The University of Delaware was front and center at a Paris meeting of Fulbright Fellows, with alumna Jill Biden the featured speaker and UD student Isabelle Havet in attendance.

Blue Hens in France

UD Fulbright student meets alumna Jill Biden at conference

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8:55 a.m., Feb. 13, 2013--When University of Delaware graduate student Isabelle Havet, who is conducting research in France this academic year through a U.S. Student Fulbright Award, attended a meeting of Fulbright Fellows last week, she was told that a surprise guest would speak to the group.

The speaker turned out to be Jill Biden, who earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees at UD and is the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, also a University graduate. 

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Havet, a doctoral student in the Department of Art History, said the midyear meeting took place at the George Marshall Center in Paris. Biden had read the biographies of the fellows, Havet said, and specifically asked to meet her, in addition to mentioning her in her welcome speech to the group.

Biden's talk focused on teaching — she has been an educator for more than 30 years and continues to teach community college English classes — and on support for educational exchange programs, Havet said. 

When Biden met with the fellows later, she and Havet spoke about UD, the School of Education (where Biden earned her doctorate) and the art history department.

"It was a very brief encounter," Havet wrote in an email. "But that morning, the U.S. Embassy, former Hôtel de Talleyrand and European headquarters of the Marshall Plan, was replete with thoughts of UD!"

Havet is conducting research at the Université de Lille for her dissertation, which examines how subterranean space was understood, imagined and consumed through various media during the second half of the 19th century in France. Catacombs, sewers, caves, mines, the deep sea and the newly launched metro system all took on rich visual and textual forms in Second Empire and Third Republic France. Her adviser is Nina Kallmyer, professor of art history.

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."

The program awards about 7,500 new grants annually and operates in 155 countries. It chooses participants for their academic merit and leadership potential.

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