Five West Virginia University alumni are joining the ranks of more than 80 other WVU students who have been named Fulbright Scholars, opening up opportunities to teach English or conduct research abroad. (WVU Photo)

WVU alumni awarded Fulbright Scholarships to teach or conduct research abroad

Five West Virginia University alumni are recipients of prestigious Fulbright Scholarships to teach English or conduct research abroad over the next year while building cross-cultural relationships.

They join the ranks of more than 80 other WVU students who have been named Fulbright Scholars during the program’s history.

“These alumni clearly understand the importance of immersing oneself in another culture, the perspective it brings and the importance of making a positive global impact,” Cate Johnson, assistant director of the ASPIRE Office, said. “We’re thrilled they will be representing WVU and the United States overseas.”

Valerie Browne of Martinsburg majored in Russian Studies and English with a creative writing concentration. She will serve as an English teaching assistant at the Pedagogical University of Krakow in Poland. Browne is passionate about cultural, linguistic and literary exchange and will spend much of her time in Krakow working with Ukrainians displaced by the war in their home country.

“As a person of Ukrainian heritage, it is really meaningful that I’ll have the opportunity to serve Ukrainian refugees in a concrete way,” she said. “Fulbright is a wonderful way to gain international experience as well as new linguistic knowledge and to build cross-cultural bridges before I continue my studies as a graduate student.”

Bridgeport native Grant DuVall will work in Viljandi, Estonia, with the city’s library to provide American and English lessons to students of various ages. The biology graduate who minored in addiction studies will also work with harm reduction and public health organizations to learn more about Estonia’s addiction treatment methods.

“Spending an extended period living in another country and becoming incorporated into a community is my dream,” he said. “I am really excited to hopefully volunteer many of my weekends with Estonia’s largest harm reduction organization, working on their mobile medical buses while traveling across and seeing more of the country.”

Hailey Hall, who graduated with her master’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages, will teach English at a university in Izmir, Turkey. The Pittsburgh native enjoys learning about other cultures and is looking forward to experiencing a different way of life.

“Traveling abroad is important because I want to build positive connections between Americans and Turkish people, breaking down stereotypes and prejudices,” she said. “I am really looking forward to trying Turkish food. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it. Above all, learning about the deep Turkish history and getting to know the language is my top priority.”

Living in New Zealand when he was younger, Morgantown native Wilson McNeil was captivated by New Zealand’s beauty and culture as well as the nation’s commitment to environmental protection. The civil and environmental engineering graduate will return to the country for his Fulbright program, conducting research in the civil and natural resources engineering department at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

“The Fulbright provided an opportunity to study abroad, while also allowing me to have the honor of representing the U.S. and West Virginia overseas,” he said. “I expect to end my time in New Zealand with a broader view of environmental engineering, one that allows me to view the field from an international lens. I hope that the prestige of the Fulbright Scholarship, along with the relationships that will be formed in my year abroad, will open many academic and professional opportunities in the future.”

Josephine Valentine of Shepherdstown will work in Oviedo, Spain, teaching English to elementary and high school students. She graduated from WVU in 2020 with a master’s and bachelor’s in elementary education, a bachelor’s in Spanish and a minor in music performance. She currently works in a school system where Spanish is the most widely spoken home language for students and where many other students are English learners as well.

“I want to learn to speak Spanish more fluently so that I can come back to the U.S. and better serve students who are often marginalized in the school system by connecting with families through communication in a shared language,” she said. “Additionally, I am interested in teaching students who are English learners and I’m excited to use and learn new strategies to engage students in learning English.”

The ASPIRE Office supports students who want to compete for nationally competitive awards like the Fulbright Scholarship. Students who are interested in applying can email aspire@mail.wvu.edu to set up an appointment.

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