Five recent Auburn University graduates awarded Fulbright Scholarships

Published: June 25, 2019
Updated: July 11, 2019
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Editor’s note: A sixth Fulbright Scholar, Katie Izenour, was named after this story was published. Congratulations to all the recipients.

Five recent Auburn University graduates have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships to conduct research and serve as English teaching assistants in Poland, India and Germany.

They are Julia Dickenson of Brentwood, Tennessee; Elizabeth Farrar of Lexington, South Carolina; Jacob Helf of Birmingham, Alabama; Jessica “Jessie” Howell of Vestavia Hills, Alabama; and Matt Weist of Huntsville, Alabama.

Their selection brings the total number of Auburn students selected as Fulbright Scholars to 30 since academic year 2008-2009, when the Office of National Prestigious Scholarships was established on campus. 

“The Fulbright offers our students a life-altering experience,” said Andy Gillespie, assistant provost and director of the Office of International Programs. “This international experience will forever change their views of the world and help them to realize how they can make an impact on the world.”    

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. It is funded through an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

“Our students’ selection brings great credit to their respective departments and upon Auburn University,” said Paul Harris, former associate director for the Office of National Prestigious Scholarships and current chair of the Department of Political Science. “I am especially grateful to their faculty mentors for their mentorship and guidance and for writing such strong letters of support. I am also grateful to the campus-wide Fulbright Scholarship interview committee who gave generously of their time to meet with our Fulbright applicants.”

More information about the Fulbright Scholarship at Auburn is available by contacting Alex Sauer,, in the Honors College.

About the Fulbright Scholars:

Julia Dickenson, a Brentwood, Tennessee, native, earned concurrent degrees in biomedical sciences and psychology with a pre-medicine concentration. She will spend the next academic year as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Poland teaching students in STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—at the university level. Her motivation for applying for the Fulbright came about as a result of a study abroad experience in Barcelona, Spain. While a student, Dickenson was involved in a number of extracurricular activities such as serving as president of The Big Event volunteer event her senior year and serving as a resident assistant with the Office of University Housing and Residence Life for three years.

“As an RA, I learned a lot about how to express empathy in tough situations and how to effectively give advice on a number of problems,” Dickenson said. “The experience and practical knowledge of working with my residents various backgrounds have prepared me well for my role as an ETA in Poland and as a future physician. In Poland I hope to bring the spirit of The Big Event to my Polish students, facilitating volunteering projects in the community where I teach throughout my year abroad.” 

Elizabeth Farrar, a Lexington, South Carolina, native, majored in biomedical sciences and minored in German. She was awarded a Fulbright English Assistantship to Germany. As an undergraduate, Farrar was active with Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society, volunteered with Mercy Medical Clinic, mentored with Project Uplift and tutored as a study partner with Auburn’s Office of Academic Support. Farrar was also the recipient of the prestigious RISE, or Research Intern in Science and Engineering, Summer Fellowship sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service where she spent summer 2018 conducting research on the development of African trypanosomes parasites in human skin tissue models at the University of Würzburg. In fall 2020, Farrar plans to attend medical school to become a physician.

Jacob Helf, from Birmingham, Alabama, earned his undergraduate degree in December 2016. He was the graduate marshal of his class in interdisciplinary studies, in which he studied physics, hunger studies and sustainability studies. He studied abroad with the College of Human Sciences in Fiji and New Zealand, where he was able to study sustainability and ecotourism. In addition, he also served as a resident assistant with the Office of University Housing and Residence Life. Helf went on to pursue his master’s degree in science education also from Auburn in December 2018. Helf will spend his Fulbright ETA in Dehradun, India, in the coming academic year.

“I could not be more excited for my experience in India,” Helf said. “It feels as though all of my studies, experiences and connections that I have made at the university have culminated in this opportunity, and I could not be more grateful for those individuals who have helped me pursue this dream. While in Dehradun, I plan to engage with my community in a variety of ways, including learning to cook local Indian dishes and leading after-school clubs for team sports such as soccer, as well as hiking in the beautiful mountains in northwest India.”

Jessica “Jessie” Howell, from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, majored in mathematics and minored in German. She will serve as a Fulbright ETA in Hamburg, Germany. While at Auburn, Howell was a member of several honor societies including Phi Beta Kappa and Delta Phi Alpha. She also was a member of the Women’s Ultimate Club and the Student Association for Mentoring, and volunteered as a coach of a third- to fifth-grade girls’ basketball team. Her favorite experience at Auburn was attending the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures Austria Study Abroad program in Vienna during the summer of 2018.

“After studying in Vienna, I knew I wanted to return to a German-speaking country,” Howell said. “The Fulbright ETA is the perfect opportunity to gain teaching practice, to connect with German students and other community members and to enhance my German language skills. My goal is to be an approachable teaching assistant and to create an accepting environment for my students. I plan to coach a girls’ basketball team at my school, join an ultimate team in the community and tutor my students in math. I cannot wait to start forming invaluable relationships in Germany that will leave an impact on me forever, just as all my Auburn friendships have done.”

Matt Weist, from Huntsville, Alabama, is a 2019 graduate of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in German. He has been selected for a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Germany. While at Auburn, Weist completed four co-op rotations in the aviation industry and worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory. In addition, he was a member of the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society and German Honor Society and served as vice president of the German Club. As the son of a U.S. Army officer, Weist is no stranger to travel, having spent nine years of his childhood overseas and a semester abroad in Reutlingen, Germany. Weist’s future plans are to pursue the joint master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and the University of Stuttgart. 

Auburn Fulbright Scholarship interview committee:

Committee members include Ken Thomas, associate director for student affairs in the Honors College; Kerri Muñoz, assistant professor of Spanish; Aaron Trehub, assistant dean and head of Special Collections and Archives in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library; Kara Newby, operations manager for the Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences; Ralph Kingston, associate professor of history; Korbin Dimmick, coordinator in the Office of International Programs; and Patrick Donnan, former graduate assistant in the Office of National Prestigious Scholarships and a 2014 Marshall Scholar.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 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.