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Graduate Student Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Rwanda

Graduate Student Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Rwanda

Posted: April 26, 2016

Ashley Weselak, who will graduate with her master’s degree in English education in May, has been named a recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Grant to teach English as a second language in Rwanda starting in the fall.

The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board awarded the grant to Weselak, one of approximately 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

Weselak marks Buffalo State’s sixth Fulbright award winner in this category since 1967, according to Robert Summers, assistant dean for International and Exchange Programs and associate professor of modern and classical languages. Several faculty members also have been awarded Fulbright awards through the years.

After traveling to Rwanda with the Anne Frank Project in January 2015, Weselak was so inspired by the people and the history of the country, she wanted to find a way to return. Jean Gounard, director of the International Student Affairs Office, recommended she apply for the Fulbright grant.

“Ashely was a strong candidate because she has connections in Rwanda, she’s been involved with Project Flight at Buffalo State, and she’s whole-heartedly dedicated to teaching and helping others,” said Gounard.

 Still, the competition was intense.

“I was competing with students from other very prestigious universities, and Rwanda has a lot of recent history and interesting factors that people want to research,” Weselak said. “When I found out that I was selected, I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity for months on end. It feels great to be a part of the Fulbright community.”

Weselak won’t know her university placement for a couple of weeks, and she said her project is contingent upon her location.  

“If I’m placed in Kigali, I hope to continue working with the NIYO Cultural Centre (a center that helps pay for education for homeless children, as well as provide activities and dance/drumming lessons),” she said. “I hope to start an English book club for whichever university I end up working with that will extend into the community. And if there is interest, I’d like to offer cultural nights with American films and music.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relationships between United States citizens and those of other countries to solve global challenges. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program has given more than 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Summers said he would like to encourage more Buffalo State students to pursue Fulbright grants. To learn more, contact him at (716) 878-4620 or summerrh@buffalostate.edu.

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