News

June 29, 2004

Michael Lestingi ’04 Awarded Fulbright for Study in Russia

He’s the third Lafayette student this year, and the sixth in the last five years, to earn Fulbright funding for study abroad.

Michael Lestingi ’04 has received a Fulbright Grant to undertake a study of the development of privatization and regulatory policies of Russia’s railroads.

The Marquis Scholar from Centerville, Ohio, received a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an A.B. with majors in international studies and Russian and East European studies at the 169th Commencement exercises in May. He is the third Lafayette student this year to receive Fulbright funding for a year of study abroad, and the sixth student in the last five years.

“Questions of rail privatization were of little concern” in Russia prior to August 2003, when Vladimir Putin signed a decree opening the door to privatization of Russia’s national rail system, says Lestingi, who did an intensive five-month study of Russian language, history, and culture at the Russian State University for the Humanities in 2002. “As such, few analyses of Russian rail privatization policies exist, but with the first phase of privatization efforts now scheduled for 2004-06, there is a clear exigence for study.

“My project will document the privatization process by examining the goals and limits of the economic policy for transition and the ensuing technological regulatory policy. The work stands to make a unique contribution to the study of privatization, mass transit, and technology policy,” he says.

Lestingi’s interest in rail privatization dates back to his experience as a mechanical design intern last summer at Sperry Rail International, Ltd., Derby, England, where he helped develop systems to detect flaws in the tracks of Britain’s recently privatized rail system.

“I hope to spur change in the world through meaningful regulation and policy that fosters moral responsibility, economic growth, and technological innovation,” he says. “Documenting the development of the privatization and ensuing regulatory policies of Russia’s railroads will prepare me to someday advise on the development of future technological policy in the international arena, working for the International Monetary Fund or World Bank after advanced degree work.”

Other Lafayette students receiving Fulbright awards this year are Shara Gregory ’04 of Collegeville, Pa., a double major in international affairs and German (for study in Germany), and Tarik Ghanim ’03 of Amman, Jordan (for graduate studies in electrical and computer engineering in the United States).

Lestingi and Ghanim are graduates of Lafayette’s distinctive international studies and engineering program, in which students earn a B.S. degree in chemical, civil, electrical and computer, or mechanical engineering and an A.B. degree in international studies that combines foreign language, literature, government, law, art, economics, and history. Students choose a language of concentration and take courses that help them develop an in-depth cultural understanding of a country or region where the language is spoken.

In addition, Greg Domber, who graduated in 1997 with a double major in history and philosophy, was awarded a Fulbright last July for study in Poland in 2003-04.

Previous recent Fulbright winners are Jessica Coakley ’03 (international affairs /economics & business; Germany); Sarah Glacel ’01 (international affairs/Russian & East European studies; Russia), and Sarah Eremus ’00 (Spanish/Japanese Studies; Japan).

Spearheaded by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Program was established by Congress in 1946 to demonstrate U.S. commitment to democratic values worldwide. Steven J. Ulhlfelder, chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, said, “As a representative of your country in Russia, you will help fulfill the principal purpose of the Fulbright Program, to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and the people of more than 150 or so countries that currently participate in the Fulbright Program.”

The list of Lestingi’s accomplishments at Lafayette is long and impressive.

In May he was a member of a six-student team that led Lafayette – the only liberal arts school in a field dominated by large technical institutions – to a second-place finish in the East Coast/Midwest American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Human Powered Vehicle Challenge in Gainesville, Fla.

Lestingi collaborated in two research projects as a participant in the EXCEL Scholars program, first studying methods for testing the strength of composite materials, then, with Mary J.S. Roth ’83, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, surveying engineering schools to determine how they teach ethics. He made a presentation at the 2001 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

He led a contingent of Lafayette students representing Greek government leaders and diplomats in the European Union Simulation, whose topic was “Defense, Security, Rapid Deployment Force,” covering creation of the joint EU army. Lestingi assumed the role of Greece’s EU commissioner for employment and social affairs.

He was a member of the McKelvy House Scholars program. Since 1962, the McKelvy program has brought together Lafayette students with a wide range of majors and interests to reside in a historic off-campus house and share in intellectual and social activities. Weekly discussions over Sunday dinner engage the students in lively exchanges of ideas that continue long after the meals are over. They are the hallmark of the program.

An outstanding performer and president of the Lafayette Forensics Society, he was elected to Pi Kappa Delta, national forensics honorary for speech and debate students, in addition to Dobro Slovo, national Slavic honor society.

Lestingi served as president of Communications Union, an organization that fosters classroom and extracurricular activities nurturing verbal communication, secretary of International Affairs Club, and treasurer of Association for Lafayette Women (now known as Association of Lafayette Feminists). He was also a member of the Lafayette chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Global Business Society.

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