English Major Kailey Payne ’20 Earns Fulbright U.S. Student Award

head and shoulder image of a college student

Kailey Payne, a senior English major from McKinney, TX, is the winner of a Fulbright U.S. Student Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will serve as an English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia beginning January 2021.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for English teaching assistantships as well as for individually designed study/research projects. Recipients are chosen for their academic merit and intellectual potential.

“Receiving the Fulbright is such an amazing opportunity. I was born outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I have always hoped I would get the chance to return, but I never imagined it would be to live and work there,” says Payne, who also has visited 15 countries spanning three continents.

Payne’s concentrations within her major are literature and creative writing, and she is a member of the English honors society, Sigma Tau Delta. She also is Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certified and has served as an assistant instructor for Su Casa Family Ministries in Memphis. For the past three summers, Payne has worked as a glass art instructor for Camp Greystone near Asheville, NC. “The relationships I’ve formed with my students there and other instructors over the years have made such an amazing impact on my life,” she says. 

An avid runner, Payne is a member of the track and cross-country teams at Rhodes. In 2019, she studied abroad at Charles University in Prague with a focus on Eastern and Central European studies, and while there joined a Czech running club and ran the Prague marathon.  

“Dr. Erin Hillis at Rhodes has gone out of her way to help me achieve my goals, whether it was helping me prepare to study abroad in the Czech Republic or encouraging me to apply for the Fulbright,” says Payne. “She cares so deeply about each of her students as individuals, and invests everything she can in their success and wellbeing. It has left such an impact on all of us.”  

Upon returning to the U.S., Payne plans to continue teaching English as a foreign language and learning about different cultures. “I think having this knowledge will help me become a more conscious decision maker in any field I go into,” she says. “I am not completely sure what career I would like to pursue in the long term, but I am leaning toward applying to law school and pursing a J.D. degree.”