From Amsterdam to Brazil to Senegal to Vietnam, Rhodes College students have incredible international opportunities to study, work, and become global citizens. Now the college has earned a number seventh spot on the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ list of baccalaureate institutions producing the most 2019-2020 Fulbright U.S. Students.
The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s highly prestigious international educational exchange program, and participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for English teaching assistantships, as well as for individually designed study/research projects.
Eleven candidates from Rhodes won Fulbright grants to serve as English Teaching Assistants for the 2019-2020 academic year. The college also was designated a top producing institution for Fulbright U.S. Students for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years.
“I think Rhodes students have done well because they have excellent leadership opportunities both at the college and beyond, which shows host countries that our candidates are mature, dedicated individuals,” says Dr. Robert Saxe, director of postgraduate fellowships. “Our students have an edge working closely with staff and faculty, working important jobs on campus, doing significant research across the disciplines, and encouraging work in Memphis and abroad.”
“The incredible dedication of our faculty is a hallmark of the Rhodes experience,” adds Dr. Milton Moreland, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Dr. Robert Saxe is a scholar and teacher who has given unceasingly of his time and expertise to help students receive amazing national and international fellowship opportunities. This honor from the Fulbright Foundation is a testament both to the incredible students at Rhodes and to Dr. Saxe’s dedication to them as a mentor and advisor.”
In addition to providing one-on-one advising, Saxe teaches a postgraduate scholarship workshop every spring. “In the class, the students learn the ins and outs of applying, how to craft an application, and also what an interview might look like,” he says. “Also, Erin Hillis’ Teaching English as a Foreign Language class has helped several students get certified in teaching English, and Amy Moen in Career Services has conducted mock interviews, which is a great help to candidates.”
Paul Burdette, who graduated from Rhodes in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in German and English, is one of the individuals who has benefited from the support of Rhodes faculty and staff. He won a Fulbright U.S. Student Award for the 2016-2017 academic year, and worked as an English Teaching Assistant in Auerbach, Germany, where he taught English, U.S. Politics, and American History. Currently, Burdette is a protocol assistant for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“Upon completion of my Fulbright assignment in Auerbach, I worked for a year at the non-governmental organization Global Bridges in Berlin, which drew many of its employees from a pool of Fulbright recipients,” says Burdette. “Through this experience, I was able to broaden my knowledge in the field of foreign policy, which eventually led me to my current position at the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which happens to have been chaired by Senator William Fulbright himself back in the 1960s and 1970s. I have learned so much about the legislative branch’s role in the formation of United States foreign policy, while also furthering my knowledge of American politics. I have a lot to be thankful for, not only for the Fulbright scholarship, but especially for all the professors, coaches, and friends at Rhodes that supported me the entire way and continue to do so to this day.”
As a 2017-2018 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Alor Gajah, Melaka, Malaysia, Rhodes alumna Meaghan Waff ’17 ran English-speaking workshops for students to improve their oral skills in addition to teaching in the classroom.
“The part about my Fulbright experience that most resonates with me is the fact that I was on the ground for the first democratic transition of power between political parties since Malaysia gained independence from the United Kingdom. Seeing how students were involved by putting up flags, how party politics played a role in conversations, and overall how the election occurred regardless of the obstacles, will never cease to amaze me,” says Waff. “The teaching assistantship has influenced my current work in a number of ways. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law, and my experience in Malaysia consistently serves as something that compels me to research and study the region more.”
The process of applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student award is rigorous, yet provides the opportunity for self-reflection that helps candidates in their future endeavors. “Even those who do not win awards have consistently reported back to me after graduation that their experience in applying helped them a great deal in figuring out their specific career goals,” says Saxe.
Currently, 22 Rhodes students are competing for Fulbright U.S. Student awards for 2020-2021.