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Two WTAMU Students Applying for Chance at Fulbright Awards

Oct. 22, 2013

COPY BY: Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

Two WTAMU Students Applying for Chance at Fulbright Awards

CANYON, Texas—Two West Texas A&M University students have completed applications for a chance to travel all over the world representing the United States, teaching English, pursuing a graduate degree or conducting research through a Fulbright Student Grant award. The applications are for the 2014-2015 competition. 

Cecilia “Ceci” Hernandez, a senior social work major, is applying for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award in Rwanda. The African country experienced genocide in 1994 and has had active reconciliation work in the years since. Hernandez has travelled to Rwanda in the past and looks forward to the prospect of returning to teach English in a university setting. She also plans to connect with houseworkers, young people who work as domestic help in households and often work long hours with little time away from the house. She wants to make relationships with these workers and give them an opportunity to learn English.  At WTAMU, Hernandez is a peer leader in the FYE program, vice president of SAGE and a G-force mentor, among other activities. She also has taught English to refugees in Amarillo and has conducted research in the refugee population for two summers.

Hernandez first heard about the Fulbright Award from a presentation to McNair Scholars. A friend mentioned applying for the award, and she decided to explore the possibility and find out where Fulbright could take her.

Krysta Wolken is a graduate student in the nurse practitioner program at WTAMU. She has been a nurse for the last 10 years and served in the Navy prior to her nursing career.  Wolken is applying to conduct research in Australia on the Fulbright Research Award. Her research topic is suicide treatment and prevention at the primary-care level. She has gained affiliation with the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention through Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She would will observe best-practices related to suicide prevention and treatment of suicidal patients at the Life Promotion Clinic in Brisbane. Ideally, those best-practices can be implemented here so local caregivers can better treat suicidal patients in the Texas Panhandle. If Wolken wins the Fulbright Award, she will travel to Australia with her husband and two children.

A faculty member was asked to think of “a student that just has an extra spark,” and Wolken came to mind. The faculty member then advised Wolken to investigate the Fulbright program. 

Both applicants have focused on their Fulbright applications for months, working closely with Laura Seals in the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. The road to a Fulbright award requires research, personal introspection and numerous revisions. Both participants in this year’s competition say the process of applying has been beneficial. They have clarified their goals, written extensive personal and professional statements and have received the feedback and encouragement of faculty committees. 

“I am proud of these students for pursuing this goal,” Dr. Wade Shaffer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said. “Going abroad on a Fulbright award is a great experience and invaluable to a person’s education and future career. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to complete a Fulbright application, and I am confident that our applicants have put their best foot forward. These applicants are exceptional representatives of the University.”

Faculty that took part in the interview committees for this year’s Fulbright applicants include Dr. Lal Almas, Dr. Robert Hansen, Dr. Sang Hwang, Dr. Enyonam Osei-Hwere , Dr. Bonnie Pendleton, Dr. Angela Phillips, Dr. Duane Rosa and Dr. David Willard. They are joined by many other Fulbright supporters on campus in both the faculty and administration.

For more than 65 years, the federal government-sponsored Fulbright U.S. Student Program has provided future American leaders with an unparalleled opportunity to study, conduct research and teach in other countries. Fulbright grants aim to increase mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchange while serving as a catalyst for long-term leadership development. 

Some students hear about the Fulbright as a freshman, and an idea of going abroad after graduation sticks with them. Some students hear their professors talk about their own experience abroad as a faculty member. Some students hear Seals say, “Come see me to talk about nationally competitive scholarships.” No matter how a student hears about it, anyone interested in learning more about a Fulbright award can email Seals in the Nationally Competitive Scholarships office at lseals@wtamu.edu.


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