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Four K-State students win Fulbright awards, plan for future study abroad trips

Three 2013 K-State graduates have received Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship awards and one current undergraduate won admission into the Fulbright Summer Institute. This year’s winners include Stephanie Keith, who graduated in May with degrees in anthropology and international studies; Sam Kenney, May graduate in economics and international studies; and Tucker Wilson, who graduated in May with degrees in English and Spanish. Robert Breeden, junior in biology and pre-medicine, will attend the Fulbright Summer Institute.

The Fulbright Scholar Program allows recent graduates to
study abroad for a year in one of 135 different countries with a
fully-funded grant. Scholars work as English
Teaching Assistants in addition to conducting their own research.

“The Fulbright is a large state department program that’s meant to create intellectual exchange through people from the United States and people from other countries,” said Jim Hohenbary, assistant dean for Nationally Competitive Scholarships. Hohenbary acts as the Fulbright Scholar Program adviser for K-State and worked with all four students throughout the application process.

The new scholars said family and peer response to winning the award has been positive, ranging from encouraging to relief that the recipients will be in a safe environment. Keith will be traveling to Germany to teach English to high school students as well as work on a community development project to assist Turkish immigrants in Germany, a change in plans that was welcomed by her family.

“I was also accepted into the Peace Corps and was supposed to be in Benin, Africa,” Keith said. “So they were a little happier I would be going to Germany in place of that.

Living in a non-English-speaking country is a challenge to some Fulbright Scholars. The award itself does not require fluency in the native language of the host country, although some experience with foreign language is preferred.

“I do worry my language skills will be worse than I want, but I know that I’ll be getting better as I go,” Keith said. “The Fulbright is giving me an opportunity to live abroad and learn about how strong I am in unusual and sometimes uncomfortable situations.”

The Fulbright stands as one of the nation’s most recognized and competitive scholarships. Named for Sen. J. William Fulbright, the program began in 1946 as an effort to create international exchange and understanding in the wake of World War II. Each year, more than 1,700 students of all academic disciplines from across the U.S. receive Fulbright scholarships.

Kenney will teach English in Brazil. Before receiving the Fulbright, Kenney was accepted into the K-State Department of Economics’ master’s program and will defer for a year in order to complete his Fulbright Scholar Program. He plans to base his personal research project on his interest in microfinance, which he hopes will inform his graduate studies at K-State.

“What I am looking forward to, I’d say first and foremost, is getting to know and experience a different culture,” Kenney said. “I’m always surprised any time I’ve been outside of my initial world of the United States. I’ve had extremely good experiences meeting different people and learning different things”

Wilson will teach in Argentina and conduct his research on community literacy programs. Wilson hopes the experience will assist in his long-term goal of starting his own literacy organization in the U.S.

“This is one of the biggest achievements of my life, and I am really excited to represent K-State in the manner that I get to,” Wilson said.

Breeden, junior in biology and pre-medicine, will attend a three-week program at King’s College in London as part of the Fulbright Summer Institute, a program that focuses specifically on cultural exchange between the U.S. and the United Kingdom for current undergraduates. Breeden applied to the program because he wanted to gain international experience, but his academic schedule did not permit a full semester abroad.

“I
think it’s exciting having this experience and getting to see
London, maybe not a radically different side of the world, but a very different
and unique experience,” Breeden said. “I think I’ll be able to sort of tailor it to my next two
years. I’ll be able to use the experience that I have and maybe be able to understand a little bit better
how the world works.”

All four recipients emphasized that the application process was a group effort, both with their departments and with Hohenbary. Each recipient credited the relationships they formed with professors as a major contribution to the success of their application. In turn, the students who go on Fulbright-funded trips can use those experiences to benefit K-State.

“If they’re graduate students and they win Fulbrights and they’re able to come back here and bring that experience into their research and into their classrooms, it contributes to their growth as scholars and to our research productivity,” Hohenbary said.

If the Fulbright recipients do not return to K-State, their work in the program still has a positive effect on the university. Hohenbary said having multiple winners heightens K-State’s profile and makes the university more attractive to incoming students looking for international experience.

“It’s K-State students going out and meeting people across the globe,” Hohenbary said. “You never know in the short term what could occur, what benefits those exchanges might have, which is consistent with the philosophy of the Fulbright.”


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