Two Auburn University students awarded Fulbright Scholarships

Published: May 13, 2020
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Two Auburn University students have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships for the 2020-21 school year as part of the celebrated educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

Natalie Hester and Kayleigh Chalkowski will continue their studies in Germany and Madagascar, respectively. In addition, four Auburn students have been designated as alternates: Natalie Conboy, Ana Osowski, Weston Sims and Isabel Perry await news from Spain, Trinidad, Germany and Taiwan, respectively, for their possible awards.

“Natalie [Hester] and Kayleigh bring their community-based mindset and global perspective to this extraordinary opportunity,” said Tiffany Sippial, director of the Honors College. “As international representatives for Auburn University, we wish them great success during their fellowship studies.”

Hester, of Greenville, Alabama, graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in both media studies and German and a minor in military science. A College of Liberal Arts graduate, Hester received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, or ETA, award to Germany. While on campus at Auburn, Hester was heavily involved in a range of interests, from Army ROTC to Eagle Eye TV to the German National Honor Society.

According to Hester, she is “most excited to learn from another culture, grow [her] intercultural skills and awareness, and to have a positive impact on a local community.”

Fulbright 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.

Chalkowski, of East Berne, New York, is working toward her doctorate in wildlife science in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. A graduate of Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, Chalkowski received a Fulbright Study/Research award to Madagascar.

“Overall, I feel like my goals as a scientist have a real opportunity here to come to fruition,” Chalkowski said. “That is, to conduct field research that will improve the health of endangered, threatened species and at-risk human populations.”

Fulbright Study/Research award winners design their own projects and will typically work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education.

“I was ecstatic to learn of our selected students,” said Alex Sauer, scholarship and research coordinator for the Honors College. “These young women are accomplished scholars who designed amazing projects and had awe-inspiring stories to tell. It was a pleasure to work with them, and I am so excited to hear about their Fulbright experiences. I am so proud of what they have achieved here, and I know this award will help them to reach their ultimate career goals.”

Although not selected outright, the four Auburn alternates for the Fulbright Scholarship Program await news on their possible selection and say the application process is incredibly beneficial, as it provides professional connections, communication skills and experience.

Weston Sims, an alternate for a Fulbright ETA to Germany, said, “I feel it's important to approach the Fulbright application with hope for getting the award, but also a healthy sense of what you can get out of the process, even if it doesn't work out that way. It's an excellent opportunity for self-reflection; to answer the prompts well means to locate yourself not only in the past and present as you describe where you've been and are as a student, but in the future as well, as you figure out how living abroad might form you.”

The Fulbright Scholarship Program is a flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

More information about the Fulbright Scholarship Program and the application process is available by contacting Alex Sauer, Honor’s College coordinator for scholarship and research, at