Sonia Norton ’18 is Earlham’s next Fulbright Scholar | Earlham College Skip to Content

Sonia Norton ’18 is Earlham’s next Fulbright Scholar

April 19, 2018

Sonia Norton ’18 is the latest Earlhamite to be selected as a Fulbright Scholar as part of the United States’ flagship government exchange program.

The Politics major from Los Angeles will serve as an English Teaching Assistant in India during the 2018-19 academic year. Fulbright recipients receive three weeks of teaching and language training and are paid a stipend to cover living expenses for the year.

“I’ve had a goal of becoming a Fulbright Scholar since my freshman year,” Norton says. “The idea of serving as a global citizen and being able to engage in public diplomacy, building international connections and getting to know communities where people have different experiences from your own has always been appealing to me. That’s part of what attracted me to Earlham.”

With 32 students earning the prestigious Fulbright scholarship since 1999, Earlham has long been recognized among the nation’s best for producing well-prepared global citizens. In 2012 and 2014, the Chronicle for Higher Education recognized Earlham as one of the nation’s top Fulbright-producing institutions, affording students opportunities to teach or pursue independent research abroad. The addition of the EPIC Advantage — funding for all students to support an internship, project or research experience before graduation — affords even more opportunities for students to prepare to navigate an increasingly complex world.

“If you’re willing to put in the work, Earlham offers a lot of support for students to submit successful applications,” Norton says.

She credits her success to the boot camp run annually by Elana Passman, Earlham’s Fulbright liaison and associate professor of history. She received further support from Earlham’s Fulbright committee, which is composed of Earlham faculty members who have also completed Fulbrights, including Ahmed Khanani, an assistant professor of politics.

“Elana will do whatever it takes to make sure your application is as competitive as possible,” Norton says. “She is just so committed. She will read every draft of your application. She will read every single one, line-by-line if that’s what you need. She’s truly there from Day 1.”

Norton’s journey to India actually started in 2015 after participating in Earlham’s Tibetan Studies program. The semester-long program, based in Dharamsala, India, gives students an opportunity to study in the cultural and intellectual capital of the Tibetan exile community, even meet with the Dalai Lama.

Her Fulbright will likely take her elsewhere in the country, but her assignment hasn’t been made official yet.

“I don’t even know what the native language of the community is yet, but that will add to the experience when I find out,” Norton says. “India is so diverse and huge, but I just really enjoyed the energy and experience of India. I went to India before because I wanted to get more of a sense of the basis of public policy in a country that accepted refugees in a way that our country didn’t. It’s a new democracy. Now I’m looking forward to engaging more with the Indian community, not just the Tibetan Indian community.”

Norton is extraordinary qualified for a Fulbright, her faculty mentors say.

“From the moment she arrived at Earlham, Sonia has worked hard — really hard — to achieve all that she has,” says Passman, who had her in class as a first-year student. “Her experience teaching everyone from Tibetan refugees in India to kids in summer camp has prepared her well for the challenges of teaching English in India next year.

“I expect she will thrive,” she says. “Sonia has a real knack for bringing very different kinds of people together, thanks to her warmth, intelligence, curiosity, and willingness to listen. She's exactly the kind of student the Fulbright seeks.”

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


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