GV alumni awarded Fulbright scholarships

Courtesy Photo / 
Sean Duffie

Courtesy Photo / Sean Duffie

Samantha Butcher

Two Grand Valley State University graduates have received Fulbright scholarships to teach English abroad during the 2011-2012 school year. A third GVSU alum was selected as an alternate.

Rikki Brown, a Russian studies major, and Sean Duffie, a Spanish-secondary education and group social studies major, will serve in English Teaching Assistantships to Russia and Spain, respectively. Shaynon Munn, who graduated GVSU in 2010 with a degree in English-secondary education, was selected as an alternate for an English Teaching Assistantship in Rwanda.

This is the largest group of Fulbright recipients and alternates in GVSU’s history. Munn will know whether she will receive the assistantship by mid-June.

“This is a very big deal,” said Amanda Cuevas, director of the Office of Fellowships. “This is a highly esteemed, highly coveted national scholarship. There are students competing all across the nation, and for all of our students to have been selected by their host countries really speaks very highly of the students that we have at Grand Valley and in particular is a huge feather in the cap for both Sean and Rikki.”

Cuevas and the Office of Fellowships work with Fulbright candidates on their applications, a process that takes the better part of two months. Interested students must go through the Office of Fellowships to apply.

Before applying for the fellowship, both Brown and Duffie spent time in the countries they will teach in, something Cuevas said gave them an edge in the competition for the prestigious grant.

“They both had very much demonstrated good competency in the language, but most importantly they really have a passion for the country and the culture, and that was quite evident,” Cuevas said.

Brown said she is “thrilled” to return to Russia as a Fulbright scholar.

“Through my Fulbright grant, I can solidify the things I began at Grand Valley, such as my Russian skills, teaching ability, and opportunity to be a young ambassador of the U.S.,” Brown said in a press release.

The Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, awards about 7,500 grants each year. Of those grants, 68 scholars will be positioned in Spain, 20 in Russia, and two in Rwanda.

“They really had a very good sense of purpose. They knew who they were, where they were going, and why this was an important step for them, and I think that’s a really important part of [the Fulbright application] process is getting to that place,” Cuevas said.

The 2012-2013 Fulbright competition opened this month, with the GVSU deadline in September. Interested students should contact Cuevas at [email protected] or at 616-331-3219 for more information.

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