Fulbright winner to study education for disadvantaged girls worldwide

By Janel Shoun-Smith on 5/3/2012

  
  
eldridge, bethany 2

Lipscomb University will graduate its third Fulbright Scholar in six years on Saturday, May 5, when Bethany Eldridge, a law, justice and society (LJS) major from Henderson, Tenn., receives her degree.

Eldridge, who is particularly interested in how education benefits underserved populations around the globe, received a 2012 Fulbright Scholarship to study at Maastricht University in the Netherlands for a year. During that time, she will research how education effects underserved girls throughout the world, she said.

Eldridge will enter Maastricht’s program on European studies on society, science and technology, a program exploring how technology can be effectively used in education to further global development. Only 30 students are accepted into the Maastricht program each year, Eldridge said.

She is the first law, justice and society major to earn a Fulbright award. Lipscomb’s previous winners – Emily Royse Green (’06) and Katie Jacoby (’10) – were both English majors.

The LJS program, an undergraduate legal studies programs with emphasis on social enterprise, was a major attraction for Eldridge when she was hunting for the right college, she said. She already knew at that time that she wanted to make a big difference in the world.

"Since her freshman year, Bethany expressed her passion for providing quality education to all of the world's citizens," said Charla Long, dean of the College of Professional Studies and founder of the law, justice and society program. "Bethany is going to be an incredible advocate for ensuring young girls and women in developing countries receive an education.  I am excited to see how God will use Bethany to create powerful change in this world!"

During her studies at Lipscomb, Eldridge interned at SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education), a nonprofit founded by former Sen. Bill Frist, and did an LJS senior project focused on best practices for teaching English language learners, which grew out of her interest in how schools adapt to rapid demographic change.

She also interned in the office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s assistant for special projects,  answering and directing constituent phone calls, helping to organize and arrange events and assisting in legal research. She also worked with the SALT Program (Serving and Learning Together) here at Lipscomb as well as with the Operation Andrew Group, writing and compiling grants for their Hope for Schools program. 

“I considered an education major, but the LJS program was the perfect fit for me because I don’t really see myself as a teacher, but I do see myself as great at setting up the right conditions for people to do good work with teaching,” Eldridge said. “In LJS I learned how law and policy can work together to do that. I enjoyed my classes on social entrepreneurship, grant-writing and fund-raising. I liked learning the skills to make things actually happen.

“I don’t want to be a teacher; I don’t feel like I have those skills, but I can support those who do have those skills. And I can support the students. If we can help students to be the best they can be, that goes a long way toward solving global problems,” she said.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The program was established to fulfill William Fulbright’s goal of bringing together people of different nationalities to create lasting peace and friendships around the world.

Eldridge will join such prestigious alumni of the U.S. Student Fulbright Program as actor John Lithgow, composer Philip Glass, opera singer Renee Fleming and economist Joseph Stiglitz as well as numerous heads of state, ambassadors, judges, artists, professor, corporate executives, university presidents and national politicians.

Eldridge, who will graduate with a political science minor as well, would someday like to work for the U.S. government, the United Nations or an international non-governmental organization to produce positive global development.

Her international world view was already cemented in her childhood, as her father had a successful career as a U.S. Army officer serving throughout the United States and on numerous worldwide deployments, before going to work at Freed-Hardeman University, where he became the dean of the business school. Her father, Ray Eldridge, now works as associate dean of undergraduate studies at Lipscomb’s College of Business, and her mother Darlene Eldridge works in the Lipscomb Office of the Provost.

“I am looking forward to really starting what I feel like is my dream,” Eldridge said of her Fulbright placement, “to be able to work with people who are making real changes happen in the world. Growing up I have always had this desire to do something bigger than myself. I feel like I’m learning why God put this desire in me, now that I can act on it. It makes things come full circle in my mind.”