Supported by a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, Virginia DeWees ’16 will travel to rural Malaysia to teach English and promote cultural exchange.
“Fulbright’s emphasis on ambassadorship linked with teaching is what drew me to their program,” says DeWees, a writing and rhetoric, and educational leadership double major. “Representing the U.S. State Department through Fulbright is a tremendous honor. Both my brother and my grandfather serve in the U.S. Marine Corps and I felt a calling to serve my country, but in a different way.”
Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. DeWees is one of seven HWS students and recent graduates to earn a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, including Charles S. DeBenedetto ’16 (Taiwan), Ryan Kertanis ’16 (Mongolia), Afrika Owes ’16 (South Africa), Olivia Woodruff ’16 (Senegal), Emma McDowell ’15 (Thailand) and Sophia Skaff ’15 (Brazil).
This spring, the Colleges again have a record number of Fulbright recipients, matching the seven awarded to members of the Classes of 2015. In light of last year’s outcomes, the Colleges have since been named among the top colleges and universities with the most recipients of 2015-16 U.S. Fulbright Student Awards, placing 13th in the nation.
With long-time plans to pursue a career in education, DeWees expects teaching in Malaysia to “benefit my identity as an educator and also hopefully benefit those I will be working with in that system.”
To develop that sense of identity as an educator, DeWees says she “wanted an experience incomparable to anything I have had before,” both inside and outside the classroom.
“I wanted to be in a country where the religion, the culture, the weather, the food and the people were going to challenge, teach and enthrall me,” she explains.
DeWees, who served as a teaching assistant in New Zealand during her semester abroad, says she wants “to experience that again to further my knowledge on fostering cultural relevancy within a classroom.”
On campus, DeWees serves as a Writing Colleague, is the founder of the Leadership League of Women, and is a member of the Laurel Society and Hai Timiai.
“Without HWS, my acceptance for this Fulbright position would not have been possible,” she says. “The professors and administrators I have worked with over the past four years have pushed me intellectually beyond places I thought I could go, and for that, I thank them.”