Fulbright Awards Speak Volumes
Selection of two Stonehill graduates for prestigious Fulbright Program exemplifies Stonehill’s commitment to connecting students with worthwhile postgraduate opportunities.
Photo above: Madalyn Fernbach '20
While some people look forward to globetrotting at the end of the COVID-19 travel restrictions as a way to relax, at least two members of the Stonehill community had their eyes on international travel for the opportunity to do some hard work.
Madalyn Fernbach ’19 and Erin Flanagan ’20 were recently selected for the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). Fernbach was awarded the opportunity to travel to Poland and Flanagan to Taiwan.
Nearly 2,000 U.S. citizens are placed in classrooms across 160 nations each year through this government-sponsored program. Participants not only aid local English teachers, but also act as cultural ambassadors for the United States.
“The Fulbright Awards are among the most competitive national awards, with candidates applying from across the country,” said Craig Kelley, associate provost. “Fulbrighters serve as conduits for greater mutual understanding of people, cultures and languages. And, an advantage of being awarded a Fulbright is that graduates can leverage its prestige in their future careers.”
Fernbach, who currently serves as a clinical research coordinator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, was selected to teach English at the University of Science and Technology in Bydgoszcz, Poland. She hopes to travel abroad in 2021, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Her path to this opportunity was a circuitous one. A neuroscience major, she was inspired to apply for the program after studying abroad in Europe during her junior year.
“I came to realize that many medical students abroad face challenges because they lack fluency in English, which, in many ways, is the universal language in medicine,” Fernbach said. “I became interested in finding a program that would allow me to help others develop language skills so that they’re better equipped to do their jobs.”
She applied for a Fulbright in 2018 and was selected as a semifinalist but was ultimately not accepted for the program. Exhibiting the tenacity that she said she developed as a member of the Stonehill women’s soccer team, she applied again in 2019 and was selected. Among the many experiences she had at Stonehill, she was particularly grateful for her experience in the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience program, where she worked with Professor Jennifer Segawa on analysis of the interconnectedness of neuroscience, medicine and multiculturalism.
“As I work toward a career in global health and try to tackle issues affecting underserved communities, a program like the Fulbright will serve me well,” Fernbach said. “The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of adapting medicine for different cultures. This opportunity will help me learn how best to do that.”
Educating the Whole Person
Flanagan, an elementary education and psychology double major who hails from Norfolk, Massachusetts, was awarded the opportunity to teach English in Taiwan. The Fulbright ETA is but one in a string of accolades recently presented to her. She was also offered a postgraduate service position with the Urban Catholic Teachers Corps and named the class speaker for the Stonehill College Class of 2020 Virtual Commencement.
Flanagan in the end decided to decline the Fulbright invitation and instead join the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps. She will teach at a Catholic school while also working toward a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at Boston College. She hopes to eventually apply to the Fulbright Program again so she can gain experience teaching abroad.
“I am thankful to Stonehill for presenting these opportunities to me,” Flanagan said. “Stonehill’s mission focuses on educating the whole person. The College follows through on that promise by providing students with the resources needed to pursue great opportunities like the Fulbright Program.”