A record six Auburn graduates awarded the Fulbright Scholarship

Published: May 29, 2018
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Six Auburn University graduates will serve as English Teaching Assistants in five countries around the world as awardees of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. This is the first time in the history of the university that six Auburn students have received Fulbright Scholarships from the celebrated educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

"Auburn’s unprecedented number of Fulbright Scholars certainly demonstrates the quality of our students, faculty and academic programs,” said Bill Hardgrave, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I am extremely proud of these six recent graduates who have worked so diligently and will represent our institution as they advance their research and studies abroad.”

Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, or ETAs, spend much of their time in classrooms abroad supporting the host country’s English language instruction. Program participants also contribute to the numerous learning benefits of hosting a native speaker in the classroom.

“As the Fulbright program is the Department of State’s flagship exchange program, we are proud that our young alumni will become ambassadors for the United States and for Auburn University,” said Andy Gillespie, assistant provost for international programs.

Award recipient Sarah Pitts, from Birmingham, is a 2017 Honors College graduate in the College of Liberal Arts earning a double bachelor's degree in English literature and Spanish with a minor in political science. She will spend her Fulbright year in Colombia. A finalist for both the Truman and Rhodes Scholarships, Pitts’ other leadership and service achievements include serving as an active member of Auburn’s chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger; as one of a small handful of students who actively participate in the “Blessings in a Backpack” school nutrition program; as a member of the International Buddy program; and as a volunteer peer-mentor with the Office of Accessibility.

“I believe the classroom must necessarily be a space where students feel comfortable to try and to risk failing, and this is especially true with language learning,” Pitts said. “As a Fulbright ETA in Colombia I hope to create a classroom in which trying is celebrated above succeeding so that my students will gain the confidence in their language skills that will allow them to speak and write, without the stress of aiming for perfection.”

Award recipient Alyssa Patterson, from Mobile, is a 2018 graduate in the College of Education earning a bachelor's degree in exercise science and a minor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies. Patterson will serve as a Fulbright ETA in Taiwan. While at Auburn, Patterson participated in a number of leadership activities to include serving as a student recruiter with the Office of Admissions and in a variety of roles with the Black Student Union. These included serving as executive vice-president, chief of staff and publicist for the organization. She also is a certified United States Gymnastics Association instructor and for the past three years has taught adaptive gymnastics.

“While I enjoyed the academic aspect of college life, student leadership opportunities unveiled a new world of possibilities that I would not have immersed myself in otherwise,” said Patterson. “Through the Office of Student Involvement, my participation in the Black Student Union afforded me countless, unparalleled experiences that helped me to grow personally and confidently and it is this confidence I will take with me to Taiwan in the coming year. In addition to teaching English in Taiwan, I aspire to learn about the Taiwanese health system and complete a global health service project in adaptive gymnastics.”

A native of Huntsville, award recipient Kayla Frey is a spring 2018 graduate in the College of Sciences and Mathematics earning a bachelor's degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies. She will serve as a Fulbright ETA in Poland. While at Auburn, Frey served as a general chemistry learning assistant, a histology undergraduate teaching assistant and as a world history supplemental instruction leader. In addition, she was an undergraduate research fellow and a Project Uplift mentor.

“It is my hope that as a Fulbright Scholar in Poland I will be able to develop the cultural competency necessary for a successful career in international healthcare,” said Frey. “My three years of teaching experience as a peer instructor in the College of Science and Mathematics will be invaluable during this experience as the program specifically sought applicants who were STEM based and who had teaching experience at the university level.”

Award recipient Hayley Carter, from Mobile, is a 2018 graduate in the College of Human Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in global studies and a minor in business. Carter will spend next year as a Fulbright ETA in Honduras. She is no stranger to the country, having traveled to Honduras on three prior occasions where she served on mission teams.

“Honduras has been a very special place for me since I first visited in 2013 and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live and teach full time,” Carter said. “My years in the global studies program at Auburn have undoubtedly been my greatest preparation to live in Honduras. Being surrounded by a group of such passionate, driven people for the last two-and-a-half years has inspired me to work as hard as I can so that I may be able to make a difference in the world.”

Award recipient Katie Kirk is a native of Little Texas, Alabama, and is a spring 2018 graduate in the College of Liberal Arts earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and minors in German and English. Kirk will spend her Fulbright ETA in Germany. Throughout her four years on campus, Kirk immersed herself in the life of the philosophy department, being mentored by faculty and upperclassmen and eventually becoming president of the Philosophy Club and intern for the Philosophy and Religion Workshop. In addition, she served as a lead writing consultant in the Miller Writing Center.

“My time in philosophy deepened a love of languages and linguistics, and that is why I chose to minor in English and German to further develop those skills,” said Kirk. “As a Fulbright ETA, I plan to organize a young adult literature reading group as a way to further connect to my German language students and share my interest on topics of political and theological importance for public audiences.”

Award recipient Amanda Darnell, from Huntsville, is a spring 2018 College of Liberal Arts graduate earning dual bachelor’s degrees in German and Spanish, with electives in linguistics and three additional languages. Darnell will spend her Fulbright ETA in Germany. While at Auburn, Darnell served in a variety of positions which actively promoted the learning of foreign languages on campus, serving as president of the German Club, co-president of the German Honor Society, co-president of Spanish Club and research assistant to faculty in the German Department. In addition, she taught English in Seville, Spain, during a study abroad experience, and she served as a literacy coach in Auburn City Schools.

“Teaching English in Germany is an opportunity to touch the lives of young individuals in both their native tongue and my own, and this passion I intend to pursue for years to come,” said Darnell. “After having studied five languages at Auburn and tutored in three, I realized that teaching English is what I can do best in cultivating a mutual understanding and sharing a sincere and approachable representation of American life.”

Fulbright applicants are assisted in the application process by Paul Harris, associate director of the Honors College.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with our scholars throughout the lengthy application process,” said Harris. “They are inquisitive and engaging with a range of interests and activities that go well beyond their stellar classroom performance. They will gain so much from their year abroad and they will represent themselves, Auburn University and the United States with distinction.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For additional information about the Fulbright Scholarship contact Paul Harris in the Honors College at paul.harris@auburn.edu.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.