Elmhurst College senior Isabel Juvan has been named a 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student. The award provides a grant that will enable her to travel this fall to the Slovak Republic, where she will work as an English teaching assistant for the next year.
“It’s still kind of a shock,” said Juvan, an English and secondary education major from Elmhurst who graduates in May as an Honors Program Global Scholar. She is the sixth Elmhurst College student to have won the award from the Fulbright U.S. Student program, and was one of two Elmhurst seniors to be named a semi-finalist—the first time two students have achieved that distinction in the same year in the highly competitive Fulbright program.
The other semi-finalist, Mary Dickey ’17, is a history major from Evergreen Park who had applied to be a teaching assistant in Germany. She also is an Honors Program Global Scholar.
The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program places students in classrooms across the world to assist local English language teachers and to serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. To succeed, students need excellent grades, experience studying abroad, community or campus involvement and excellent interpersonal skills, said Mary Kay Mulvaney, an English professor who is director of the Honors Program and the College’s Fulbright Program adviser.
The application process is rigorous and the competition is steep, she said. “To move from applicant to semi-finalist (which is just one step from winning a scholarship) is very, very difficult,” she said. Having the College’s only two applicants get to that level speaks both to the caliber of student at Elmhurst and the way the College nurtures and encourages its outstanding scholars, she said.
Mulvaney starts touting the Fulbright program starting as early as freshman Honors Program orientation. “I tell them a Fulbright scholarship is a four-year process and they should start now.”
Once potential applicants are identified, Mulvaney and Professor Emeritus Earl Thompson work closely with them on the application process.
“The support from across campus has been phenomenal,” said Dickey, estimating that she wrote 14 drafts of her application essay at Thompson’s prodding. She described the competition as an amazing learning experience on its own.
Juvan agreed, saying the faculty “were with me every step of the way.”
“We’re really proud of her,” said English Department Chair Ann Frank Wake. She said spending the year immersed in a foreign culture will be of immense benefit to Juvan, who in her student teaching always has been “very focused on making sure students from diverse backgrounds feel integrated into the classroom.”
Teaching at a high school in Preŝov, on the eastern side of the Slovak Republic, will give Juvan a chance to experience what it feels like to be the new person, to be the person learning a new language and culture, and having to work to fit in, she said. “This is only going to make her a more brilliant teacher.”
Mulvaney concurred. “She is a very deserving candidate and a wonderful young woman who has really maximized her opportunities at Elmhurst,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder of her.”