Edward Guiliano Fellows Challenge Themselves and Their Perceptions of the World 

Imagine having a novel research project or idea that you would like to explore more deeply. Now, imagine being able to travel anywhere in the world to pursue this project that you’re passionate about while knowing that you will have support for your travel and research expenses. For the past six years, the Edward Guiliano Global Fellowship Program has done exactly that — provided funds for more than 50 Stony Brook University students to follow their ideas around the globe.

Edward Guiliano ’78 and his wife Mireille Guiliano.
Edward Guiliano ’78 and his wife Mireille Guiliano.

PhD alumnus Edward Guiliano ’78 and his wife, Mireille, brought the Edward Guiliano Global Fellowship Program to Stony Brook University in 2018, after introducing the fellowship program during his tenure as president at New York Institute of Technology and then expanding it to include his undergraduate alma mater, Brown University, and most recently nationwide through the Modern Language Association (MLA). “We wanted to provide undergraduate and graduate students with the possibilities to pursue their own ideas,” Guiliano said. “Our hope is that these students can step out of their comfort zones and learn from the full experience — from the grand proposal to their trip and explaining their work. It is especially important to us that the projects are self-directed so that the students are pursuing their original ideas and inspirations, not their professor’s, and that they are hands-on in all phases of the process.”

Soraya Zabihi, director of research and assessment in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Guiliano program administrator at Stony Brook University, further shared that the goal of the program is to inspire and support students in creating transformative projects that enrich their personal and professional lives. “The fellowship encourages students to envision and realize projects that expand their horizons and engage with the global community,” said Zabihi.

Exploring the World

Every semester, the Guiliano Fellowship provides a few College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) students with once-in-a-lifetime research opportunities. From studying the Lady Eccles Oscar Wilde Collection at the British Library and exploring the works of Asian American artists in California to researching the commercial surrogacy market in India and advocating for surrogates’ rights in New Delhi, the fellows can pursue research driven by their own intellectual curiosity across the arts and sciences and their many areas of study. 

For Andrew Rimby ’23, an English PhD alumnus and the inaugural Guiliano Fellowship recipient, seeing Oscar Wilde’s handwritten manuscript for The Picture of Dorian Gray was a pivotal moment in his trip to London to research the collection. “I really wanted to read his works in his own handwriting, which no one can do unless they are physically in the British Library,” said Rimby. His project was part of his dissertation “The Pool of Narcissus: Walt Whitman’s Male Homoerotic Poetics” and explored why Walt Whitman became so influential to Wilde. “Without this research, I wouldn’t have been able to explore how Whitman’s poetry contains just enough Hellenic signals in his poetry to allow for Wilde’s circle to see the circulation of male homoerotic desire,” Rimby explained. “Whitman is read through a Hellenic frame of mind with Wilde’s circle because Hellenism has become the signpost to signal to Victorian readers that male homoeroticism is to come.”

A newspaper clipping from Annu Daftuar's '20 fellowship project.
A newspaper clipping from Annu Daftuar’s ’20 fellowship project.

Despite the pandemic, determined Guiliano fellows found a way to make their research projects work. “My research was delayed because of travel restrictions,” said Annu Daftuar, a PhD student in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. “It forced me to rethink some of my methodologies and be creative in continuing my work without giving up.” Her dissertation, “Global Fertility Markets: Regulation and Reproductive Justice,” examined the commercial surrogacy industry in India after the government closed its borders to foreigners seeking surrogacy services in late 2015. During the pandemic, Daftuar pivoted to collect her data digitally. Once the restrictions eased, she conducted in-person interviews with fertility experts and feminist activists, as well as journalists and lawyers in New Delhi and Visakhapatnam.

Guiliano loves learning about the students’ projects and admits that he would have liked to go along on half of the trips each year. When asked if any projects at Stony Brook stood out to him, Guiliano noted “the playwright who was an English major and had an idea to go to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and museum to research source material, which was perfect if she was going to write a play.” Courtney Taylor ’19 was that playwright. Her project, “Jenkins: An All-American Outing,” entailed traveling to Texas to research her idea for a play about Walter Jenkins, a White House aide whose career ended after being arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” with another man in a public restroom in Washington, D.C. The incident was weeks before the 1964 presidential election, in an era in which homosexual behavior was widely condemned. Taylor was able to research White House memos, FBI reports and newspaper articles. “I loved working in the archives and reading Jenkins’ personal files and correspondence, which gave me a much stronger sense of who he was,” said Taylor. “I finished the play. And this year, it was a semifinalist in the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference.” 

Springboarding Opportunities

The Guiliano Fellowship not only allows undergraduates and graduates to delve deeply into their ideas and passions but often also leads to other opportunities. After the fellowship, Daftuar received two more fellowships from Stony Brook, including one to support her dissertation paper. “With the help of these awards, I published a peer-reviewed research article,” said Daftuar. “I also presented my field findings twice at the National Women’s Studies Association conferences.” 

Following his trip to London, Rimby was named a public humanities fellow for New York State. “I worked with the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association and helped develop a curriculum for English education students to contribute to an interactive map to chart Whitman’s writing on Long Island and throughout New York City,” said Rimby. “I probably wouldn’t have explored this without the confidence and experience the Guiliano Fellowship gave me.”

In addition to finishing her play, Taylor wrote an article for Literary Hub about archival withholding policies and completed an internship with West Wing Writers, a leading speechwriting and strategy firm. “I was so excited to be asked about my fellowship and research during the internship interview process,” Taylor explained. “The fellowship helped me learn more about archival research as a springboard for creative and academic writing.”

And that honor and prestige is exactly Guiliano’s goal for the fellows. “My wife and I want the fellows to continue to use this program as a stepping stone in their academic and professional careers,” said Guiliano.

The Future of the Guiliano Fellows

In addition to their using the fellowship as a credential, Guiliano encourages fellows to connect with each other. “All of their projects are remarkable,” said Guiliano.

To be able to share that with one another and talk about their experiences is what will make this program thrive.” – Guiliano

The first step, however, is to take the leap and apply. As the Guiliano program’s administrator, Zabihi encourages all CAS students to do so.“During the application review process, the committee considers factors such as research topic, academic achievement and personal statements,” said Zabihi. “We look for projects that have the potential for personal and academic growth for our students.” The fellowship is open to undergraduate students and graduate humanities students in the College of Arts and Sciences each semester. 

All of the fellows have been actively encouraging other students to apply. “The Guiliano Fellowship allows you to get outside the bubble of Stony Brook and really understand that what you are learning can be applied in your future,” Rimby said. “I was able to get other fellowships by using the networking skills I learned in London to gather the information I needed.” Taylor’s advice? “Apply for a project that truly excites you, even if you think it’s unconventional! I almost didn’t apply because my project was arts-focused, but I’m so glad I did,” she said. “The fellowship created the foundation for not just my academic career – but for my writing career.” 

We want to facilitate experiential learning for future generations.” – Guiliano

What does the future of the program look like? Guiliano and his wife believe that it will evolve over time. They hope the fellows will be inspired to become mentors and continue running the program. “My wife and I hope to continue providing access to something intellectually and emotionally exciting,” said Guiliano.

-Christine McGrath

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