Stonehill College’s exceptional record of connecting graduates with highly selective national fellowships and scholarships continues this year with the placement of two recent alumnae in prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships.
Elise Cavanaugh ’18 will be heading to Taiwan to teach English to students, while Alina Shklyarenko ’17 will be teaching students in Germany. The Fulbright ETA program offers new college graduates the opportunity to teach English in more than 140 countries, and is awarded to only about 1,900 U.S. students each year.
This year’s awards come on the heels of a third Stonehill student being awarded the Fulbright ETA last year. Katherine Morelli ’16 spent the 2017-2018 year in Germany.
Personal experiences lead to passion for foreign cultures
Elise, of Auburn, Massachusetts, was 13 when she first discovered her passion for global cultures and helping others during a 10-day trip to the Amazon rainforest. The English major and secondary education minor later studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, joining an ultimate disc team and fully immersing herself in Spanish culture.
“The experience showed me how the restrictions of nation and language can be overcome by other factors of human connection, which makes me confident that I can find common ground with the people I meet regardless of our national origin,” said Elise.
Alina, a psychology and foreign languages double major, says her immigrant background shaped her approach to languages and to pedagogy. She immigrated from Odessa, Ukraine, to Wellesley, Massachusetts, and learned Russian as her first language. She now speaks five languages, including Russian, Ukrainian, English, German and French.
“It has enabled me to gain a greater awareness of the history, culture and mentality of different countries all around the world,” said Alina. “The deepest and most meaningful understanding has come from conversations with locals in their native tongue and reading classic works in their original form.”
Standing out in a competitive process
In preparing strong, successful applications, both Fulbright recipients were mentored through the competitive process by Craig Kelley, associate provost for academic achievement, and Kris Silva, director of the Stonehill service corps, who partner to identify and advise students on nationally prestigious scholarships, fellowships and awards, and then mentor them throughout the process.
“Alina, as an English language learner herself, will be able to relate to her students on a very personal and unique level,” said Kelley. “The cultural perspective and sensitivity Elise developed while abroad will be invaluable as she immerses herself in the Taiwanese education system and community.”
In total, so far seven students from the College have received a Fulbright ETA.
“An aspect that makes Stonehill students stand out in the application process is their time abroad — from semester-long study and internships to travel Learning Communities to service-immersion trips,” said Silva. “Students gain a deeper global awareness from these invaluable and unique high-impact learning experiences. These experiences foster a yearning for more substantial cultural immersion after graduation.”
Creating a welcoming environment for all students
Alina says she is looking forward to the Fulbright ETA program because “it will allow me to share my enthusiasm for language learning and my multicultural perspective in an environment in which I feel confident working.”
Since graduating from Stonehill, Alina has been working as a vocational counselor at a therapeutic school for adolescents with mental health needs. After the Fulbright ETA program, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in school psychology.
Elise is not yet familiar with Mandarin, but says she is eager to learn the language. “Whether I am providing homework help to middle-school students, teaching SAT prep to high schoolers or tutoring undergraduate students in writing, witnessing the pride a student feels once he or she overcomes a challenge is what motivates me to teach.”
Elise hopes to eventually teach English and ESL students in inclusion classes in Massachusetts.
“Fulbrighters serve as ambassadors for the United States and conduits for greater mutual understanding of people, cultures and languages,” said Kelley. “It is a highly competitive and prestigious award, which they will be able to leverage in their future careers in education.”