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Laura Nugent ’08 Receives Fulbright Fellowship to Romania

Laura Nugent ’08 has received a research Fulbright Fellowship to Romania for the 2008-2009 academic year.

Nugent, a double major in economics and medieval and Renaissance studies from West Grove, Penn., will study the architecture of churches in Moldavia built from 1488-1609 with a history professor at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

“I went to Romania last spring term and wrote a research paper on medieval ecclesiastical architecture in Romania,” she said. “In doing that research, I learned about the Moldavian monasteries and began thinking about a project proposal. I developed the topic based on ideas I learned in Professor Jeff Kosky’s Christianity and Culture course, in which we learned about the study of the liturgical functions of cathedrals and the development of the architecture.”

“While there is a great deal of literature that discusses how church architecture might embody or perform a theological vision in Western Christianity, there is less regarding the same question in the context of the Eastern Church,” said Kosky. “It is no surprise to me that Laura wants to return to Romania in order to pursue the question. She was clearly gripped by something that interested her when there last spring and is driven to return to Romania by this passion.”

Nugent is no stranger to academic research, having worked with W&L’s Professor Alexandra Brown researching patristic and medieval interpretations of I Corinthians as an R.E. Lee Scholar for the past two summers.

“Laura was a terrific R.E. Lee research scholar,” said Brown. “Her excellent command of German, together with her native curiosity and intellectual energy made her work a truly useful contribution to my project. The Fulbright award to Romania demonstrates not only her ability to think creatively and about very interesting things, but her adventurous nature. Laura loves a challenge, and this one suits her well.”

A four-year letter winner in field hockey, Nugent also plays viola with the Shenandoah Symphony orchestra, works and rides horses at local farms and has participated in several plays staged by W&L’s German department. She’ll carry her passion for involvement outside the classroom with her to Romania.

“The Fulbright is a phenomenal program in that recipients of the reward do more than sit in a library and write papers,” she said. “They must fully embrace the culture of their host country, and they are expected to act as ambassadors for America. I am excited to delve into medieval Romanian history, but I am also interested in the ever-increasing pace of change in Romanian culture now that the country has joined the E.U. I did an economics capstone on Austrian investment in the Romanian banking industry, so I am also interested in seeing the development of the economy. I plan to travel a lot to the rural locations of the monasteries, but also look forward to the city life of Cluj.”

In order to take full advantage of the academic and cultural opportunities her fellowship offers, Nugent has spent the past year learning Romanian from Irina Mazilu, assistant professor of physics and a Romanian native. “Laura’s dedication, hard work and discipline in learning the language are amazing,” said Mazilu. “Even with her hectic program, Laura managed to meet with me up to three times a week for our Romanian lessons. I am confident that Laura’s project will be a successful one, and her stay in Romania will be a wonderful cultural experience.”

Nugent credits the Fulbright application process as a rewarding experience in its own right. “The application process is truly grueling: selecting a topic; independently initiating an affiliation with a foreign university; expressing in written form why your project is meaningful not only to you, but to your host country, and how it could further a mutual understanding between American and your host country; describing yourself and why you are fit to carry out this project,” she said. “But your finished product is the most eloquent, concise reflection of your academic passions and personal aspirations for your future.”

As for that future, Nugent is hopeful that her experiences abroad will reveal some new opportunities. “I am hesitant to make any commitments for the following year,” she said. “I want to leave myself open to follow up on my experiences in Romania.”