Blaise Bennardo ’10 earns Fulbright grant

April 30, 2015

St. Joseph’s College is pleased to announce that alumnus Blaise Bennardo ’10 has been selected as a recipient of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Grant, which places grantees in schools overseas to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker presence in classrooms.

In January 2016, Bennardo will travel to Malaysia to teach American English at the secondary schools throughout the country. In addition to incorporating student-centered lessons on homonyms, American idioms and poetry, he will also coordinate afterschool journal reflection clubs, through which students’ passions, curiosities and aspirations will be creatively shared through memoir writing projects and identity narratives.

Grounded in the belief that sports can help shatter the cultural barriers that exist between people and communities, Bennardo will also integrate basketball as an extracurricular English activity to teach sports slang, a unique mode of American English. He will remain in Malaysia for 11 months to complete the grant period.

“The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant provides the ideal opportunity for me to teach, research and invigorate my understanding of what it means to be a global citizen,” he said.

A native of Cutchogue, a tiny hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island, Bennardo earned a B.A. in English from St. Joseph’s and served as a grammar tutor in the College’s Academic Center. That role would help him transition to working as a writing consultant in the Writing Center at St. John’s University, where he would earn an M.A. in English and American literature in 2012. There he became immersed in the rich nexus of cultures, races and ethnicities of the many immigrant and first-generation students he encountered.

Bennardo’s background as an English tutor, coupled with a 2009 service-learning project in the impoverished village of Subtiava, Nicaragua, through SJC’s Nicaragua Project helped inspire his upcoming endeavor to Southeast Asia.

“The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant provides the ideal opportunity for me to teach, research and invigorate my understanding of what it means to be a global citizen."

— Blaise Bennardo ’10

“Whether it involved installing sinks, planning a talent show or organizing recreational activities for the youth, my classmates and I [along with religious studies chair Thomas Pentriano, Ph.D., and former PGS dean Thomas Travis, Ph.D.] worked with and learned from the residents of Subtiava,” he explained. “My experiences in Nicaragua transcended a typical education and enriched my conception of international community outreach.”

To receive the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant, candidates must submit a statement of grant purpose explaining what activities they hope will take place during one academic year overseas at a participating Fulbright program country. The candidates fully immerse themselves within their host communities and participate in cultural exchanges by interacting with locals in a variety of environments that facilitate an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity and intellectual freedom.

“In reading an early draft of Blaise’s Fulbright application, I was immediately impressed with his vision of what he would accomplish if afforded the opportunity,” said Christopher Frost, Ph.D., executive dean of SJC’s Long Island Campus.

“At one point, he recounts a tutoring experience with a learner whose native language was not English. He had asked her to draw a conclusion. Noticing her puzzlement, it dawned on him that he was also a learner and listener. That wisdom bodes well for what Blaise will be able to accomplish during his time abroad.”

Though he is now nearly five years removed from his time at St. Joseph’s, Bennardo generously shares the credit for his achievement with his alma mater.

It’s really flattering to know that I was chosen over other individuals who were just as qualified as or more qualified than me. But this Fulbright is bigger than me. Actually, it represents my experiences, teachings and mentors at St. Joseph’s College. I am especially indebted to Dr. Petriano, Dr. Travis, Elena Marts (recently retired) and Dr. [Marc] Ricciardi.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this Fulbright award is not about me; it’s about SJC. It’s for SJC. Itrepresents SJC.”

Approximately 325,400 Fulbrighters, 122,800 from the United States and 202,600 from other countries, have participated in the program since its inception more than 60 years ago. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually in over 155 countries worldwide.