Kia Johnson, a graduating senior at the University of St. Thomas, has been named a Fulbright Scholar.
The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive, merit-based grant for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists, founded by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, to which Johnson was accepted, is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.
Johnson, a biology and Spanish double major, will work as a teaching assistant in Fulbright's English Teaching Assistantship program in Peru next March. This program places Fulbright scholars in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. Scholars help teach the English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.
English professor Dr. Amy Muse, who worked with Johnson on the development of her application essays and served as chair of the campus interview committee, said she believes Johnson "fully deserves this award."
"Kia is impressively prepared to walk into a classroom in Peru. She's a natural teacher who loves explaining and coaching and thrives on others' growth. For the past three years she has been a successful leader in the STEM learning communities, and speaks eloquently of discerning each student's learning style and tailoring her lessons to meet them where they are. Bright, observant, intellectually curious, attentive to cultural distinctions, quick to make friends, she exemplifies the Fulbright mission in her active search for mutual understanding. As opportunities go, this one’s a life-changer, and she’s ready for it," Muse noted.
Johnson said in addition to teaching English, she hopes to volunteer in a hospital setting during her nine-month stay in Peru. "In the future I plan on pursuing medicine, though I'm not sure as a practicing physician or for clinical research," she said.
The Fulbright is not Johnson's first scholarship of note. In 2012, she was awarded a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a scholarship granted annually to a select group of undergraduate students who plan to pursue careers in science, mathematics or engineering, and a UNCF/MERCK Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship, another highly competitive annual award for aspiring scientists. She also was a member of the NCAA Division III national-champion volleyball team in 2012.
St. Thomas has had 12 Fulbright scholars, excluding Johnson, since 1973. Only three St. Thomas students have been named Fulbright Scholars since 2000: Jennifer D. Nielsen (Middle Eastern Studies, Egypt, 2003), Emily Kessel (English Teaching Assistantship, South Korea, 2009) and Nick Huynh (Biology, Sweden, 2010). Among the university's past scholars, eight chose to study in Germany.
The U.S. Student Program program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide. Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni work in a range of professions and include ambassadors, members of Congress, judges, heads of corporations, university presidents, journalists, artists, professors and teachers. Bose Corporation founder Amar Bose, actor John Lithgow, composer Philip Glass, opera singer Renee Fleming and economist Joseph Stiglitz are among notable former grantees.
Approximately 30 universities and colleges are selected each year for this award from a pool of more than 1,000 participating institutions