Published: Jan. 16, 2024

Graduate students from music and education receive funding to study educational systems abroad and music at the tip of the world

Two University of Colorado Boulder graduate students have been awarded the 2023-24 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) fellowship, the Department of Education announced.

The DDRA fellowship provides doctoral candidates who have shown mastery of a language with the opportunity to conduct dissertation research in area studies or foreign languages for six to 12 months abroad.

Lydia Wagenknecht from the College of Music will use the award to travel to Chile to study the effect of climate change on local music while Kyle Kopsick from the School of Education will go to Costa Rica to research international education organizations.

Both expressed gratitude for the fellowship, commenting that this funding offered them a chance to do research that might not be otherwise possible.

Affordances and limitations of international education organizations

Kyle Kopsick

Kyle Kopsick, a doctoral candidate in education, will be studying in Costa Rica.

Originally from Chicago, Kopsick arrived at CU Boulder by way of Quito, Ecuador, where he taught history and philosophy at a school run by an international education organization for roughly five years.

International education organizations are organizations, mainly from Europe, that affiliate with schools throughout the world to accredit, assess and offer diplomas or certificates to students who successfully go through their programs.

“Some are known to be pretty demanding, and while they do certain academic things very well, there are also all sorts of questions about what it means for teachers to have to follow educational standards that are set by governing bodies outside their local and regional contexts,” Kopsick commented.

And it is those questions about the affordances and limitations of the organizations that Kopsick will be researching with the help of the DDRA fellowship.

Kopsick will conduct qualitative research at a school in Costa Rica, working with teachers to do class observations and focus groups, and talking with them “about their experiences teaching under these kinds of organizations.” Kopsick will use this information to figure out how it ultimately affects their teaching practices, which, in turn, affect how and what students are learning.

“I came (to CU Boulder) with the intention of doing international field work, which I knew I could. But I also knew things needed to be set in place properly, and having the support of Fulbright really clarifies that,” said Kopsick. “Dissertation work can often be a challenging and isolating pursuit, so anytime you have this kind of additional support, it’s nice validation.”

Sound at the edge of the world

Lydia Wagenknecht

Lydia Wagenknecht, a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology, will be studying in Chile.

For Wagenknecht, an ethnomusicologist (someone who studies music and sound in culture), the route to the DDRA fellowship was a bit more serendipitous.

Already a Fulbright student grant recipient, she first heard about the fellowship during an orientation for Fulbright scholars where other DDRA fellows were present. Aware that her research was going to take longer than nine months, which is what the student grant provides, she decided to apply and was accepted.

“It was a really big relief,” said Wagenknecht, who was also the people’s choice winner during last year’s Three Minute Thesis competition.

During the DDRA fellowship, Wagenknecht will be researching the music and sound in Punta Arenas, Chile, which is at the southern tip of South American. In particular, she’ll be working with a diverse array of artists and researchers to explore how the sound and music of humans and nonhumans (e.g., landscapes) is changing in response to climate change.

“Punta Arenas is a major jumping off point for Antarctic research, so the city has branded itself as an Antarctic city and there’s a bunch of Antarctic research initiatives going on here,” said Wagenknecht, adding, “This is a part of the world where there’s a lot of really dramatic climate change events happening.”

Through field recordings, ethnographic interviews and concerts, Wagenknecht will pull together a series of case studies, one of which will be Antarctic soundscape projects.

“Ethnographic research can take a long time,” Wagenknecht commented. “I feel like this grant will help me build more reciprocal relationships. I can help my community partners, they can help me, and we can trust each other more. That’s really important.”

For more information, including how to apply, please visit the Fulbright-Hays website or reach out to Patty Stanfield at Applications for 2024 cycle typically open in the spring.