As global citizens and change-makers, College of Charleston graduates are making a difference all over the world. And no one is more determined to have an impact on the future than the three CofC alumni who received Fulbright awards this year.
International studies major Aaron Aldstadt ’20 and psychology majors Emily Beck ’17 and Ashley Layne ’20 each received highly competitive awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this spring, allowing them to study, research and teach overseas.
“Each of them sees the experience as a way to better understand the world and to serve their communities,” says Office of Nationally Competitive Awards Director Jesslyn Collins-Frohlich, adding that two additional graduates – Emily Anderson ’15 and Katya Caleca ’20 – were named alternates. “One thing that I would say about this year’s winners and alternates is that each is using their Fulbright to fully immerse themselves in the communities and issues with which they hope to work throughout their careers.”
Beck, for example, received a study grant to pursue her master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at the Auckland University of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.
“My goal in pursuing this master’s is to compare and contrast New Zealand’s approach to criminal justice with that of the United States, with a focus on restorative justice,” says Beck, who currently serves as an intensive supervision officer in the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ Division of Young Offender Parole and Reentry Services. “The U.S. industrial prison complex has spiraled out of control, disproportionately affecting people of color and those of a low socioeconomic status. We punish and shame instead of heal and reflect. After obtaining my master’s degree, I hope to come back to the U.S. and be involved with reshaping our justice system.”
“My career goals include engaging as a responsible global citizen, as well as to become a U.S. foreign service officer or to serve in a cultural diplomatic role,” says Aldstadt, adding that he first became interested in international studies in an introductory course with faculty member Sarah Wuigk. “It really sparked my interest in the major and fostered an appreciation for a global perspective.”
Aldstadt will be broadening that perspective through his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in South Korea, where he’ll be teaching secondary school students.
“My focus as a Fulbright ETA will be to strengthen English language abilities and knowledge of American culture,” he says. “By focusing on the importance of communication, I hope to make a positive impression with the Korean people and to serve as a positive bridge builder between our cultures.”
Layne’s Fulbright ETA is taking her to Colombia, where she’ll be teaching English in a university setting while also working on a project supporting disabled individuals in the community.
“I’m confident that the teaching experience combined with my interactions with individuals with disabilities will provide me with a more global perspective from which to pursue my future career as an occupational therapist,” she says, noting that it was during her time at the College that she became interested in international work. “The courses I’ve taken in psychology and Hispanic studies have given me a greater appreciation for different cultures, languages and world views, and I’m thankful to have received that education prior to engaging in my Fulbright experience.”
Beck agrees that the College set her up for success during her Fulbright studies.
“The College prepared me immensely for this – mainly because of its incredible faculty (shoutout to my mentor [associate professor of psychology] Jen Cole Wright!) and liberal arts nature. I was brought out of my comfort zone in many classes, and challenged to understand diversity, privilege and injustice on a deeper level,” she says, noting that it was in an online restorative justice course she took with sociology and anthropology adjunct Reba Parker when she realized what she wanted to do for a career. “My whole college experience fit together and my passion was revealed! My internship, study abroad and multiple research experiences have left me open minded and hungry for knowledge, desperate and passionate for change.”
“The College’s continued success in the Fulbright competition speaks to both the quality of students as well as the innovative ways they utilize the teaching, leadership and research experiences available to them to create impactful Fulbright projects,” says Collins-Frohlich, noting that – due to travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic – most Fulbright projects have been delayed and shortened.
But still, she says, “Their Fulbright experiences will undoubtedly shape their futures in exciting and profound ways.”