Fulbright Student Success: Three for Three

How’s this for an impressive Fulbright U.S. Student Program streak at Stetson? In the past two Fulbright award cycles, for 2020 and 2021, three Hatters applied for the prestigious scholarships — and each won.

Similarly impressive, those three winners nearly doubled the university’s total of seven student recipients since 1970.

The current award winners: Estefany Arenas ’19, Malina Morales ’19 and Fred Lee ’17. Lee was awarded for the 2020 cycle.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in more 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students. During their grants, the students meet, work, live with and learn from the people of their host country. The program facilitates exchanges through direct interaction in the classroom, field, home and in routine tasks, allowing the students to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, as well as insight into residents’ daily lives.

In addition to those experiences, the students receive, among numerous other benefits, round-trip transportation to the host country; funding to cover room, board and incidental costs; full or partial tuition; book and research allowances; language study programs; and 12 months of non-competitive eligibility hiring status within the federal government.

According to Stetson administrators, all rewards are well deserved for the students, who were selected based on a long list of criteria, including academic or professional record, personal qualifications, language preparation, and extent to which the candidate and the project will help to advance the Fulbright aim of promoting mutual understanding.

“These students are rock stars!” said Roxanne Lewis, coordinator of International Student and Scholar Service at the Stetson’s World: Rinker Center for International Learning.

“This is an incredible outcome,” said Bill Nylen, PhD, professor of political science and Stetson’s campus coordinator for the Fulbright student program. “For many, many years, Stetson had no Fulbright student rewards. Now, three in two years’ time! … .  I look forward to getting back in the game next year to see if we can get even more of our students on the Fulbright train.”

Nylen, on sabbatical during the past academic year, pointed to others at Stetson who greatly contributed to those student outcomes: Lewis; Ana Servigna, PhD, visiting assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, and this year’s interim campus coordinator for Fulbright; Martin Blackwell, PhD, visiting professor of history; and Grace Kaletski-Maisel, research and external scholarships advisor.

Estefany Arenas ’19

The students have big plans. They want to make a difference, globally.

Estefany Arenas

Arenas, who majored in international studies with minors in political science, Latin American studies and community engagement, will travel to Asturias, Spain, beginning in September. There, Arenas believes being an English teaching assistant (ETA) will align “perfectly with my personal and professional goals.”

“My desire to understand Spain and my devotion to helping others in their journeys shaped my passion for education,” she explained in her written application for the Fulbright scholarship. “In Spain, through teaching, art and service, I would finally immerse myself into the world of my ancestors and, likewise, work towards a better exchange of ideas and perspectives between American and Spanish cultures. The experience would unquestionably strengthen my character and prepare me to continue my professional interests in immigration, education, and international studies in graduate school.”

Malina Morales

Malina Morales ’19

Morales received bachelor’s degrees in psychology and digital arts, and was an Army ROTC cadet who became a second lieutenant (serving in the Medical Services Corp. as a reservist). Next March, she will head to Argentina, which as the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, “offers a unique opportunity to learn about the progress of the Latinx LGBT community.”

“Learning about the population’s view of the LGBT movement will allow me to understand my country’s legislations and influences moving forward. As a Fulbright ETA, I would also share my background with students and the local community to facilitate a cultural exchange of ideas,” continued Morales, who hopes to incorporate the cultural insight gained in Argentina into her professional psychiatric practice.

Fred Lee

Lee, who majored in Spanish, had his Fulbright plans to Brazil delayed because of the pandemic. He expects to begin the grant next spring and will apply to master’s programs in international public policy while he’s abroad.

As an ETA in that country, he wants to “incorporate my instructional training and experience while designing lesson plans tailored to my students’ abilities” — employing real-life scenarios, cultural competencies, and formative and summative assessments to measure progress.

Fred Lee ’17

He also plans to use music to help accomplish those goals, noting surprise at how “singing and listening to music could inform skills such as pronunciation, grammar and cultural understanding when learning a language.”

“I look forward to developing an understanding of the pedagogical traditions that help to serve a diverse community of learners,” Lee concluded, adding that he ultimately wants to facilitate connections between students from different backgrounds.

Notably, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is only one of several distinguished scholarships and fellowships available at Stetson to students and alumni, who are greatly encouraged to apply for them. And, while the awards can be highly competitive, Stetson has a strong track record of preparing students for such pursuit.

For the most recent proof, simply look under “Fulbright winners.”

-Michael Candelaria