By Jessica Hancock
CCBP Graduate Assistant
Recent Fulbright Scholarship winners shared their experiences with a new wave of Fulbright hopefuls, faculty, staff and members of the community at a presentation and reception at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) on August 26. The purpose of the event was to introduce the campus to the Fulbright Program and to showcase for students and community members the refurbished CCBP headquarters at 900 Anna Avenue, adjacent to the Million Dollar Band practice field.
A panel entitled “The Fulbright Scholarship: Breaking down Cultural Barriers through Language Education” was sponsored by Global Café, a CCBP initiative now in its second year.
Guests were welcomed into the comfortable CCBP lobby, with $30,000 worth of new furnishings and other improvements, including large photos on the walls depicting CCBP projects and campus landmarks. Mike Morrow, director of Support Services, said the improvements included new carpet, soft seating, dining furniture, a serving bar, a television and artwork on the walls.
“It was the vision of Dr. Samory Pruitt [vice president for Community Affairs] to give the facility the feel of a coffeehouse, and I think we’ve done a good job.” Yun Fu, a program assistant for the CCBP, feels the new look represents the CCBP, and its programs and projects. “It’s ideal for hosting Global Café events,” she said.
Dr. Beverly Hawk points to some of the photos that highlight the work of CCBP to UA student Ruth Bishop.
“With the vision of Dr. Pruitt and the hard work of others, especially Antwon Key, who helped select and prepare the photos displayed throughout the center, that we now have a completely new look for the office,” Fu said. “During the Global Café event on Aug. 26th, we had about 60 community partners and others attend and they couldn’t tell us enough about how much they loved the new look. I think it will be perfect place for the Global Café to carry out different events from time to time.”
Emma Fick, a 2013-14 English teaching assistant (ETA), led off the Fulbright panel by sharing her experiences from her time in Novi Pazar, Serbia. Fick taught English to Serbian university and high school students and worked on a side project in which she studied Orthodox art. Fick said she was enthusiastically accepted by the community, grew close to many of the students and residents, and became something of a celebrity in the small town.
“You will get very close to the students you teach,” Fick said. “It is a very meaningful experience.”
During her presentation, Fick emphasized the importance of flexibility. “No experience is what it is ‘supposed’ to be,’” she said. “It is very organic. In your application, I would stress a willingness to adjust to what a community needs.”
Fick was able to do just that during her time abroad. Community service is not common in Serbia, so she organized service opportunities for students to help the community while building their own resumes. She involved different town members, getting university art students to draw pictures to hang on hospital walls and recruiting children to color the drawings.
Fick also drew her own illustrations of people and happenings in Novi Pazar. These became so popular she was given her own showcase to display the art before she left. The community took great pride in her depictions of them, according to Fick.
The U.S. embassy has given Fick a grant to return to Serbia, this time to the capital Belgrade, to do more illustrations of the country.
After Fick’s presentation, two more 2013-14 Fulbright ETAs made presentations about their experience abroad. Rachel Hunkler and Carolyn Bero were friends prior to their trip and were given the opportunity to travel together to Madrid, Spain. They served as English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in bilingual middle and high schools. They were able to participate in different activities during their free time, such as volunteering for the State Department, running a marathon and taking a cooking class.
Hunkler and Bero spoke on how they addressed American stereotypes with their students, who seemed to have gleaned their ideas of America from pop culture.
“Part of your role there is being a cultural ambassador,” Bero said. “Present yourself the way you are and be proud of that.”
Hunkler helped work in a global classroom, a model UN program for students for whom English is their second language. The students improved their English skills while learning to research, write and debate international issues.
Hunkler has been given the rare honor of a renewal Fulbright for next year. She will return to Spain to be a Fulbright mentor in global classrooms, training other ETAs.
After last year’s winners spoke, three new Fulbright winners gave some tips on applying for the scholarship and the interview process, stressing the importance of beginning the application process early. Gabrielle Taylor, Jilisa Milton and Haglaeeh Contreras also briefly spoke on their excitement about getting to travel to Germany, Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively.
“I am most excited about creating relationships with the students and the people in the community,” Milton said.
A reception in the CCBP’s lobby followed the panel discussion. Dr. Gary Sloan, professor emeritus of microbiology and coordinator of prestigious scholarships and awards, was one of the many UA faculty and staff in attendance. “The study abroad programs are wonderful and the students learn so much when they go abroad,” Sloan said. Studying abroad can change people, he said, by bringing them out of their shells and helping them flourish. “It is wonderful for their personal growth,” he said. “Students do so well in this program. I encourage them to seek out our advice and help.”
Several students who are currently applying for a Fulbright were in attendance to learn about the participants’ experiences and get advice on their own applications.
Astri Snodgrass is completing her master of fine arts in painting degree and is currently going through the Fulbright application process.
“Listening to what other people did for their side projects was helpful, and seeing how that changed from their application,” Snodgrass said.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It “provides funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools,” according to fulbrightonline.org.
Campus coordinator for the Fulbright Program is Dr. Beverly Hawk, who is also program services director at CCBP. Her leadership has helped UA increase its number of recipients over the last several years to eight in 2013. The Capstone International Center is a partner in this effort.