’s degree in environmental science from Dornsife will be traveling to the Polynesian nation of Samoa for 10 months to assist the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with climate issues.
“Funding means finding a way to mobilize all these existing resources to best benefit my country of placement and that’s what I’m hoping to do over the next year,” Wang told USC News.
Wang became interested in climate problems while she was a Dornsife student. She participated in a Problems without Passports program in Guam and Palau that explored marine conservation. Wang later conducted research with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and interned for the White House Counsel on Environmental Quality.
Gregg, who earned a bachelor’s degree in both anthropology and English from Dornsife in 2013, will travel to Timor-Leste, a Southeast Asian nation. She is working as a special assistant for the Ministry of Social Solidarity with a focus on natural disaster risk and preparedness. Gregg hopes to discover options for conversation and resilience initiatives.
Gregg said she also looks forward to her position as a Fulbright-Clinton Fellow in Timor-Leste.
“Timor-Leste is a very young country,” Gregg said. “[It has] both a government and a civil society that are passionate about realizing the country’s full potential. I’m very interested to see how the government is balancing this drive and optimism with the everyday realities of caring for its citizens.”
Gregg’s experience started in South Los Angeles studying food security and environmental health and its impact on the community. She participated in a number of overseas programs while at Dornsife, including a PWP program in Cambodia and an independent study project in Brazil.
Gregg is in Timor-Leste focusing on improving preparedness for natural disasters in conservation areas.
“I became interested in disaster risk through my involvement in environmental management and conservation,” Gregg said. “Protecting an environment has as much to do with protecting the people in it as the flora and other fauna.”
Gregg explained how USC has played a significant role in helping her accomplish her career goals.
“My time at USC opened up the rest of the world to me and gave me a lot of opportunities to become involved in research both in L.A. and abroad,” Gregg said. “A number of faculty — Lanita Jacobs in Anthropology and American Studies and Ethnicity in particular — really encouraged me to get out and engage with my academic interests in the real world and made sure I had the support and knowledge I needed to do so.”
Gregg also talked about her plans going forward.
“Right now, my focus is entirely on my Fulbright-Clinton fellowship,” Gregg said. “I spent my summer working as a research fellow for the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity at Columbia’s Earth Institute. Post-Fulbright, I would like to continue working on the intersection of environmental management and crisis response, either in the U.S. or abroad.”