Published October 24, 2023
Russel Bassarath, a University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education student studying history and social studies education in the UB Teach program, has received a Fulbright Scholar Award. The Fulbright Program is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious scholarship and international exchange programs.
At the beginning of the fall 2023 semester, Bassarath traveled to Cyprus, where he is currently serving as a secondary education teacher. He was also approved for a research grant and is determining how to best use this grant funding: “I want to see what I can do outside the classroom for the students I’ll be working with. Whether that’s initiating clubs or going as far as getting involved in local programs, I want to immerse myself as much as possible in the local communities that I’ll be part of. I’m not just going to be passive when I’m there for the nine months,” he said.
As an educator, he believes the experience will be particularly beneficial as he prepares for future teaching placements in the UB Teach program. And, as a person, traveling abroad for this opportunity is especially meaningful for Bassarath.
This trip will mark the first time he’s traveled outside New York State.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore outside my comfort zone and to also teach. Cyprus is a great country in which I can have the opportunity to work in a classroom in such a historically rich place,” he said.
Bassarath reports that his advisor, Louise Lalli, has played an instrumental role in finding and receiving the Fulbright award. “I have a pretty close relationship with Ms. Lalli. She’s been super helpful from day one,” he said. “She wrote one of my letters for the Fulbright, too, so that was amazing.”
Writing that letter of recommendation was easy for Lalli. “Russel, by far, stands out among all my advisees. From the moment I met him, I was impressed with his demeanor and thoughtfulness. He is mature beyond his years, yet at the same time has a youthful spirit,” Lalli said. “He also stands out for his intense level of inquisitiveness and his deep desire to focus on those who have been historically marginalized. These qualities will make Russel an excellent ambassador in the Fulbright Program.”
Assistant Professor of Learning and Instruction Tim Monreal has also extended new learning and professional opportunities to Bassarath throughout his time in the UB Teach program. Alongside Monreal and GSE PhD student Dawnavyn James, Bassarath has worked on a research project studying how Afro-Latinx people are mentioned in the New York State standards for fourth-grade classrooms and exploring new approaches to developing a more inclusive curriculum that explores multitudes of identities.
Monreal has also offered research support and guidance as Bassarath has studied and written about the Montgomery bus boycott, focusing on the role of the Black women from the Women’s Political Council that helped start, sustain and act as the backbone of the boycott. Bassarath hopes that this research will be published later this year.
“What sticks out to me about Russel is not only his ability to ask great questions but also his subsequent eagerness to find the people, materials, opportunities and resources to think through them. In our own conversations, I often see him scribbling in the margins asking for book recommendations or scholars to follow,” Monreal said. “Our research meetings and discussions are both intellectually engaging and fun. UB is lucky to have Russel represent us through a Fulbright, and I’m sure this is just the beginning for him.”
Bassarath’s time at UB has reinforced his love of research and has opened his eyes to future career paths. “I know that I want to be involved in the classroom, to some degree, if not in the classroom every day,” he said. “I definitely want to continue pursuing research and publications and things of that nature because I really enjoy the research side of education.”
But for now, he remains focused on making the most of his time in his new home: Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus.
“I’m just excited about the Fulbright opportunity and to have nine months to really do the grant to the best of my ability and see what I can take out of it and bring it back when I come home to teach for year five [of the UB Teach program],” Bassarath said.