9 Bears win prestigious Fulbright & Goldwater awards for 2019
The Fulbright Award is one of the most competitive and prestigious honors a college student can receive — and this year, a record seven Baylor Bears have earned the honor. Each of them is headed overseas to study and teach in countries ranging from Germany to Taiwan to Israel.
Two other Baylor students this spring earned a similarly prestigious honor: the Goldwater Scholarship, awarded to the most outstanding students in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
This year’s winners plan to use their awards in a variety of ways:
Lauren Barnes, BA ’19 (international studies), from Midland, Texas, is headed to Taiwan on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA). “I applied to Taiwan because I am really fascinated with Asian culture,” she says. “I wrote my thesis partially on Chinese immigration to America from 1850-1924. I read a lot of immigrant memoirs and interviews, and I think the personal stories resonated with me. Chinese immigrants struggled so much and faced so much adversity. I don’t want anyone to have to jump so many hurdles to come to this country ever again. I think having a working knowledge of Mandarin will help me to better foster cross-cultural connections and help people come to this country. After serving in Taiwan, I would like to go to law school. I want to work as an immigration lawyer who specifically serves the East and South East Asian community. If that ends up not working out, I think I’ll likely go into foreign service in some capacity.”
Kaitlyn Gibbens, BA ’19 (German and communication), from Sonora, Texas, is headed to Germany on a Fulbright ETA. “I began taking German language at Baylor for the purpose of connecting with my German family heritage,” she says. “I did the Baylor in Germany Program, a five-week summer study abroad, after my freshman year, and I absolutely fell in love with the German language and Germany’s beauty and history. Around the beginning of my junior year, I began researching ways I could live in Germany post-graduation, and Dr. Jennifer Good, one of my mentors at Baylor, suggested the Fulbright Scholarship. … After my Fulbright year, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in international studies or German language. Eventually, I want to work for the U.S. State Department or as a German language educator, either at the secondary education level or as a university professor.”
Catherine Haseman, BA ’19 (University Scholar), from Marble Falls, Texas, is headed to the West Bank, Israel, on a Fulbright ETA. “After my freshman year at Baylor, I took some time away from the classroom to learn in unconventional settings,” she says. “I interned at local organizations and lived with host families in three different countries. My time in the West Bank, living with a Palestinian Christian family and working at a peace-seeking organization, fostered in me a deep compassion for refugees. When I returned to Baylor after a year abroad, I joined the University Scholars program and began to concentrate my studies on understanding forced migration in the Middle East. I hope to attend graduate school to study forced migration and economic integration of refugees formally. I would love to dabble in case work for a while with an organization like RIACES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) or IRAP (International Refugee Assistance Project). My ultimate career goal is to serve as a UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) Camp Coordination and Camp Management Officer.”
Abby Miller, BA ’16 (history and English), from Plano, Texas, is headed to Colombia on a Fulbright ETA. “I chose Colombia, for a couple of reasons,” she says. “One, because it has a tough history, and now they’re emerging almost as a leader in their region, and how much they’ve gone through is really interesting. I think in the future I would like to work with refugee populations. They have a lot of refugees right now with the crisis in Venezuela, so that was part of my interest with Colombia. Also, I speak a little bit of Spanish and I would like to be fluent because I work with English language learners in Fort Worth. I would love to teach at a school, and there is a school like this in Fort Worth, that’s for newcomers, so for people who have just arrived in the United States and need those very immediate language skills to survive and interact in society, especially for students entering school who might not have formal schooling. I’ve worked with students like that before and they’re very inspiring, and I would love to work with that group again.”
Micheal Munson, a junior University Scholar from Cupertino, Calif., received a Goldwater Scholarship. As a University Scholar, Munson is concentrating his studies in biochemistry and applied mathematics. At Baylor, his primary research and teaching mentor has been Dr. Bryan Shaw, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, whose research on a particular devastating pediatric eye cancer led to the development of an app that can detect leukocoria (“white eye”) in photographs of children with eye cancer and other diseases. This summer, Munson will return for a third summer research internship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he studies Type II Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). He says his goal is to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. in statistics and biochemistry and eventually conduct translational research in biomedical science and teach at a research hospital with the ability to interact with patients.
Clay Parham, BA ’19 (international studies), from Buda, Texas, is headed to Germany on a Fulbright ETA. “Since I am a German minor, doing the Baylor in Germany program, which is a six-week intensive language program, was the obvious decision,” he says. “I really loved Germany and wanted to return for a longer period of time, either through graduate school or an opportunity to work. … I want to go to graduate school immediately following the ETA. Following that, I want to work in the U.S. federal government, in an agency dealing with international affairs; the State Department would be my dream job.”
Ben Sepanski, a junior mathematics major from Waco, also received a Goldwater Scholarship. Sepanski hopes to obtain his Ph.D. in applied mathematics and conduct research in numerical analysis at a top research university, specializing in problems related to finite element methods. His mentor at Baylor is Dr. Robert Kirby, professor of mathematics and undergraduate advisor, who has worked closely with Sepanski, helping guide his path to begin a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at San Diego State University following his freshman year.
Emma Weatherford, BA ’19 (University Scholar), from Flower Mound, Texas, is headed to the United Kingdom on a Fulbright Study Award. “The schools that jointly administer this program, the Royal Veterinary College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, are among the best institutions in the world in their fields,” she says. “In addition, at this program, I will have the opportunity to study with students from around the world.” Once the program ends, Weatherford says she hopes to go to medical school and become a physician.
Jamie Wheeler, BA ’19 (University Scholar), from Katy, Texas, is also headed to the United Kingdom on a Fulbright Study Award. “I’m interested in the influence of classical texts on 17th-century English literature, and — besides the obvious appeal of being in the home country of the works I’m studying — the Renaissance Literature program at the University of York is one of the world’s outstanding programs in this area,” she says. “When I realized this was what I wanted to pursue, Dr. Kirsten Escobar, who has been a mentor to me since freshman year, encouraged me to apply for the Fulbright. Its emphasis on cultural exchange and mutual understanding made it a great fit. After the Fulbright, I will pursue a Ph.D. in classical philology at Harvard, and I plan eventually to become a professor of classics. I will continue to research the intersection of my two fields, classics and Renaissance literature.”
Sic ’em, Bears!