Four members of the Geneseo community were awarded national Fulbright fellowships to go overseas for the 2017-18 academic years. The students will be taking the role of English Teaching Assistants.
The Fulbright program recognized two current seniors, a Geneseo graduate student and an alumna. One current senior is on the waitlist for the fellowship as an alternate.
English and economics double major senior Erik Mebust will be going to Vietnam and mathematics and psychology double major senior Natalie Dubois will be going to Germany. School of Education graduate student Kelli Panara ‘16 will teach in the Netherlands and communication graduate Kate Dunn ‘15 will go to Malaysia. English and Spanish double major senior Kiaya Rose Dilsner-Lopez was additionally chosen as an alternate to be an ETA in Spain.
ETAs will primarily work in classrooms to assist local students in learning English, but the Fulbright recipients are there to serve as cultural ambassadors between their host countries and the United States.
The Fulbright fellowship is a national program that can be quite competitive, according to Director of National Scholarships and Fellowships Michael Mills. Mills believes that so many Geneseo students have been awarded fellowships lately because they fit a lot of the qualifications.
“Geneseo students make great candidates,” he said. “Part of the reason is so many people study abroad here as undergraduates and some are education majors—not all—but a lot of them have research experience or have taught or have good language skills.”
Dubois is not an education major, but she said that she felt the language skills she had would lead to a valuable experience.
“I had taken German in high school, but I also took it here because I wanted it for my language development,” she said. “Professor Klima encouraged me to apply, and I thought it would be really cool to go to Germany.”
Mebust is going to Vietnam for his placement in August and thinks his Fulbright experience will be worthwhile even though he is not an education student.
“I feel like this will be a really good life experience,” he said. “I think I’m going to gain a lot of soft skills that will be really useful for whatever I do. If I decide to do anything in the international arena, it’ll be extremely helpful.”
While Mebust realizes that his official job is to help students learn English, he said that he also accepts his unofficial role as a cultural ambassador.
Panara will be traveling to the Netherlands, where she said she plans to put her education background to work.
“I’m going to be teaching in two different schools,” she said. “They have a little bit of a different system there, so I’ll be working with students ages 12 to 19. I’ll also be helping out with both music and sports.”
Dunn leaves for her placement in Malaysia the latest of the four winners, in January 2018. In the years in between her graduation and placement, Dunn has been educating people about the environment through editorial writing. She said that she hopes to emphasize environmental education during her time in Malaysia.
“I will have an opportunity to develop what are called ‘English Camps,’” she said. “In addition to working with students in the classroom, we’re also encouraged to work with them outside of the classroom and within the community. I’d love to organize maybe a hiking club or a nature exploration English Camp where the kids and I go out and explore all the natural wonders that are available to folks in Malaysia.”
Mills concluded that the greater recognition for Geneseo students by the Fulbright Program was indicative of the strength of this group of applicants.
“We’ve had a very good year with scholarships and fellowships,” he said. “This year it’s clearly reflective of the student body, otherwise there wouldn’t be as many students winning.”