Two Fulbright scholars join psychology program

From+left%3A+Anna+Szala+and+Rania+Bellaaj+join+Oakland%27s+Department+of+Psychology+as+part+of+the+Fulbright+scholarship+program%2C+which+offers+grants+to+students+studying+abroad.
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Two Fulbright scholars join psychology program

From left: Anna Szala and Rania Bellaaj join Oakland's Department of Psychology as part of the Fulbright scholarship program, which offers grants to students studying abroad.

From left: Anna Szala and Rania Bellaaj join Oakland's Department of Psychology as part of the Fulbright scholarship program, which offers grants to students studying abroad.

Courtesy of Oakland University

From left: Anna Szala and Rania Bellaaj join Oakland's Department of Psychology as part of the Fulbright scholarship program, which offers grants to students studying abroad.

Courtesy of Oakland University

Courtesy of Oakland University

From left: Anna Szala and Rania Bellaaj join Oakland's Department of Psychology as part of the Fulbright scholarship program, which offers grants to students studying abroad.

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

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The two newest additions to Oakland University’s Department of Psychology are Anna Szala and Rania Bellaaj. They are both part of the Fulbright scholarship program at OU, which provides grants for research projects for students studying abroad, according to the Fulbright website.

Szala is from Toruń, Poland, and was persuaded to apply to OU by a professor at the Polish Academy of Science. She has already received a master’s in psychology from Kazimierz Wielki University and a master’s in biology from the University of Wroclaw in Poland. Now, her next step her in career is to attend OU.

“Oakland University has one of the best world-recognized labs focusing on evolutionary psychology,” Szala said. “I applied here specifically to be a member of that lab.”

With a focus in the evolutionary approach to human behavior, Szala will be trying to understand it. She will be under the supervision of adviser Todd K. Shackelford, a professor of psychology, to help further her research.

“It is definitely a great opportunity for taking the next step into my scientific career,” Szala said. “Working with the professors from OU’s Department of Psychology will allow me to significantly strengthen my knowledge about the subject I’m studying, and therefore make me well-prepared for diving further into academia.”

Her background working as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, the Åbo Akademi University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England will help Szala further her research.

Bellaaj is from Tunisia and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Sciences Techniques of Health in Sfax, Tunisia, with a focus on nonverbal communication. Then, she studied English linguistics, literature and civilization at the University of Arts and Humanities, also in Sfax, with a focus on the mind and process of thinking. The next step in her career was to apply for the Fulbright program at OU.

“It is a long process — I applied to Fulbright two years ago, and then when I was accepted, it took one year to finalize all the tests and paperwork,” Bellaaj said. “It is a very selective scholarship, and I am grateful that I was one of the awardees.”

While collaborating with Szala, Bellaaj’s main focus will be on the personality and organizational part of psychology.

“Studying personality and social psychology is very important because it allows us to better understand human behavior and how it is impacted by different situations,” Bellaaj said. “This field can be implemented anywhere: research/academia, working with organizations to enhance job performance or in the psychology of marketing and working closely with governments to develop public policies”

The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. government and helps create a further understanding between the United States and other foreign countries to help benefit each other. With the program only giving grants to 20 percent of applicants, both Szala and Bellaaj are happy to be two of the recipients.

Both researchers are hoping to gain as much knowledge as they can while attending OU and use it toward their research and future studies.