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Annie Renaud ’19 Earns Fulbright Award to Russia

Cynthia Klima and Annie Renaud '19

Fulbright winner Annie Renaud '19 (right) and her mentor, associate professor of German Cynthia Klima. (SUNY Geneseo/Keith Walters '11)

Annie Renaud ’19, from Glastonbury, CT, has won a 2019–20 U.S Student Fulbright award for Russia. The communication major, who has minors in both Central and Eastern European studies and the college honors program, will work as an English Teaching Assistant at a Russian university or post-secondary institution.

The award is the culmination of Renaud’s five-year journey with associate professor of German Cynthia Klima, a mentor for Renaud and countless Geneseo students interested in what Klima refers to as “less commonly taught languages.”

Renaud introduced herself to Klima while she was still in high school before her freshman year at Geneseo to inquire about the availability of Russian classes and related minors. “I started taking Russian in middle school and wasn’t sure what class would be the right fit for me,” she said. “Dr. Klima was a wonderful resource in helping me navigate the Russian classes at the College, as well as helping me find advanced Russian courses to take.” Renaud continued her Russian education by taking a directed study with Klima on the country’s literature and history.

“I’m grateful for all the support Dr. Klima has given me to continue to learn more about the Russian language, people, and culture,” she said. “This Fulbright award is a testament to her advocacy and mentorship. I hope to take what I have learned from Dr. Klima to continue learning the Russian language and combine my passion for journalism to serve as a reporter in the region.”

“Annie did everything right and was a distinct pleasure to work with,” Klima said. “I could tell right away that she had a goal in her life to accomplish something unusual. I find myself drawn to those kinds of students. She and I were pen pals during her senior year in high school, and then one day she appeared unannounced at my office door.”

A faculty member since 1993, Klima teaches German, Czech, Russian, and humanities and coordinates the German and Central and Eastern European studies minors. She grew up in a Czech household in Norman, OK, with German neighbors, surrounded by international faculty members and students from the University of Oklahoma. She earned a Ph.D. in German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studies German-Czech-Jewish relations; political relations in Europe; cultural history of Central Europe; Russian literature and cultural history; and the Germans and Jews of Prague.

“For five years, I have been on an interesting and unique journey with Annie as she has done what she needed to do to forge her own path,” she said. “Annie has a quiet determination, doesn’t panic, and doggedly goes about her work. She came up with a vision of her future at a very young age and pursued it with professionalism to accomplish her dreams.”

Renaud remembers sitting on a bus in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, when an elderly woman began to scold her in Russian. Renaud could only make out a few words: “You are sitting … grandma is standing.” Renaud realized she had broken a Russian rule of decorum. “That was just one of the educational and cultural lessons I learned during my time in Russia in the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program,” she said. “I vowed never again to make the mistake of disrespecting a Russian grandma and added that experience to my many missteps as I immersed myself in the Russian daily life and classroom setting. I know I can reach out to Dr. Klima to assist me in navigating Russia in the upcoming nine months. Her knowledge of languages and cultures in the region is sure to help me during the Fulbright program and beyond.”

At Geneseo, Renaud earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and the Edgar Fellows Program, and she served as editor-in-chief of The Lamron college newspaper. In addition to numerous academic scholarships, Renaud won a highly competitive 2017 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for study in Russian, only the second Geneseo student or alumni to win both a Fulbright award and a CLS scholarship.

Six other Geneseo alumni or seniors have won Fulbright awards for 2019–20: Lorenzo Rodriguez ’19 (Bulgaria), Janine Rossi ’18 (Uruguay), Kelsey Kwandrans ’19 (Spain), Leah Christman ’19 (India), Isabel Owen ’19 (Brazil), and Catherine Shields ’19 (Turkey). Rachel Britton ’18 was named an alternate for Iceland. Of the College’s 33 Fulbright awards, 21 have come in the past four years, and 29 since 2010. This year’s total of seven awards is a Geneseo record, as was the tally of 12 Geneseo seniors or alumni named semifinalists, outpacing last year’s eight.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. During their grants, “Fulbrighters” meet, work, live with, and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think.

The 2020–21 U.S. Student Fulbright competition, which is open to students and recent alumni, is administered at Geneseo by director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills, who can be reached at millsm@geneseo.edu and (585) 245-6002. For more information about the Fulbright and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, visit Fellowships and Scholarships.

—Michael Mills