April 25, 2016 | By Jake Weber
During her first year on campus, Albion College's impressive string of Fulbright recipients inspired Natalie Anderson, '16, to pursue her own award. And now, Anderson is joining that list with the recent announcement of her Fulbright U.S. Student Award for 2016-17.
"Honestly, I cried with happiness when I found out," said Anderson. "I have wanted this award for three years, and for it to finally be a reality was overwhelming."
Anderson will spend nine months in Mexico as an English instructor, most likely to middle school or high school students. The Fulbright program also requires teaching fellows to pursue original research. For Anderson, this will be based on a topic that piqued her interest while she was an exchange student in Mexico during 2014.
"For my research project I will conduct interviews with people belonging to various indigenous groups and identify the effect their cultures and traditions have on the overall culture of that geographical region," she explains. "While studying abroad I had the privilege of experiencing some of the rich indigenous history and culture present in Mexico. There are so many unique facets that you simply do not hear about in the news. My goal is to share these aspects of Mexico with the world."
Anderson notes several Albion advantages that influenced her award. During her sophomore year she took a Spanish writing course with Kalen Oswald, who is both an associate professor in, and chair of, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. "In the beginning my essays would be covered in red ink, but through his passion, guidance and encouragement my skills grew exponentially," she says. Additionally, former Albion Spanish professor Catalina Perez-Abreu played a large role in shaping her perspective about language by explaining how culture is just as important as grammar.
"The biggest piece, though, came from the Albion College Education Department," Anderson says. "Even though I am only 21, I have already had extensive experience in teaching; I’ve taught middle schoolers and high schoolers, in large and small schools, in rural and urban settings, with mainstream students and those with special needs. I have spent hundreds of hours in classrooms, created dozens of lesson plans and worked with a multitude of kids, all thanks to Albion's education program. Fulbright saw that experience, and I have no doubt it is what gave me a leg up against the competition."
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States. It provides and supports educators and researchers working abroad with the goal of enhancing mutual understanding between Americans and citizens of the host countries. Since 1948, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has sponsored the work of some 100,000 students. Albion College alumni have received a total of 15 Fulbright awards since 2003; 10 were named teaching fellows in Europe and Africa, and two received grants for research in Tanzania and Brazil, respectively.
Currently student-teaching at Parma Western High School, Ms. Anderson will graduate next month with a degree in Spanish, a minor in English, and a concentration in Secondary Education. She has completed the Fritz Shurmur Center for Teacher Development – Teacher Education Program and will be eligible for certification by the Michigan Department of Education as highly qualified to teach grades 6-12 in both her major and minor. Anderson has served as the communications chair of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and co-vice president of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. She is also a member of the academic honoraries Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta.