Grad student chosen for Fulbright fellowship

Jennifer Birdsall
Jennifer Birdsall

UNL graduate student Jennifer Birdsall will take her passion for teaching to another continent this fall through a Fulbright scholarship. Birdsall, who teaches K-5 students with behavioral disorders for Lincoln Public Schools, will travel to Macedonia to help teach English under the Fulbright program.

She will graduate with her master's degree in educational administration from UNL this summer and will travel to Macedonia in October. Birdsall has never studied abroad before or visited Macedonia, but she was drawn to the country through research.

"The people and the culture intrigue me and have sparked a passion to want to know more," she said. "I want to go there and be immersed in all that Macedonia has to offer."

In Macedonia, Birdsall wants to create an electronic pen-pal program between American and Macedonian students. She will use email, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and Twitter to give the students a chance to connect. The plan would let students see how kids their age live in a foreign country.

"Technology is such a vital part of America and much of the world," she said. "Part of my job as an English Teaching Assistant is to introduce American culture and ways of life. I decided that the best way to learn about America is to see it."

Birdsall's experience in Macedonia will also benefit her students in Lincoln. "With the pen-pal program I will envision them learning the whole time," Birdsall said.

Larry Dlugosh, professor and department chair of educational administration, said Birdsall's Fulbright experience will provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.

"I believe any international experience for a teacher strengthens their expertise and benefits their students for years to come," Dlugosh said.

Birdsall's six years of experience as a teacher will be beneficial in Macedonia.

"Through my short time as an educator I have had experiences with students from different cultures and experiences, levels and abilities and I have learned to build relationships with all of these students," she said. "Having already learned that skill will allow me to use those same skills to be highly effective in whatever my job may be."

When she gets back from Macedonia, Birdsall, who grew up in Lincoln, plans to continue teaching and to be an administrator in the future. Her passion for teaching is based on the idea that sharing knowledge is rewarding.

"With teaching you not only get to help others to obtain knowledge but you learn every day as well," she said. "There is no other feeling comparable to that of inspiring others to learn."

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster understanding between the United States and other countries. The U.S. Student Fulbright program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of the 155 countries that the program operates. The Fulbright program is the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government. About 8,000 grants are awarded annually, and about 1,600 of those grants are awarded to U.S. students.

- Christine Scalora, Undergraduate Studies