Jones, Kotula named Fulbright Student Program finalists
In the last 16 years, Lipscomb University has produced 14 Fulbright scholars
Kim Chaudoin |
The Fulbright Student Program is one of the most competitive – and prestigious – study programs in the country. And, this spring, Honors College students Schyler Jones and Danny Kotula have joined the prestigious ranks as they have been selected as Fulbright Student Program finalists.
Earlier this semester, Jones and Kotula were named semi-finalists after their proposals were recommended by the US Fulbright organization and referred to the partner organizations in the home countries in the proposals. Each year, scholars are selected after a rigorous application process. In the last 16 years, Lipscomb University has produced 14 Fulbright scholars, 11 undergraduate students and three graduate students, and a total of 19 known overall.
“This is a significant accomplishment. Both Danny and Schyler are outstanding individuals with incredible potential,” said Alan Bradshaw, director of the Honors College and professor of physics. “We are particularly blessed to have them as part of our Honors College and at Lipscomb University.”
The Fulbright is a prestigious scholarship sponsored by the U.S. State Department to foster mutual understanding between the United States and countries around the world. Students apply for the Fulbright award for one of two purposes: an ETA, or English Teaching Award, that will primarily involve teaching English in a country where the primary language is not English; or a SRA, or Study/Research Award, that will involve a specific study or research project, usually in connection with a foreign college or university. Applications go through a rigorous screening process by US authorities, and the best applications are recommended for consideration by the host countries. Those recommended applicants are Fulbright semi-finalists. The host countries then evaluate the applications and make the final selection of the Fulbright Student Program finalists.
An opportunity to make a difference
Jones, a triple major in Spanish, international affairs and history, graduates on May 7. She has been selected for an English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia. Her project involves work with a Colombian organization to promote equality for Colombian women.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as a Fulbright scholar! I am still processing it all, but being selected as a Fulbright scholar means that I will get to fulfill a life-long dream of living in a Latin American country and learning from a beautiful culture different from my own,” said Jones, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “I feel very grateful to have been given this opportunity to make connections with people from around the world and to grow as an individual. I truly appreciate all of the people that have celebrated this accomplishment with me and who I know will continue to support me on this journey.”
Jones will head to Colombia at the end of July. She will be there through the end of May 2023. She will be teaching English to adults with the purpose of bridging cultural gaps and fostering understanding through language-learning. Additionally, her proposal includes working with Alianza IMP (Alliance of Colombian Women for Peace), which works with women who have been abused and experienced gender violence. Her work would promote gender equality in Colombia, to bring women to the negotiation table and to promote inclusion in all arenas, she said. Her daily tasks would include document translation, participating in meetings and learning how the organization works overall.
I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as a Fulbright scholar! I am still processing it all, but being selected as a Fulbright scholar means that I will get to fulfill a life-long dream. — Schyler Jones
“I am excited to teach English at the university level and to get involved with non-profit organizations in the community. I am confident that my experience at Lipscomb, especially through the Office of Intercultural Development, has prepared me well to serve competently and effectively,” said Jones. “I am eager to start this transformative experience that will prepare me for a lifetime of building bridges.”
Jones has been very involved in campus life. She served for two years as an intern in the Office of Intercultural Development, where she has helped plan events and leads conversations “to help everyone feel heard on campus,” she said. She has also worked for the Office of Admissions and the Career Development Center, and served as president of UNICEF and vice president of Hablemos Spanish Conversation Club. Jones was also a member of BSU, ASA, Alpha Chi and Pi Sigma Alpha. In addition, she has also written for Lumination Network and earned an award at the Student Scholars Symposium. She studied abroad for a Maymester in Spain, a semester in Florence and a mission trip in Puerto Rico.
“My experience at Lipscomb has been everything I expected and more. I have made lasting friendships and formed encouraging relationships with professors. I knew that my faith would grow while in college, but it has been challenged and formed in ways I never even knew was possible,” she continued. “My worldview has been expanded immensely, and I feel that Lipscomb has prepared me to enter the world with confidence.”
Jones credits the Honors College for providing her an environment that encouraged her to question the status quo and explore difficult topics in a fostering environment.
“Dr. (Paul) Prill, the former Honors College Director, is the person who originally introduced me to the Fulbright, so I owe him a debt of gratitude,” she said. “Dr. Bradshaw has also been extremely encouraging through this process. I have treasured my four years here at Lipscomb and know that I made the right decision to be here and a part of the Honors College.”
Following her hopeful Fulbright assignment, Jones said she plans to attend graduate school in an area related to international affairs or history with a goal of going into the foreign service and eventually becoming a college professor. No matter where she goes, she is dedicated to pursuing justice and building bridges among different countries.
Validation of purposeful idea
Kotula, a senior double majoring in public relations and Spanish, has been selected for a Fulbright Study/Research Assistantship that will allow him to work with organizations in Bolivia and Peru to encourage the development of microbusinesses among the indigenous population.
“More than anything, I’m so happy to be able to make everyone proud who’s invested in me to this point,” Kotula said of being named a finalist. “Fulbright is a really cool way to feel like I’m making my friends and family proud and be able to appreciate them for how much they’ve poured into me to this point.”
“At the same time, Fulbright will be much more about the present than the past. I can’t wait to make my proposal a reality and hopefully start something that truly helps people,” he continued. “Getting to live in Latin America full-time will be quite literally a dream come true, and I’m elated to get to live in two new countries”
Kotula said he plans to use his background in public relations to help catalyze small business opportunities for indigenous people in Peru and Bolivia. Indigenous people are a majority in both those countries, but have poor representation in government and often live in rural areas with little access to opportunities to break the cycle of poverty,” explained Kotula. “Instead of trying to give them a culturally American solution or a ‘band-aid’ that temporarily solves one of a myriad of issues these people face, giving them the strategies I’ve learned to develop business and exposure will allow them to use what they already know to bring themselves out of poverty.”
Most recently from White, Georgia, Kotula will graduate from Lipscomb in December. In 2023 he will begin his Fulbright appointment living in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from February to April and spending May through November in Cusco, Peru.
Kotula said Lipscomb has diversified who he is professionally and has allowed him to become a well-rounded communications professional. While at Lipscomb Kotula started a personal blog called smallworld soccer as part of a class assignment, is the sports editor for Lumination Network and is the program director and sports commentator for The Bison, Lipscomb’s on-campus radio station. As a public relations students, Kotula has also had the opportunity to broadcast Lipscomb Academy high school football games and covering events on campus such as the Dove Awards and interviewing artists on the red carpet. Kotula’s work has received awards from the Southeast Journalism Conference and the Society of Professional Journalism.
More than anything, I’m so happy to be able to make everyone proud who’s invested in me to this point, — Danny Kotulla
“Being at Lipscomb and engaging in so many ways on campus has been a feeling I’ll never be able to replicate. The Honors College gave me the chance to learn alongside the best and brightest students on campus and forced me to get out of my comfort zone, something that rarely happened to me in a classroom setting in high school,” continued Kotula. “The Honors College has also opened me up to opportunities like the Fulbright Program. If it wasn’t for (former director) Dr. Prill so consistently encouraging us to look into Fulbright as an option initially, I never would have taken it seriously.”
Following Kotula’s hopeful Fulbright assignment, he said he has a variety of opportunities to pursue in the public relations realm, with an initial goal of working the sports media and publication relations. “Whether I’m doing PR directly for a sports team, working as a sports information director for a university’s athletics program or using sports in a ministry capacity, I’m hoping to be working in sports as a career for however long God calls me to do so,” he said.
Both Jones and Kotula credit a number of professors and staff for inspiring, encouraging and mentoring them while at Lipscomb.
For more than 30 years Lipscomb’s Honors College has been primarily committed to enhancing the depth of students’ intellectual experiences throughout their time at Lipscomb.
All 11 of Lipscomb’s undergraduate Fulbright scholars in the last 16 years have been participants in the Honors College. Bradshaw said students who are not involved in the Honors College are also able to apply for Fulbright grants.
“Any interested students should get in touch with me, as I serve as Lipscomb's Fulbright Program adviser. In addition, there are several other such scholarships that we would encourage our students across the disciplines to pursue, such as the Marshall, the Truman, and the Goldwater Scholarships,” he explained.
Since the Honors College’s launch, more than 3,000 students have taken at least one honors class and almost 700 students are involved in honors study at any one time. Lipscomb Honors College alumni are now shaping our world at companies and institutions such as Microsoft, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. International Trade Commission.