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Mizzou adds to impressive Fulbright record

Posted on June 17, 2011 by Josh Murray

Six University of Missouri students will have the opportunity to study, teach and research in different areas around the globe after being awarded the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright Scholarships for 2011-12. These six individuals add to MU’s success with the prestigious award.

Mizzou had a record 24 applicants for the Fulbright this year, with 10 having their application recommended and forwarded to the host country, making them finalists. The 42% of applicants selected as finalists nearly doubled the percentage from 2010-11.

Students applying for a Fulbright Scholarship have two paths they can pursue. Three students from Missouri were finalists for full research grants, in which students design their own project and work with professionals in that field within the host country to execute the proposed research.

Andrea Miller, a native of Bonnots Mill, Mo., was selected to receive the grant and will conduct research on brown bears in Norway.

“Winning a Fulbright grant is a great honor and I’m excited to represent the United States in Norway,” says Miller, who earned a bachelor of science in fisheries and wildlife from MU in May 2005 and picked up her doctorate in veterinary medicine in May 2009. “Wildlife veterinary medicine has been a lifelong dream that I look forward to realizing with this research.”

Another option is to apply for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), in which students teach English at elementary or secondary schools or universities abroad. Teaching assistants, together with the principal teachers, conduct all or part of a class, typically for conversation practice. The assignment may vary, depending on a school’s needs and the assistant’s abilities.

Ayla Kremen is one of three students MU who will be serving as ETAs in Germany.

“I can’t wait to spend the next year in Germany,” says Kreme, who majored in journalism and German at Mizzou. “It is such an honor and I can’t wait to meet the students and start teaching.”

Calley Bilgram and Alex Stojeba are also heading to Germany, along with Kremen, to work as teaching assistants.

“Fulbright is an amazing honor that will allow me the opportunity to live in a new environment, transfer cultural and linguistic knowledge, and prepare me for a life of learning, leadership and global awareness,” says Bilgram, who is originally from Chesterfield, Mo. and graduated from Mizzou with a degree in German and business management.

Stojeba was also a double major, earning degrees in political science and German from Mizzou.

Carolina Escalera is already familiar with the country to which she will be traveling. Selected for a teaching assistantship in Brazil, Escalera has already spent time studying in that area, but will now take on the role of an ETA. She graduated from Mizzou in 2008 with a degree in journalism and a minor in Latin-American studies.

Applying and interviewing for a Fulbright is a demanding process, as Columbia, Mo., native Noah Myers found out.

“Getting a Fulbright required a lot of reflection and paperwork,” says Myers, who found guidance and advice on the process from the MU Fellowships Office and other faculty mentors. Myers will be headed to the country of Colombia for his teaching assistantship.

“These students are great representatives of the University of Missouri,” MU Fellowships Coordinator Vicky Wilson says. “They have put a lot of time and energy into this process and are very deserving.”

The support from the Fellowships Office, along with faculty mentors across campus, has been vital as Mizzou continues to see significant gains in its Fulbright recipients. In recent years, the number of applicants and award honorees has continued to grow.

“Success is contagious,” Wilson says. “As we see an increasing number of our students receive these honors, our applicant pool continues to grow.”

Of the five ETA winners, three were German majors while at the University of Missouri.

“The German faculty is very proud of how our majors did in the ETA competition and other fellowship competitions,” says Stefani Engelstein, associate professor of German at MU. “We have great students and we do a lot of individual mentoring. Kristin Kopp in particular worked hard to match students with prestigious fellowships that reflected their interests.”

With the application and interview process behind them, the Fulbright grantees can look forward to the experiences ahead.

“I am heading to Germany with an open mind and an open heart,” Bilgram says. “I look forward to the challenges and experiences that await me.”

Those experiences include the opportunity to work and live in different cultures. In the end, the ETAs hope to make it a positive experience for themselves and the students they will be teaching.

“Earning a Fulbright will require me to do real work alongside Colombians to make positive change,” Myers says.

It’s just another example of Mizzou students making a difference.

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