Three members of the Class of 2016 awarded Fulbright Scholarships to study and teach internationally
Three recent West Virginia University graduates have found the sure-fire way to avoid moving back in with mom and dad after Commencement. As recipients of 2016 Fulbright Scholarships, they will travel abroad in the coming months to teach English and explore other languages and cultures in service of the Fulbright Program’s goal of addressing critical global challenges.
This year’s Fulbright Scholars from WVU are:
• Savanah Alberts, an Honors College student and a double major in English and World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics with a concentration in French from Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
• Katelyn Bustin, a Chemistry major and Honors College student from Lititz, Pennsylvania
• Nicole Young, a Sport and Exercise Psychology major and a McNair Scholar from New Castle, Pennsylvania
They join the ranks of the university’s 43 previous Fulbright Scholars and make 2016 the fifth year in a row in which WVU has had at least three students awarded these prestigious national scholarships.
“The Fulbright Awards offer a multitude of ways for students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply in a global context from rural classrooms to world-class labs,” said Ryan Claycomb, associate dean of the Honors College and the faculty sponsor of the Fulbright scholarship process on campus. “Our three Fulbright scholars this year illustrate how widely their WVU educations – from the humanities to the natural sciences—prepare them to engage with new cultural environments, and they show the rest of our students just how far Mountaineers can go.”
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Established in 1946 to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, the program has since made more than 360,000 awards. Recipients address issues ranging from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world.
“These three women will give their lucky students excellent instruction in English language and American culture,” said Amy Cyphert, director of the ASPIRE Office. “At the same time, their students will teach them about Senegal, Poland, and Malaysia. These lessons will stay with them as they return and fulfill Fulbright’s goal of promoting mutual understanding.”
Each scholar will spend about nine months in their destination country, beginning this fall.
Savanah Alberts, who will teach English in Senegal, says that one of the things she’s most excited about is putting her WVU education to work in the field. As the lab manager for the West Virginia Dialect Project directed by English professor Kirk Hazen, Alberts has a keen sense of “the importance of dialect awareness and language variation, both of which will be important in working with learners of various backgrounds and abilities.” Similarly, Alberts said, “WVU’s French department helped shape my interest in francophone Africa, after I took several courses on French linguistics and African women writers. The linguistic competence I’ve gained from my professors there will be invaluable in Senegal.”
Alberts also looks forward to learning the Senegalese language Wolof and to recording interviews with some of her students, both in preparation for graduate work in linguistics. Explaining the passion for languages that she learned and cultivated at WVU, Alberts said, “Language gives us insight into history, culture, and identity. I’m excited to see how these interact in Senegal.”
Poland-bound Katelyn Bustin also credits her experiences at WVU with preparing her for her Fulbright, specifically by instilling in her “a yearning to contribute to something bigger than myself.”
“I love exchange and the idea of giving and learning,” Bustin said. “This was sparked through doing undergraduate research, being a resident assistant, teaching assistant, and a tutor. I am looking forward to becoming a global citizen.”
In Poland, Bustin will primarily work as an English teaching assistant to students at a medical and research university. She is delighted by this placement because it meshes well with her own long-term goals of pursuing a PhD in organic chemistry and teaching and researching in the field at the college level.
Nicole Young has nothing but praise for the faculty at WVU – and she has done what many successful students do in engaging with faculty across campus. Young describes professors in the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences as “great influences in my success, tough but never unreasonable,” while mentor Krystal Frazier, an assistant professor in the Department of History, supported Young but also “often pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
Having grown – as she puts it – “in ways that I didn’t even know were possible” while at WVU, Young feels prepared for her experience in Malaysia.
“The areas that I may be teaching in are poorer, rural areas so it will be an adjustment,” she said. “I hope to show my students the diversity in culture and life that the United States has and to connect with my students in a way that contributes to their growth as students, as I am sure they will contribute to mine.”
Young also had advice for those who might wish to follow her, Alberts, and Bustin as future Fulbright Scholars: “We are fortunate to have a ton of opportunities to get involved at WVU. Get involved as soon as you can and for as long as you can! I have grown tremendously as a person just by surrounding myself and connecting with leaders on this campus.”
This year, West Virginia University endorsed 27 student applications for Fulbright awards on six continents. Of those, in addition to these three Fulbright scholars, Travis Mersing, an English MFA student in poetry, was also a finalist for a 2016 Fulbright Award. Two other students were named alternates, and another three were semi-finalists. For more information about the program, visit http://eca.state.gov/fulbright. For specific information about applying through the university for a student Fulbright award for next year, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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