LEXINGTON, Ky.–Six current and former Transylvania University students have won prestigious Fulbright awards for 2009-2010. The three seniors and three alumni were selected to study and teach abroad through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships program, one of two international exchange opportunities sponsored each year by the Fulbright Program and the U.S. Department of State.
The Fulbright Program, the largest of its kind in the United States, was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress to foster mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. It is designed to give recent college graduates opportunities for personal and career development, as well as international experience.
William F. Pollard, Transylvania vice president and dean of the college, said having six current and former students awarded the grants in a single year is “extraordinary for a small liberal arts college.”
“The academic program at Transylvania encourages study abroad programs, with approximately 70 percent of our graduating seniors having studied abroad at least once during their four years. These six Fulbright Scholars will build upon their earlier study abroad experiences as they live and work in different countries representing the United States and the Commonwealth with the knowledge, values and skills they developed at Transylvania,” Pollard said.
Transylvania’s director of study abroad and special programs, Kathy Simon, agreed, saying the Fulbright success “confirms our commitment to international education.”
The Transylvania seniors awarded Fulbright grants are Andrew Owen, of Owensboro, Katie Thornton, of Midway, and Rachael Williams, of Murray.
Andrew Owen, a Spanish and international affairs double major, will spend nine months in Argentina, a country he became familiar with during a semester of study. In addition to assisting students in a university setting, Owen also plans to establish an extracurricular community theater program.
“My goal is to further the aim of the Fulbright Program to increase mutual understanding. What better way to increase mutual understanding than to have people stand in somebody else’s shoes … on stage,” he said.
Katie Thornton, an economics and philosophy double major, has been assigned a 10-month stay in Malaysia, where she will help teach English to young people and start an after-school sports club. In addition, she will use her economics background to work with a local group that lends to small businesses, many of which are headed by women. All three projects will help her find “new ways of connecting with people,” she said.
Rachael Williams will live and work in Korea for 10 months. She plans to expand English learning opportunities to her students by starting a book club. The psychology and educational studies double major has a “passion” for traveling and has traveled extensively, mostly throughout Europe. She asked to be assigned Korea to “experience the other side of the world.”
The three alumni awarded Fulbright ETAs are Stefanie Brock, Lauren Covert and Erik Weber.
Brock, a 2008 graduate and biology and Spanish double major from LaGrange, has been assigned to Colombia for 10 months. She will be able to use her Spanish-speaking skills and her experience working with Hispanics to help teach students the English language. In addition, she plans to increase their knowledge of environmental issues.
“Colombia has a dire need of environmental education and responsibility,” she said. “I hope to make a positive impact on the community in which I am serving by promoting environmental responsibility and tactics to create one’s own garden.”
Covert, a 2008 graduate, and Weber, a 2007 graduate, both from Lexington, have both been assigned to Austria. Both are also already familiar with the German language spoken there. Weber teaches German to high school students through Kentucky Educational Television, and Covert is currently on her third extended stay in Germany, as an intern for the German parliament. Covert graduated with a double major in German and business administration and a minor in music. Weber was a mathematics and political science double major.
“Teaching will be a new challenge for me, and I’m looking forward to perfecting my own language skills as well,” Covert said.