October 15, 2019

Two Seniors Chosen for Fulbright Awards

PBA News

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program has selected two students to teach English and serve abroad after graduation.

James Davisson and Allison Rice will participate in the English Teaching Assistant Program in South Korea and Bulgaria, respectively. A Fulbright is a highly-selective, prestigious award for international study that aims to foster understanding between U.S. citizens and those of other countries. During their terms, Davisson and Rice will live, work, learn and serve with people from their host countries.

Davisson, a senior majoring in intercultural studies and minoring in politics, will teach English to primary or secondary school students and to North Korean refugees outside of regular school hours. Since he was a teenager, he’s had a passion for working with people who have escaped from the authoritarian regime. He was moved when he heard a survivor speak at a local university in Anderson, Indiana, where he grew up.

“It broke my heart. Her story was absolutely amazing,” Davisson said. “I just really felt God leading me to work with those people and help be a light in a dark situation. When I heard her story, that ignited that passion in my heart.”

He hopes that teaching English to people who have fled North Korea will equip them to tell their stories, just as that young woman told him her story years ago.

Davisson is working toward his certification to teach English to speakers of other languages – and listening to a lot of Korean pop – to prepare for departure July 5, his 23rd birthday.

Before he arrived at PBA, he taught English in China. As a student, he taught English in Cambodia and at a safe house in Costa Rica.

The English Teaching Assistant program was a perfect fit for Rice, who enjoys learning languages and teaching English — interests the Frederick, Maryland, native discovered on a mission trip to Guatemala her senior year of high school. At PBA, she further explored those interests by volunteering to teach English to Arabic-speaking refugees at Bridges Language Academy and participating in a humanitarian aid trip to the Middle East. Rice, a senior majoring in biblical studies and minoring in English, also went on a 12-day study abroad trip to Germany.

Her Fulbright comes with a stipend to learn about the one language family she hasn’t yet studied: Slavic. Why Bulgaria? Her great-great-grandfather was Bulgarian, she said. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program selected Allison Rice to teach English in Bulgaria after graduation.

The University’s Prestigious National Scholarships Committee shepherded both Rice and Davisson through the Fulbright application process, down to simulating the international interview that takes place over Skype. Faculty members Dr. Carl Miller, Dr. Elizabeth Stice, Dr. Don McCulloch and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dr. Robert Lloyd serve on the committee.

The faculty mentors directed students to the Fulbright opportunity, helped them choose their countries, rehearsed their interviews, reviewed their resumes and pointed out their strengths and weaknesses.

Davisson said Miller called him over the summer asking him how his personal statement and statement of grant purpose were shaping up.

“Each step of the way, he was absolutely incredible,” Davisson said.

Faculty have been enthusiastic about serving on the interview panels, Miller said. The Fulbright is an opportunity to prove what they all agree on: “Our students here are as good as the best students anywhere.” PBA students are well-suited for the English Teaching Assistant Program because they have exceptional academic qualifications and a very strong service background to prepare them for the service-oriented program. The competitive program “opens up a lot of doors to do a lot of good in the future,” Miller said.

After his time abroad, Davisson hopes to work with North Korean refugees in Southern California. Rice is interested in English and linguistics, but she’s waiting to see what she learns from the Fulbright before plotting her next steps.

Rice said she wouldn’t have thought about applying for the Fulbright if not for the encouragement of the faculty.

“I’m just really thankful for the support PBA provided.”

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