Students span the globe to teach others and learn about new cultures

UNG graduates and students earn national scholarships to study abroad

UNG students will venture to foreign countries to be English Teaching Assistants, conduct research and immerse themselves in different cultures to gain knowledge and skills about the international community.

These students’ transformative experiences will be funded by prestigious national awards such as the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program.

Three UNG graduates selected as Fulbright finalists

More than a year ago, UNG student Katie Smith was invited to a meeting about the Fulbright program.

The Fulbright program supports students who have at least a bachelor’s degree to teach English or conduct research in one of 140-plus countries for one year. Students often apply for the prestigious program as seniors to participate the year after graduation.

The information was music to Smith’s ears.

“It sounded great,” she said. “And the worst thing that could happen is getting rejected.”

Smith, a May 2018 graduate with a history degree, was not rejected. The 21-year-old from Adairsville, Georgia, was named a Fulbright finalist. She will spend one year in South Korea as an English Teaching Assistant.

“I’m a little nervous but excited too,” Smith said. “I hope to improve my Korean while I’m there and be more confident.”

Smith will not be the only UNG graduate in South Korea. Amanda Hamilton, a December 2017 graduate from Acworth, Georgia, with a degree in psychology, was accepted into the program. Both women will be placed in classrooms ranging from kindergarten to university-level to help teach the English language and serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S.

“I am pleased that our students are well prepared to take advantage of the transformational experiences provided through the Fulbright program and other nationally competitive scholarships,” UNG President Bonita Jacobs said.

Lily O’Clery, a May 2018 graduate from Gainesville, Georgia, was originally named as an alternate to the program but earned finalist status in mid-May. She will teach in Taiwan.

Another alternate was Grayson Ruhl, a December 2017 finalist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and former cadet. He hoped to teach in Poland.

Four other UNG students were selected as semifinalists. They were:

  • Courtney Graff, a December 2017 graduate from Dahlonega, Georgia.
  • Sarah Hosey, a December 2017 graduate from Cumming, Georgia.
  • Lyric Jones, a May 2018 graduate from Augusta, Georgia, who previously won the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in 2017 and the Critical Language Scholarship in 2016.
  • Theresa Kim, a December 2017 graduate from Buford, Georgia, who previously won a Gilman and Freeman Asia scholarship last summer.

For the 2017-18 school year, eight UNG students were Fulbright finalists. Based on this, the U.S. Department of State announced UNG as one of the top universities in the nation in producing Fulbright students and scholars. In fact, UNG was ranked second nationwide among master’s universities — UNG’s category in the Carnegie classification system used by education researchers to distinguish between different types of colleges and universities.

“UNG is proud to be a state leadership institution, and this achievement is an indicator of the excellent academic and leadership development opportunities that we provide for our students,” Jacobs said.

The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between U. S. citizens and residents of foreign countries. Finalists are college graduates who receive financial support for round-trip transportation to the host country and funding to cover room, board and incidental costs.

Two win Gilman scholarships and study in China and Spain

UNG senior Lyric Jones had her heart set on studying the Chinese language in China in her quest to become a translator. The Augusta, Georgia, native has done just that.

Jones, a 22-year-old majoring in Chinese, received the Gilman scholarship for a full academic year to complete the Chinese Language Flagship Capstone program in Beijing, China.

“I was drowning in happiness,” Jones said after receiving the news.

She left for China in August with plans to return for her August 2018 graduation.

Monica Pizano of Jefferson, Georgia, won a scholarship for the spring 2018 semester to study abroad in Spain.

“I was jumping up and down and really excited,” Pizano said after learning she got the scholarship. “I messaged my mom and she said ‘Hard works pays off.’”

Jones and Pizano are two out of 1,000 American undergraduates to receive a Gilman scholarship, which enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to national security and economic competitiveness.

Six UNG students have also received the Gilman scholarship for the summer semester. The latest Gilman recipients, with scholarships totaling almost $27,000, are:

  • Devin Hing, sociology major, study in Israel, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia.
  • Matthew Howell, international affairs major and cadet with a Middle East concentration, study in Morocco.
  • Jillian Jay, biology pre-med major, study in Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Cambodia.
  • Brooklyn Rouse, sociology major, study in Japan.
  • Rachael Williams, international affairs major with a Middle East concentration, study in Morocco.
  • Chelsey Willoughby, sociology major, study in Israel, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia.

Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president for research and engagement at UNG, explained the scholarship is unique because it is geared toward supporting students who are underrepresented in study abroad programs.

The Gilman is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who receive Federal Pell Grant funding at a two or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide. In the past five years, 22 UNG students have received Gilman Scholarships, including a record nine students in the 2016-17 academic year.

UNG has been named as one of the top-producing schools of the Gilman scholarships by the U.S. Department of State.

Three students selected as finalists and two alternates for Critical Language Scholarship Program

Thomas Vella, a freshman majoring in strategic studies, was pleased to learn he had achieved finalist status.

“I was extremely happy and I immediately stood up and did a couple of dance movements,” Vella said. “My ultimate goal is to become an analyst who works in the intelligence community specializing in the Middle East.”

Vella and two other UNG students were named finalists in March. They are:

  • Madison Brooks, a junior double majoring in Arabic and French.
  • Micaela Tierce, a junior majoring in international affairs and a cadet with a Middle Eastern concentration.

Two semifinalists were selected as alternates for the program:

  • Lily O’Clery, a senior majoring in Chinese and minoring in Korean.
  • Marissa Wilborn, a sophomore majoring in Arabic and minoring in global leadership.

UNG has had two previous CLS winners and three other semifinalists since 2013.

The scholarship, a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, funds American undergraduate and graduate students to complete intensive language study abroad in the summer. CLS is a very competitive scholarship with acceptance rates hovering around 10 percent each year.

With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students at every level of language learning.

Madison Brooks
Critical Language Scholarship


Courtney Graff
Fulbright semifinalist


Amanda Hamilton
Fulbright finalist


Devin Hing
Gilman scholarship


Sarah Hosey
Fulbright semifinalist


Lyric Jones
Fulbright semifinalist
Gilman scholarship


Theresa Kim
Fulbright semifinalist


Lily O’Clery
Fulbright finalist
Critical Language Scholarship alternate


Monica Pizano
Gilman scholarship


Brooklyn Rouse
Gilman scholarship


Grayson Ruhl
Fulbright alternate


Katie Smith
Fulbright finalist


Micaela Tierce
Critical Language Scholarship


Thomas Vella
Critical Language Scholarship


Chelsey Willoughby
Gilman scholarship


Rachael Williams
Gilman scholarship


Marissa Wilborn
Critical Language Scholarship
I am pleased that our students are well prepared to take advantage of the transformational experiences provided through the Fulbright program and other nationally competitive scholarships.
-DR. Bonita Jacobs, UNG President