Jameyanne Fuller ’14 likes to say that she reads so much her fingers hurt. The extensive work this Braille-reader put in during her college career paid off when she was chosen from dozens of applicants for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Italy, one of only three given to that country.
Her teachers and advisors weren’t surprised when she received the award. She had, after all, received high honors on her thesis, a novel about four young people set in Italy during World War II. She had received both the Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Award for English and the Italian prize at Honors Day (she graduated with an English major with a creative writing emphasis and an Italian minor). In addition, she had worked as an associate then as a paid intern at the Kenyon Review, reading submissions for the literary journal, as well as entries for the short-story writing contest. Plus, she had played clarinet in the wind ensemble all four years.
“She’s just an amazing student,” said Katharine Weber, the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing who is Fuller’s honors advisor. “I could teach here for a million years and might not ever have another student like that.”
Dane Heuchemer, professor of music, who wrote one of the recommendation letters for her Fulbright application, concurs. “She never refused a challenge. She has an amazing degree of courage. In light of her disability – if you want to call it that – it is all the more remarkable.”
Fuller lives with a condition called aniridia glaucoma (she was born without irises), leaving her almost completely sightless. “If you’re going to be blind, it’s a great time to be blind,” said Fuller. “Everything can be done electronically.” She uses a BrailleNote, a computer that works in Braille. Emails, Word documents and electronic books all can be converted to Braille or read aloud with a voice synthesizer.
Fuller, one of a few of Kenyon’s Braille-reading visually impaired students, brought her seeing-eye dog, Mopsy, with her to campus to help her physically navigate. The College stepped up to make the scholarly work available to her, too.
“We had to build a capacity to produce Braille,” said Erin Salva, director of student accessibility and support services. The textbooks that weren’t available electronically were converted to Braille, and her professors rethought course plans, getting handouts to her early so they could be translated and reworking in-class exercises. Math and science teachers had to be particularly creative to make the material tactile for Fuller, sometimes resorting to using puffy paint and thermal-sensitive paper.
“We had a lot of really interesting solutions to a lot of different problems,” Fuller said. “One of the things I found with Kenyon, everyone was willing to do everything I needed so I could succeed.”
When Fuller decided to apply for the Fulbright, she discussed how much to include her blindness in her personal statements with Jane Martindell, director of the office of national fellowships and scholarships. “We decided it wouldn’t be a focus, but we could use it to draw out some of her characteristics. It’s part of who she is,” said Martindell. “We let the application speak for itself and hoped the Fulbright judges would get it. And they did.”
“It’s a dream come true for her,” said Weber about the Fulbright, who describes Fuller as “a tireless well of imaginative creative energy.”
Fuller’s thesis is now being considered for publication as a novel. She also was accepted in the Ph.D. program of comparative literature at Dartmouth (which she’ll likely defer until after her year teaching in Italy). Right now, however, her focus is on the Fulbright. “I’m looking forward to really being immersed in the culture and in the society. I’m excited to get the real experience teaching.”