Five Western Students, Alumni Awarded Coveted Fulbright Scholarships

by Jordan Carlson, WWU Office of Communications and Marketing Intern
  • Maria José Palacios Figueroa will graduate next month from WWU and then spend next year on a Fulbright to Brazil, teaching English to students who are studying to become English teachers.
    Maria José Palacios Figueroa will graduate next month from WWU and then spend next year on a Fulbright to Brazil, teaching English to students who are studying to become English teachers. WWU photo/Rhys Logan

Western Washington University graduates and students have received five Fulbright Scholarships for the 2018-19 academic year, making Western one of the top producers of the prestigious award.

“I’ve always believed Western students can compete with the best around the country,” said Tom Moore, director of Western’s Fellowships Office. “Fulbright application readers know what they’re looking for in students.”

The Fulbright program is an international educational exchange sponsored by the U.S. government where students and professors are funded to spend time abroad to teach, research or study. Nearly 8,000 awards are granted annually and more than 300,000 have participated in the program since its inception in 1946.

Western will be represented by Fulbright scholars in three countries: Germany, Brazil and the Czech Republic.

Recipients of the award include Maria José Palacios Figueroa (Issaquah), Erika Bro (Snohomish), Celeste Hufford (Moscow, Idaho), Kimberly Christensen (Arlington) and Cassidy Bartlett (Stanwood).

Palacios Figueroa’s Fulbright will send her to Brazil from February to November 2019 as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA). She said the Brazil program involves working with university students who are studying English to become English teachers — something she’s interested in as a Spanish and Linguistics major studying to be a language educator.

“It’s cool to think about going and essentially working with people who could be my peers,” Palacios Figueroa said. “I get to see how things are done, how to think about language education in a different country and context.”

Palacios Figueroa said she’s fortunate to have people from Western who support her, such as Spanish Department Chair Paqui Paredes and Professor Kirsten Drickey, who she said is her mentor. Her accomplishments led her to being named the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the Spanish program.

Bro will also head to Brazil, though she was awarded a research/study Fulbright award where she will analyze adolescent maternal mental health in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

Bro graduated from Western in 2015 with a degree in Community Health and Spanish. She recently received her Master’s in International Public Health from the University of Sydney. She said with the help of mentors and professors at both WWU and USYD, she was able to craft a strong, evidence-based proposal.

When she returns from her trip, Bro plans to work in the Seattle area and then move to Latin America to continue public-health work.

Hufford was awarded her Fulbright to be an ETA in Germany where she will stay for one academic year. Her focus will be assisting elementary and secondary German students with language acquisition as well as teaching small-group and whole-class lessons about the U.S. and American culture.

Hufford said traveling to Germany gave her the unique chance to combine the two parts of her degree — German and Elementary Education. 

“German is not commonly taught in elementary schools, so the Fulbright is a chance for me to teach in a German-speaking environment. It’s also a wonderful and different type of teaching experience that I will bring back with me into my own future classroom as a teacher,” she said.

When she returns, Hufford said she plans to be an elementary school teacher in the Seattle area.

Christensen’s Fulbright will send her to the Czech Republic where she will work as an ETA at a nursing school in Hradec Králové.

Christensen graduated from Western in last winter with a degree in Linguistics. She was part of Woodring College’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program, which is how she became interested in applying for a Fulbright.

Having spent time in China the summer of 2016 helping Chinese English teachers better their English-teaching skills as well as time in Mongolia teaching an English program to college students in summer 2017, Christensen said she is excited to start her 10-month trip.

Also traveling to the Czech Republic, Bartlett will spend 11 months as an ETA at a university prep school. She said she will likely run an after-school club to increase English dialogue with students, and she plants to write and keep a video log of the mundane and exciting aspects of life abroad.

Bartlett said she chose to travel to the Czech Republic because it’s highly underrated.

“It has a history so much older than ours – the town I’m teaching in, Přelouč, was established in 1086!  Prague is supposed to be one of the most amazing cities in Europe, yet the country as a whole is still off the beaten path,” she said. “Places like Spain or Italy are desirable to a lot of prospective ETAs, but people forget that smaller countries have a need for ETAs too.”

Bartlett will graduate from Western this spring with a degree in Creative Writing. When she returns, she’s thinking about going back to school to study horticulture and find a way to combine her love for plants and writing.

Western’s Fellowships Office advises students who are interested in applying for nationally competitive scholarships, providing information about available scholarships and opportunities that match backgrounds and career goals. The office also has information about internships and research opportunities for high achieving students.

For more information, contact Tom Moore at Western’s Fellowships Office at (360) 650-4074 or go to www.wwu/fellowships/about.shtml.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 11:14am

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