Out of the seven Lipscomb students who were nominated for the Fulbright Scholar Program, all seven have gone on to become semi-finalists.
In the past, the highest number of Lipscomb students to achieve Fulbright semi-finalist status in one year was one. This year, all seven nominated Lipscomb students or recent graduates were accepted as semi-finalists into Fulbright, which is a prestigious international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Dr. Paul Prill, Lipscomb’s Fulbright program adviser and director of the Honors College, said this recognition was unusual for “a school like Lipscomb,” since most Fulbright Program finalists come from larger universities, like the University of Michigan and Cornell University.
“This is unprecedented for Lipscomb,” Prill said. “It’s really good for Lipscomb to be able to point to the academic success the students are having.”
One of the semi-finalists, Lipscomb senior Maribeth Beyer, shared her thoughts on what this means for her and Lipscomb.
“We’re not Yale, Harvard [or] Vanderbilt, but we are moving up,” said Beyer, adding, “and any opportunity I have to take Lipscomb further than Nashville is an incredible opportunity for me.”
According to Dr. Prill, Fulbright applicants have about a five percent chance of becoming a semi-finalist, and semi-finalists have approximately a 30 to 50 percent chance of becoming a finalist.
Once accepted into the program, Fulbright scholars will have the opportunity to live in a country of their choosing, either as an English teaching assistant, a researcher or a student, for approximately one year, depending on the program and grant. Bigger countries, like Spain and Germany, often offer more scholarship opportunities than smaller countries, like Honduras, which is the country that Beyer applied to.
Beyer explained that she chose Honduras, which only offers one scholarship, because she went on many week-long mission trips with her father there throughout high school, ministering at a boys’ home called Jovenes En Camino. The summer before her junior year, Beyer decided to spend two months interning at Jovenes En Camino.
“That internship really changed my life…[it] really instilled a desire and passion for being there for a period longer than two months,” Beyer said. “My heart is drawn to Honduras and the people of Honduras. I love the culture there.”
While Beyer, a law, justice, and society (LJS) major, eventually wants to go to law school, she said she is hoping to participate as an English teaching assistant in the Fulbright Program first.
“I think my education through LJS has really shown me how to think about solutions holistically,” Beyer said. “…Education is one of the most effective ways to bring about change and to promote development and empowerment among the people in Honduras. To me, educating is achieving justice in Honduras.”
Another Lipscomb Fulbright semi-finalist, Caleb Reagor, applied to conduct scientific research in Israel, a country he spent two weeks in last year.
“I loved the country and the people so much,” said Reagor, a molecular biology and applied mathematics student. “I remember during my last day in Jerusalem thinking: ‘I have to find a way to get back here,’ so I pulled up the Fulbright website right there in my hotel room.”
If he is accepted into the Fulbright Program, Reagor said he hopes “to sharpen both [his] scientific and humanistic skills” in “one of the most diverse countries in the world,” even if he doesn’t know exactly how that will influence the rest of his career.
“It’s really hard to predict how the Fulbright will impact my life, and I think that’s half the excitement,” Reagor noted.
Lipscomb’s seven semi-finalists should hear back from Fulbright between March and June to see if they qualified as finalists.
“It’s such an honor to be even considered,” Beyer said. “I’m really excited even though I’m still waiting to find out for sure about finalists.”
Anyone can apply for a Fulbright scholarship but having hands-on experience through internships or SALT course requirements is helpful in the consideration, according to Beyer.
“I have been able to utilize the connections that Lipscomb has presented to me through my different SALT classes,” said Beyer, noting that she volunteered as an ESL (English as Second Language) teacher at Nashville’s Casa Azafran through one of her SALT classes.
Prill and Beyer both added that having travel experience, particularly in the country you are applying to, is important in order to help fulfill Fulbright’s mission of cultural education.
“Half of Fulbright’s mission is not only to teach English, but it’s this idea of cultural exchange,” Beyer said. “You’re there to engage in their culture and learn to appreciate that.”
Freshmen through juniors who are interested in applying for the Fulbright Program or another post-graduation competitive scholarship are invited to join the Honors College as it hosts informative sessions on February 28 at 8:30-9:15 a.m., 12:15-1 p.m. and 4-4:45 p.m. The workshop is open to both honors and non-honors students and will be located in the new Honors College House (next to Health Services).
Featured image courtesy of student life