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CMU students awarded Fulbrights to teach English in South Korea and Turkey

Recipients are the third and fourth consecutive CMU students to receive the annual award


​For the first time in its history, Central Michigan University has two students who have been awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships. CMU alumna Sarah Alm of Mount Pleasant and Allen Park senior Ben Harris are the third and fourth consecutive CMU students to receive the annual award.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Fostering partnerships and mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries, it provides more than 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study for research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Alm and Harris are two of 80 finalists from a pool of nearly 300 applicants to receive teaching assistantships this year.

“I would have never gotten to this point without the support of some amazing professors at CMU, and I especially have to thank Dr. Laura Cochrane in anthropology,” Alm said. “She was my adviser for the Undergraduate Summer Scholars Program research grant that allowed me to study in Turkey two years ago. The faculty are passionate teachers and CMU’s greatest asset, and it’s them I have to thank.”

Alm, a recent graduate with a major in music and minor in anthropology, is completing a yearlong development internship at the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra in Boulder, Colo. In 2012, she spent two weeks conducting interviews and recording songs in Turkey to determine if similarities existed between Turkish lullabies and the Ojibwe language of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

Phame Camerena, director of the CMU Honors and National Scholarship Program, said Alm’s successful application for the Fulbright award stems from her respect and passion for Turkish people and their culture.

“Turkey is an important national partner for the United States, but it is a country that few Americans understand well,” Camerena said. “The fact that Sarah was selected by Turkey for this award highlights her understanding, appreciation and respect for the people there. She will be a strong cultural ambassador for our two nations.”

Upon her return to the U.S., Alm intends to apply to physician assistant graduate programs and hopes to work with international rescue groups.

Harris, an English and history major, will graduate from CMU in May and travel to South Korea in July. In 2013 he studied at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a seat of government in the Netherlands, and Korea University, where he took a particular interest in Korean judge and diplomat Yi Jun, a model of peaceful arbitration who sparked Harris’ interest in international law.  

Harris credits his decision to return to the country on a Fulbright assistantship to the affordability of the program and support from CMU’s National Scholarship Program office.

“The professors really care about their students and to be in a university this supportive is really important to me, because I came here to get the best education,” Harris said.

Harris intends to pursue a law degree in the U.S. after his Fulbright experience in South Korea.

“As with other top students, Ben is strong in research, writing and critical thinking,” Jonathan Truitt, associate professor of history, said. “What sets Ben apart is his application of these skills outside the classroom, where he embraces possibilities and creates new educational experiences. He is the ideal person for this award because I know he will work just as hard to create opportunities for his own learning as he will to foster the learning of his students.”

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 more than 140 countries worldwide.

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