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Three UNLV Students Win Fulbright Scholarship

Three UNLV students win coveted nationally competitive grants to study, research, and teach abroad.

Campus News  |  Jun 1, 2017  |  By Francis McCabe

President Len Jessup announcing Hannah Kelley as Spring 2017 Outstanding UNLV Graduate. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services) 

Three UNLV students have been awarded prestigious Fulbright Scholarships that will allow them to study, conduct research, and teach abroad.

Meredith Whye just graduated with a master’s degree in early childhood education through the Teach for America program. She will be heading to Kenya to teach English at the university level.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to help,” Whye explained. Originally from Iowa, Whye has been teaching Pre-K in the Clark County School District at Ruben P. Diaz Elementary school.

She applied to Kenya because of family roots. Her grandfather once worked in the African nation with the East Africa Research Organization. “I had this personal connection and I was always interested in going there,” Whye said.

Eventually, Whye hopes to get her doctorate in international education with a focus on how education policymakers in the U.S. can learn from how other countries educate their citizens.

Secondary Education major Hannah Kelley has recently added Fulbright grant recipient to the ever growing list of her accomplishments at UNLV.

Kelley, who graduated in May with a 3.99 GPA and was named a UNLV Outstanding Graduate, will be moving to Norway to teach English as part of her Fulbright commitment.

The Honors College graduate has said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher to give back to the community.

While at UNLV, the former Green Valley High School valedictorian worked full time to support herself while balancing extracurricular activities such as serving as Editor in Chief of UNLV's chapter of The Odyssey online news publication, as a workshop instructor at the Writer's Block Bookshop, and as a peer instructor and mentor for the Honors College.

Following her time in Norway, Kelley plans on teach in the Clark County School District before going into educational policy.

UNLV history major Sean Cortney will spend the academic year in Changsha, Hunan, China at Hunan Normal University.

Cortney, who graduated in December, will study the transformation of Yuelu Academy (a renowned Chinese academy of higher learning circa 976) to Hunan University in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how it reflected a landmark transition toward modernity in Huxiang culture and society.

Cortney became interested in the Yuelu Academy during a side trip to the province while studying abroad in China. “It’s one of the oldest continuing education centers in the world,” Cortney said.

And the transition from the Yuelu Academy to Hunan University is unique in that incorporated classical Chinese learning tactics with international elements including math and engineering, Cortney said.

Plus, Cortney quipped, “I really like Hunan food.”

Cortney is hoping to parlay his experience and UNLV education into a position with the government or the world of business before heading to graduate school.

Susan Thompson, director of UNLV’s international programs office - which helps mentor and guide students applying for Fulbright Scholarships - said the success of Cortney, Kelley, and Whye should fill UNLV with pride.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for these students. They join a long and growing list of UNLV students who have earned this prestigious scholarship. It will be an experience they will never forget,” Thompson said.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright after World War II because too few Americans could speak the languages of their allies. However, scholarship recipients nowadays aim to grow international goodwill through studying and teaching abroad.

The program awards about 1,800 grants annually. Grants are awarded to U.S. students, foreign students, U.S. scholars, visiting scholars, teachers and professionals who study, research, or teach abroad for about a year. The Fulbright program operates in more than 140 countries covering more than 100 different fields of study.

Winning a Fulbright Scholarship is a highly competitive process, with dozens of students applying annually from UNLV and thousands applying from colleges and universities across the nation.