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Drake alumna, Fulbright Grant recipient to create documentary

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Ellen Bastian

Ellen Bastian, a 2010 Drake University graduate, has been named a recipient of a Fulbright Grant.
The award will enable her to create a documentary film analyzing the
impact of globalization on agricultural practices in Russia.

“Documentary filmmaking has been my professional aspiration since
entering college,” Bastian said. “The opportunity to not only do such
work in Russia, but to choose my own research topic, is incredible. I am
so grateful for the preparation I received at Drake.”

Eleanor Zeff, the Fulbright Program adviser at Drake, assisted Bastian throughout the application process.

“We’re very excited that Ellie’s project to document the stories of
Russian farmers has received funding from the Fulbright Program,” said
Zeff, associate professor of politics and international relations.
“She’s worked very hard to earn this honor, including passing a Russian
proficiency exam. She is a credit to Drake, and her research will be
useful for agricultural and environmental development in Russia and the

From Iowa to Orenburg: documenting farm practices through a lens of globalization

Bastian will spend a year shooting the documentary and studying
geoecology in Orenburg, a hub of agribusiness located on the northern
boundary of the Kazakh Steppe.

She will gather data regarding land use in Orenburg since 1950,
examining changes in average farm size, crop decisions, urbanization
trends and governmental agricultural policies. She will also research
the history of Western agribusinesses in the region and conduct
interviews with Russian farmers and peasants.

“Upon my return to the U.S., I plan to allocate several months to
finish editing the film,” Bastian said. “I would like to screen the
documentary on college campuses and in rural communities in America and
Russia, and I also plan to arrange a screening in Orenburg.”

Bastian, who earned her bachelor’s degree in radio-television and
international relations at Drake, currently serves as a production
intern with Iowa Public Television. Previously, she has held internships
with the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa, and
the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

She has also worked as a videographer for the Drake Broadcasting
System, the Urban Ambassadors in Des Moines and the State University of
New York Model European Union Press Corps, and as a copy editor for
Russia’s St. Petersburg Times.

Drake alumni pursue international understanding thanks to Fulbright Program

“Drake appealed to me because of its large population of foreign
students and innovative language program,” Bastian said. “After studying
abroad in Russia my sophomore year and making friends from Karachi to
Kiev, I returned to the Midwest. The region is a fascinating microcosm
for global environmental issues and, to me, researching and documenting
these issues in films would be a worthwhile profession.”

Bastian is the second alumna to be named a Fulbright Grant recipient this year; Rachel Shulruf, a 2010 Drake graduate, also successfully applied for the award.

Since 2004, 15 Drake alumni have been named recipients of Fulbright
grants. The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, is the flagship
international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S.

The program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the
people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Candidates recommended for Fulbright grants have high academic
achievement, a compelling project proposal, demonstrated leadership
potential, flexibility and adaptability to interact successfully with a
host community abroad.