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Monday, Jul 15, 2019

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Six Ohio University students receive the nationally competitive Fulbright Award


Ohio University seniors Sasha Estrella-Jones, Taylor Potts, Sara Sand, Claire Seid and Austin Stevens and recent master’s graduate Paige Walters were selected as recipients for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program Award, the largest U.S. educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

The program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in more than 140 countries for graduating seniors and graduate students.

An Honors Tutorial College anthropology major, Estrella-Jones is the first student from Ohio University to receive a Fulbright to Senegal in West Africa.

Sasha Estrella-Jones

An Honors Tutorial College anthropology major, Estrella-Jones is the first student from Ohio University to receive a Fulbright to Senegal in West Africa. She received an English Teaching Assistant award. 

“I truly think that Senegal defies a lot of the stereotypes that Westerners have [about] what Africa should look like and what Africa is,” she said.

Estrella-Jones previously did a study abroad trip to Senegal two summers ago through the Gilman Scholarship. “I fell in love with the country and I told myself I was going to go back, I just had to find a way back,” she said. 

Estrella-Jones hopes that this experience will provide an outlet to start her career working for the U.S. government in cultural affairs. She is excited to work with the U.S. Embassy in Senegal and come up with cultural programs. 

When applying for the Fulbright, Estrella-Jones doubted herself because she wasn’t a “perfect” academic student. She now wants to be a spokesperson for the Fulbright, encouraging students to pursue nationally competitive awards to nontraditional countries.

“I would love to see more minority students apply because they can get it. We are capable and don’t need to doubt ourselves,” Estrella-Jones said. “I want to set an example. I’m like you and I did it.”

Taylor Potts, an adolescent to young adult language arts major, will be teaching English to high school students in South Korea for 13 months.

Taylor Potts

Potts, an adolescent to young adult language arts major, will be teaching English to high school students in South Korea for 13 months. As this will be Potts’ first time abroad, she is excited to be placed with a South Korean family during her stay. She believes this will be a great opportunity to experience different people and a different culture.

“I always wanted to study abroad since I was a little girl,” Potts said. “This is giving me the opportunity to do that while doing something I love, which is teaching English. So it’s kind of like a package all-in-one.”

An Honors Tutorial College physics engineering major, Sara Sand received a research award to Konstanz University, located in Southern Germany.

Sara Sand

An Honors Tutorial College physics engineering major, Sand received a research award to Konstanz University, located in Southern Germany. She is one of the few students in Ohio University’s history to receive four nationally competitive awards. As a sophomore, she received another prestigious internship through the German exchange DAAD RISE program, where she conducted research at the same university. She has also earned Hollings and Udall scholarships.

This summer, Sand will have the opportunity to research a specific type of hybrid solar cell, called a pervoskite cell. These hybrid cells were invented in 2009 and have become very efficient. Unfortunately, these cells contain lead and deteriorate quickly. She will work on a project to replace the lead with the element bismuth to achieve a more stable solar cell.
 
Sand has researched solar energy since she was a first-year student. After her Fulbright, she plans to go to graduate school for material sciences or physics. 

“It’s such a big honor, which sounds so cheesy. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Sand said. “To have actually gotten it is really exciting.”

Claire Seid, an Honors Tutorial College sociology major, was awarded an English Teaching Assistant grant in the Czech Republic for 10 months.

Claire Seid

Seid, an Honors Tutorial College sociology major, was awarded an English Teaching Assistant grant in the Czech Republic for 10 months.

She will be teaching English to younger kids at a forest school, a type of alternative, outdoor education where children play and learn in a woodland environment while developing personal, social and technical skills through hands-on learning.

“I’m super interested in alternative education, so I’m super happy I’m going to one in the Czech Republic,” Seid said.

Growing up, Seid was a product of alternative education. She was homeschooled and later went to a supplementary school. When she returns to the states from the Czech Republic, she plans to either go to graduate school or start a career in alternative education or activism work.

In the summer of 2016, Seid went to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, to receive her Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate to learn how to teach Czech learners.

“I really fell in love with the country and wanted to go back,” Seid said. “I love teaching, I love education, I love traveling – this is a perfect thing for me to do.”

Austin Stevens, a biochemistry and biological sciences major, will be conducting research at Aarhus University, a prestigious university in Denmark, for 10 months.

Austin Stevens

Stevens, a biochemistry and biological sciences major, will be conducting research at Aarhus University, a prestigious university in Denmark, for 10 months. 

His research project consists of developing a detection method to identify an antagonist for the growth hormone (GH) in human muscle and fat tissue samples. GH is an important protein in the human body and development as it stimulates growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration. 

This will be Stevens’ first time abroad. He is looking forward to experiencing a new country, immersing himself in a new culture and growing as a person. 

“[The fellowship] will help me to broaden how I view things, so that I can view them from other people’s perspectives,” Stevens said. “Especially when I get to the job force, I can take in multiple opinions and be understanding.”

After Stevens completes his fellowship in Denmark, he plans to get his doctorate in biomedical sciences and later work in a hospital laboratory.

Paige Walters, a recent graduate who earned a master’s degree in international development, was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru student research grant to India for nine months.

Paige Walters

Walters, a recent graduate who earned a master’s degree in international development, was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru student research grant to India for nine months. While in India, she will develop a theoretical and operational understanding of the impact of ecological farming practices on women’s social and economic status, education, independence and community.

Walters has been abroad several time, mostly in Asia. She chose to work in India because of her long-standing interest in the country’s culture and its relevance to her research of women empowerment. 

“There is already a lot of momentum throughout India to promote women farmers… It is a great opportunity to bear witness to such initiatives,” Walters wrote in an email. “I’m excited to be able to have conversations with the women I admire and respect so much.”

Walters doesn’t have the traditional “career goals” as most students. She aspires to obtain a lifestyle, through which she will live out her values of being of service to oppressed people and the earth through a deeper relationship with plants. 

“It’s a great privilege that is not afforded to many; therefore, I hope to utilize this honor by being of service and supporting those who have the heart but not the funds,” Walters wrote.

Beth Clodfelter, the director of OHIO’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, believes each recipient was very well qualified for the Fulbright award. Faculty members provided key guidance to them in their interviews and wrote excellent recommendations for them.

“The six Ohio University graduates will represent OHIO extremely well,” Clodfelter said. “It was a pleasure to work closely with them, and I am delighted that they will be able to conduct their research or teach English abroad.”