UNA Pressroom

University Of North Alabama Sees Record Number Of Fulbright Scholarship Applicants

Oct. 30, 2018

Michelle Eubanks, UNA, at media@una.edu, 256.765.4392 or 256.606.2033

By Bryan RachalUniversity Communications FLORENCE, Ala.-The University of North Alabama was relatively unknown in terms of the Fulbright program a mere two years ago. Fast forward to present day, and UNA has posted a record number of applicants to the program. So what changed? Well for one, UNA has already had two Fulbright recipients in that short period: one student and one professor. Mollie Schaefer was the first student in UNA's history to be accepted into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and Dr. Lisa Kirch was a Fulbright Scholar. That obviously helps, as do the faculty recommendations and their commitment to serve on the various committees. However, there's also been another person who has been the catalyst for the increase in interest and applicants, Dr. Matt Price. The increased awareness and push to have more students apply has been a focused effort by Price, who serves as UNA's director of Premiere National and International Awards. According to Price, in the short time that UNA had been involved in promoting the Fulbright program there had been a few students interested, with four semi-finalists and 14 applicants. Until now. This year, the University of North Alabama has received 14applications from current students and alumni for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program 2019-2020 competition. "When more UNA students apply it gives the rest of the campus community the confidence to look into the program," said Price. "What is interesting about this year's applicants is that they are a mixture of current seniors and alumni, which means that those students who have graduated are learning about the program and connecting back to UNA to apply," he said. According to Price, people can apply for a U.S. Student Fulbright Award as long as they do not have a terminal degree in their field, which means UNA alumni are eligible to apply as well. One such person is UNA alumnus Andrew Thigpen '12. Thigpen graduated with a degree in professional writing and currently works for International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). He said he wasn't so much concerned with that fact that he had already graduated, but rather that he felt he graduated too long ago. "However, I hope that some of my real-world experience will only bolster my application," he said. Thigpen said he plans to study food and development at the University of Sussex, with a hope of working for a development think-tank. "The ultimate goal of the Fulbright program for me is to add some quantitative and qualitativeresearch skills to my more liberal arts background," said Thigpen. "This would boost the communicationswork I've been doing for IFDC and help diversify the skills I can offer other international development organizations." Thigpen may feel as if he's not the traditional applicant, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly a traditional Fulbright applicant is. Price said, of course, applicants have to have a strong GPA, but beyond that, they should probably enjoy a good challenge. "Students who like challenges have better success navigating the lengthy application process and also the challenges of the award itself," said Price. "A Fulbright winner has to spend a year abroad, usually in a country they have never been to before. Therefore, they need to be able to succeed in unstructured environments and interact with a diverse range of people, and overcome many obstacles. Additionally, Fulbright applicants need to think of themselves as global citizens and as cultural ambassadors of the United States for a year," he said. Once such applicant who is adept at overcoming obstacles is Walker Mattox. Mattox is a senior majoring in mathematics, and she's also a student-athlete on UNA's Cross Country team. "There were times that it got a little difficult, but overall, it really was not too bad," said Mattox, referring to the application process. "Dr. Price got me started in May, so the majority of my work was done when I had more free time," she said. Mattox said even when it was stressful, Price never had her doing too much at once. And for Mattox, the idea of spreading knowledge was too much to pass up! "I have always wanted to gain experience living in another culture," she said. "I tutor math students for UNA as well as private tutoring. I am also a Calculus Fellow for UNA. I genuinely find so much joy in helping students make a connection that they did not make previously. To be able to combine my eagerness to travel and teach would make for one of the best experiences of my life. If I could even change one student's outlook on the importance of education, it would be worth it," said Mattox. Each applicant is as different as their projects, which stretch across the globe-from rural Malaysia, to Spain, the Slovak Republic, and the United Kingdom-and offers a vision of the University of North Alabama that is committed to global cultural exchange. Below are the applicants with their majors, the country they applied to, and the assignment. Walker Mattox(2019-Math)-Malaysia/English Teaching Assistantship Zachary Stutts(2018-History)-United Kingdom-M.A. in History from the University of Strathclyde Alexandria Buttgereit(2018-Foreign Languages)-Brazil/English Teaching Assistantship Julie Heflin(2018-English)-South Korea/English Teaching Assistantship Emily Farris(2019-Spanish and Communication) Spain/English Teaching Assistantship Peyton Byrd(2019-Art) Czech Republic/English Teaching Assistantship Alexander Gould(2018-Finance) Spain-M.A. Global and International Studies at University of Salamanca Molly Ratliff(2019-Communications) Malaysia/English Teaching Assistantship Abigail Winkler(2018-Marine Biology) Brazil/English Teaching Assistantship Barbara "Jimmie" Waites(2019-Marketing) Taiwan/English Teaching Assistantship Chloe Allen(2018-Communications) Ireland/M.A. in Creative Writing from University College Cork Lauren Bacon(2019-English) Slovak Republic/English Teaching Assistantship Bradford Carter(2018-Computer Information Systems) Taiwan/English Teaching Assistantship Andrew Thigpen(2012-English) United Kingdom/M.A. in Food and Development at the University of Sussex A total of 27 UNA students and alumni, including this year's submissions, have applied for Fulbright grants over the past three years. Price said he is not too surprised. "Our students are amazing: they lead campus organizations, undertake study abroad opportunities, conduct research, and they do all of this while sometimes working 30 hours a week to pay for school," said Price. "They lead profound lives, even if they don't recognize it at first, and our institution takes their energy and helps them to achieve their goals. The story of UNA's students is rich and diverse, and we are lucky that more and more of our students are taking up the challenge to tell that story to a national and international audience." For more information on Premier and International Awards:https://www.una.edu/artsandsciences/premier-awards/index.html UNIVERSITY OF NORTH ALABAMA The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programsthrough the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business,Education and Human Sciences, and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions.Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. UNA Athletics, a renownedcollegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I's ASUN and Big South Conferences.The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age or national origin. https://www.una.edu/