To say that Courtney Stewart — Coco to her friends — has a heart for serving others is an understatement. She lives for it.
So it was very fitting that when Stewart learned she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar, she was in Guatemala serving on a Lipscomb University spring break medical mission trip.
“It was such a sweet thing for me to be in Latin American on a mission trip and find out,” said Stewart, a senior Bible and Spanish double major from Houston who is also a student in Lipscomb’s Honors College.
She is well traveled in Latin America, has studied abroad in Lipscomb’s program in Santiago, Chile, and has served on three Lipscomb mission teams to Guatemala. These experiences inspired her to apply for a Fulbright Scholar position in Spain. Her Fulbright assignment, beginning this fall, is a one-year English teaching assistant position a school in the La Rioja region in the northern Spain.
She said Paul Prill, director of the Honors College, encouraged her to apply.
“Dr. Prill is wonderful to help students keep their eyes open for opportunities,” said Stewart. “He encouraged me to check into the Fulbright program. As I learned more about the program, I searched for an opportunity to fit my specific skill set. Teaching English in a Spanish-speaking country fit well because of my studies in Spanish, my experience teaching the language to preschoolers, and my mission work in Latin American countries.”
When Stewart applied for the Fulbright Scholarship, she also had to propose a research component. With her studies in the College of Bible & Ministry, Stewart has developed an interest in liberation theology. For the research component of her Fulbright appointment, she will examine liberation theology and the role it plays in Spain.
“Courtney Stewart has taken advantage of the opportunities she has had on campus and those she has created for herself off campus to sculpt a successful career at Lipscomb,” said Prill. “Multiple mission trips to Guatemala, study abroad in Santiago, Chile and volunteering in Nashville allowed her to develop her Spanish at a high level. Her involvement in nonprofits got the attention of a national organization, which gave her a place on its board of directors. We are very proud of the ways that Courtney has grown over four years at Lipscomb.”
George Goldman, associate dean of undergraduate Bible, has had Stewart in class.
“She is a very talented student. She has a gift for languages, as she has taken Greek and Hebrew in addition to her double major in Spanish,” said Goldman. “She is also very open to learning new ideas and is a student that seems genuinely excited to work hard and learn new things. In addition, she has been an intern with the youth group at Otter Creek and combines her classroom learning with practical ministry.”
Associate Professor of Foreign Languages Ted Parks said Stewart is the ideal student.
“Coco is the kind of student every professor longs to teach — intellectually curious, funny, hardworking,” said Parks. “She embodies the delight of the humanities, the way languages and literatures allow us to sojourn in times and places different from our own. I am thrilled that Coco has been named a Fulbright Scholar. I know that living and teaching in Spain will be transformative for her, as there is no substitute for experiencing a culture from the inside out.”
Stewart is Lipscomb’s sixth Fulbright Scholar in the last 11 years, and the second consecutive year that an Honors College student has been selected, quite a statistic considering the selectivity of the program. Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
“Lipscomb has made determined efforts to recruit more academically talented students over the past decade. In addition, the Honors College has made concerted efforts to introduce students to the national competitive scholarship opportunities beginning in the freshman year,” said Prill. “Over the past decade, five students in the Honors College have successfully competed for Fulbright Scholarships.”
Stewart, who has worked as an intern at Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tennessee, for three years, will head to Madrid, Spain, in mid-September to begin orientation.
“I’m excited for so many things. I love people so deeply,” said Stewart. “I’ve already begun praying for the students I’ll work with and the families I’ll get to know. I look forward to learning the intricacies of this new culture. I am also excited about interacting with other Fulbrights, as together we will learn more about this beautiful world in which we live. Most of all, I am thrilled about the relationships from a variety of backgrounds that are certain to come.”
Last year, Nicole Marton (’16), a law, justice and society major and Honors College student, was selected as a Fulbright Scholar. She traveled to Moldova to teach English courses to college students as well as develop other English teaching and cultural awareness opportunities. Other Lipscomb Fulbright Scholars include Jared Brett (M.Ed. ’12), Emily Royce (2006), Katie Jacoby (2009) and Bethany Eldridge (2012).
Prill, the Fulbright Program Advisor and director of The Honors College, believes that continued emphasis on recruiting outstanding students and constant advice about how to prepare oneself to be a competitive applicant will help Lipscomb produce more Fulbright Scholars.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, was established in 1946 and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”
The Fulbright Program places U.S. scholars in schools or universities overseas, improving foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. When Marton applied for the Fulbright Scholar Program, she selected a teaching assignment in Moldova over a number of other options.
Stewart said that even though she will be thousands of miles away this fall, Lipscomb will remain an important part of her story.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience at Lipscomb for an experience anywhere else in the world,” she said. “It will always be special to me primarily because of the relationships I’ve formed. So many professors have poured into my life far beyond the classroom. I’ve loved the professors, the faculty and staff, and the students. The community that I’ve been able to form is unparalleled. Lipscomb will certainly be home to me even while I’m in Spain.”