Two IU Southeast students are Fulbright semifinalists

18th March 2022

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Teagan Sage ’20 and Rebekah Smith were recognized as Fulbright semifinalists.

Sage was shortlisted for a research grant in Austria. Smith is one step closer to a teaching assistantship in Bahrain.

“A Fulbright fellowship is one of the highest academic honors a college graduate can receive,” said Dr. Lisa Hoffman, Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. “The program is extremely competitive and being chosen as a semifinalist is a high honor.”

Fulbright grants support U.S. citizens living in another country for a one-year cultural exchange program. They spend the time abroad conducting research, teaching English or studying a particular topic about the host country.

Smith is a senior double-majoring in international studies and Spanish. She began learning modern Arabic and eventually visited Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, which had a direct impact on her pursuit of a fellowship

“I loved the language and the culture and after visiting that region of the world I was eager to go back and be a part of a community abroad,” Smith said. “Bahrain specifically speaks a specific dialect of Arabic that I wish to learn and use in my future work.”

If she receives the grant, Smith would be helping Bahraini university students develop their English skills in their specific areas of study.

Smith plans to attend law school, with a focus on international law, and pursue a career in the U.S. Department of State.

She acknowledges the inspiration and assistance of Dr. Jean Abshire, professor of political science and international studies, Dr. Diane Wille, professor of psychology, and Dr. Lisa Hoffman, dean for research and graduate studies, along with other faculty in her field.

“The faculty at IUS prepared me well to apply for this program and recommended the best courses to make me an effective English Teaching Assistant in a foreign country,” Smith said. “Regardless of the outcome I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to apply and I am grateful for the confidence that the IUS faculty has in me.”

For Sage, the dream of research in Austria must remain a dream for now, as his application was not among those awarded a fellowship.

He graduated with highest distinction in August 2020 with a major in International Studies and minors in German and History.

His research project, which grew directly out of his undergraduate work and independent research, would have focused on an aspect of Austrians’ complicated relationship with Nazi Germany.

As one who grew up in Germany, where his family lives, Sage’s project proposal had a deep personal relevance, and the support of expert faculty in Vienna, where he had hoped to work with primary source material and conduct interviews in German.

His sense of purpose is unchanged.

“My ultimate goal is to pursue work that facilitates transatlantic relations,” Sage said. “In this way, I hope to bridge my homes in North America and Europe and put my skills to use in work that emphasizes peace and reconciliation.”

Despite the disappointment, Sage feels his journey has been memorable and rewarding.

“I learned a great deal about myself and now feel better prepared to redirect my focus with renewed vigor,”
Sage said. “I would encourage any IUS student to consider working with faculty and staff toward the possibility of a Fulbright.”

Like Smith, Sage was advised by Dr. Abshire, and credits faculty with creating opportunities for him to expand his skill set. He worked as the production and research intern for the International Power Hour show on Horizon Radio, and conducted an independent translation project.

“Our semifinalists have dedicated many hours of work into preparing their applications and studying about their potential host countries,” Hoffman said. “This honor reflects their commitment to be engaged international citizens who want to immerse themselves in learning about other cultures at a deeper level.”

Should she be offered a fellowship, Smith would follow in the footsteps of fellow Grenadiers Cory Blatz, Ryan Taylor Cannon, Jazmin Trejo Oliver, and Van Knopf.

“The success of our Fulbright nominees is another indicator of the breadth and depth of the preparation that students receive in our international studies programs and across our university,” Hoffman said.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments, host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

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