Island School grad earns Fulbright scholarship

Island School 2007 graduate Noah Randolph-Flagg has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship to China in Environmental Studies, the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced recently. A 2011 graduate of Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota, Noah earned a bachelor’s degree in geology, with a minor in Chinese, a language he began studying as a freshman at Island School.

Noah is one of over 1,600 U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad for the 2011-2012 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. He is currently living in the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, China. Xi’an is the ancient capital of Chinese civilization best known for the massive terracotta army discovered under the outskirts of the city. He is working with Chinese and American experts on the very pressing problem of water scarcity.

Noah describes the importance of his work as follows:

“Water scarcity in northern China is a real and growing problem. China has about a quarter of the world’s population but less than 10 percent of its water. Our image of wet rice patties is misleading in a country whose capital is being slowly swallowed by the Gobi Desert. Similar problems in other countries threaten food and water security for a couple million people. In Northern China immediate threats to water resources put the lives of over 100 million at risk. In addition, global models of climate change are based almost exclusively on non-Chinese data. This means that global climate models need to be refined in Asia so that they can be more useful to policy makers.”

Noah joins an impressive list Fulbright recipients, many of whom have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.

When Noah returns to the States at the end of this program, he will begin work on a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California at Berkeley. U.C. Berkeley is ranked by US News as having the 3rd best earth science program in the United States. His adviser, Michael Manga, is a former MacArthur Fellow and one of the leading scientists in volcanology, hydrothermal systems, earthquake-groundwater interactions, and the search for liquid water in space.

Noah finds it ironic to be studying the critical problem of water scarcity when he’s from the wettest spot on Earth. “People always laugh when they make that connection, he said, “but in many ways, living on Kaua‘i and my education at Island School serve me quite well here in China. Being infused with the culture of the Pacific Rim has given me special insight into the role of a Fulbright Fellow: to serve as a cultural bridge between America and Asia.

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