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Record 13 WKU students honored by Fulbright Program

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Thirteen WKU students have been honored by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the most in WKU’s history.

Eight graduating seniors and recent alumni received grants: Brittany Broder of St. Charles, Missouri; Jessica Brumley of Lawrenceburg; Elizabeth Gribbins of Louisville; Jarred Johnson of Somerset; Bailey Mack of Louisville; Tyler Prochazka of Newton, Kansas; Megan Skaggs of Brownsville; and Ryan Vennell of Bowling Green.

Five students were designated alternates and will be promoted if additional funding becomes available: Audrey Brown of Bowling Green, Sarah Haywood of Harlan, Emma Shoaf of Lexington, Mallory Treece of Smiths Grove, and Justin Wellum of Louisville.

“This amazing achievement is a testament to the hard work of our students, their faculty mentors and the Office of Scholar Development staff,” WKU President Gary Ransdell said. “It is also evidence of the opportunities that await our students if they are willing to accept them.”

Brittany Broder

Brittany Broder

Brittany Broder, a fourth-year physics and Arabic major, is the daughter of Bruce and Cindy Broder. She will use her Fulbright to pursue a master’s degree in Advanced Nuclear Waste Management at the École des Mines de Nantes in France. She was awarded a Cherry Presidential Scholarship in 2012 and was a member of WKU’s forensics team. In addition to studying in Morocco for a semester and conducting research in physics at WKU and Stanford University, Broder has served as a Student Government Association senator for Ogden College of Science and Engineering and participated in several student organizations related to Arabic language and physics.

Broder said she looks forward to studying nuclear engineering in one of the world’s leading producers of nuclear power. “I am very excited to further my knowledge of French language and culture through the Fulbright program. I hope to continue similar research in a PhD program once I return to the U.S.,” she said.

Jessica Brumley

Jessica Brumley

Jessica Brumley, a 2015 graduate in English for secondary teachers and English, is the daughter of John and Juliah Brumley. She was a recipient of the Cherry Presidential Scholarship in 2011 and a member of the Chinese Language Flagship Program. Brumley studied abroad in China, Taiwan and Cuba while at WKU and earned a State Department-funded Critical Language Scholarship to fund intensive language study in China. She published work in The Ashen Egg and Kentucky English Bulletin, completed an Honors thesis that included a Mandarin translation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and received the Ogden Foundation Scholar Award upon graduation in December 2015. She will use her Fulbright grant to teach English in Taiwan.

The in-class cross-cultural experience is an ideal fit for Brumley. “The Fulbright provides me with the opportunity to be enriched by another culture as well as advocate for the literary culture unique to the English-speaking world. It really is the epitome of international exchange for those wishing to broaden their worldview,” she said.

Elizabeth Gribbins

Elizabeth Gribbins

Elizabeth Gribbins, a 2015 graduate in French and political science, is the daughter of Denee Walsh and John Gribbins. While at WKU, Gribbins studied in China, Morocco and Jordan, the latter courtesy of a Critical Language Scholarship. She is currently teaching English in Reims, France, through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF).  She was a cellist in the Symphony at WKU, tutored English language learners in Bowling Green and Meknès, Morocco, and was active in campus organizations including the SGA advocating for gender and racial equality. She will use her Fulbright grant to teach English in Morocco.

Gribbins credits her connections with the Department of Modern Languages, the Honors College at WKU and the Office of Scholar Development with helping her carve out a path toward international engagement. “Little did I know when I started at WKU four years ago that being a Hilltopper would take me so far—both metaphorically and geographically. I’m not sure I would have fallen in love with the Arab world without all the people I met and opportunities I had in college,” she said.

Jarred Johnson

Jarred Johnson

Jarred Johnson, a fourth-year English and German major, is the son of Jackie and Anna Johnson. He has interned with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., tutored English language learners at Cumberland Trace Elementary in Bowling Green, and spent a semester studying language and fine arts in Berlin. He has been recognized multiple times in writing competitions for his poetry and prose, including a scholarship to participate in the Hindman Settlement School Appalachian writer’s workshop. He will use his Fulbright grant to teach English in Germany.

Johnson will be placed in the Saarland, a state on the western border of Germany. “The region’s coal history and current economic transition closely mirror my home in Appalachia,” he said. “My family hosted a German exchange student for nine months in 2010. I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity since then.”

Bailey Mack

Bailey Mack

Bailey Mack, a 2015 graduate in international affairs, Spanish and leadership studies, is the daughter of Tom and Catherine Mack. While a student in WKU’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, Mack studied and interned abroad for a combined 18 months in China, Taiwan and Peru. She was a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a recipient of the Pearson Prize for Higher Education, a Critical Language Scholar, a member of Omega Phi Alpha, and a member of the Vette City Roller Derby team. She is currently a member of Alltech’s Corporate Career Development Program and will use her Fulbright grant to teach English in Malaysia.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is one of many opportunities Mack has pursued in the last few years as she has refined her career goals. “Receiving a Fulbright on the third application showed me the importance of not giving up and listening to your advisors when they tell you that applications have their uses beyond building character,” she said.

Tyler Prochazka

Tyler Prochazka

Tyler Prochazka, a fifth-year international affairs, Asian religions & cultures, and economics major, is the son of Doug Prochazka. He was awarded a Fulbright to pursue a master’s degree at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. Prochazka was a member of the WKU forensics team as well as the Chinese Language Flagship Program. While at WKU, he earned a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a Critical Language Scholarship, and a Boren Scholarship to fund language study in China. He was founder and president of WKU’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty and an executive member of WKU’s chapter of Amnesty International.

Prochazka plans to study income inequality and conduct a feasibility study of universal basic income at NCCU. “I applied for a Fulbright because I wanted an opportunity to deepen my understanding of East Asia. The International Master’s in Asia-Pacific Studies program that I will complete almost seems like it was designed just for me,” he said.

Megan Skaggs

Megan Skaggs

Megan Skaggs, a fourth-year English and international affairs major, is the daughter of Allen and Laura Skaggs. While at WKU, she worked at a law firm in town writing case briefs, held a foreign affairs internship with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Washington, D.C., and did legislative research in U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie’s Bowling Green office. She has been active across campus in the Student Government Association, Bridges International Ministry and International Justice Mission, and as an HonorsTopper. In addition to several awards for her achievements in international affairs and English, she was named a Truman Scholarship Finalist in 2015.

Skaggs credits a 2014 internship with Casa Shalom Orphanage in Guatemala with confirming her passion for helping children in developing countries obtain an education. “My collegiate career has been a bit of a whirlwind,” she said. “As I look back on the past four years, I can hardly imagine going anywhere else but WKU. Because of the resources I have had on the Hill, I will not only spend a year in Guatemala through Fulbright, but also prepare for a career centered on education and international development.”

Ryan Vennell

Ryan Vennell

Ryan Vennell, a 2014 graduate in broadcasting, is the son of Kenneth and Roxanne Vennell. He was awarded a Fulbright to study for a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking at Royal Holloway University of London. In addition to serving as a Spirit Master at WKU, Vennell studied abroad in the United Kingdom, Cuba and Costa Rica. He has been a freelance live sports camera operator and producer for Fox, ESPN and CBS as well as WKU-PBS since he was an undergraduate. He received the Scholar of the College award (Potter College of Arts & Letters) upon graduation in 2014.

Studying at Royal Holloway will provide Vennell with the opportunity to transition to a career producing and directing sports documentaries. He plans to produce a film that examines fandom among supporters of British Championship League soccer.

WKU has five alternates for Fulbright awards:

  • Audrey Brown is an alternate for the Fulbright grant to University of Bristol (United Kingdom), where she applied to pursue a master’s degree in molecular neuroscience. She is a fourth-year student in biology and chemistry.
  • Sarah Haywood is an alternate for the Fulbright grant to University of Leicester (United Kingdom), where she applied to pursue a master’s degree in museum studies. She is a 2015 graduate in English and history.
  • Emma Shoaf is an alternate for the Fulbright Binational Internship to Mexico. She is a fourth-year student in international affairs and Spanish.
  • Mallory Treece is an alternate for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Germany. She is a 2015 graduate in political science.
  • Justin Wellum is an alternate for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia. He is a 2014 graduate in biochemistry and leadership studies.

All 13 recipients and alternates are current students or graduates of the Honors College at WKU.

WKU’s applicants work closely with their faculty mentors and the Office of Scholar Development throughout the application process. This spring, for the third year and the second year in a row, WKU was named a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Student grants among master’s level institutions in the United States.

“The Fulbright Program focuses on the power of ideas—and particularly the free exchange of ideas—to build a more peaceful world,” said WKU Provost David Lee. “We are particularly proud that so many of our students are chosen for this remarkable opportunity.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. More than 1,800 graduating seniors and recent alumni are selected from a pool of more than 10,000 applicants on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as leadership potential in their fields to pursue projects in more than 160 countries worldwide.

About the Office of Scholar Development: The OSD works with students and their mentors to build research and creative agendas, helps students identify appropriate national and international scholarship opportunities, and provides intensive writing support throughout the application process. OSD staff welcome the opportunity to speak with students about nationally competitive scholarships.

Contact: Melinda Grimsley-Smith, (270) 745-5043

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