For the second time in three years, three Georgetown College seniors have been named Fulbright Fellows to study, teach and work abroad. Michael Clemons of Louisville will spend the 2009-10 school year in Spain; Bethany Byrd Hughes of Rockwall, TX, will be in Germany; and Jordan Sanderson of Union, KY, is headed for Mexico.
Their selection by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program brings to 21 the number of Georgetown College students to receive this prestigious honor since 1990. So, it was with excitement – but not surprise – that Provost Rosemary Allen greeted the news. “Success breeds success – so, oh yes, I did think we would have three again,” said the College’s Fulbright advisor, noting a number of previous assignments to Spain and Germany.
The placement in Mexico is a new triumph as it’s a first for a Georgetown alumnus. Dr. Allen worked particularly close with Sanderson, who was still younger than most applicants for the highly competitive Binational Business Grant – a Fulbright that he was denied a year ago. This grant allows him to participate in many cultural activities and events outside his classroom studies and a full-time internship with a Mexico-based company.
“One of the ways we can tell that Georgetown College is competitive on a national level is through our success in national scholarship competitions,” Allen said. “Two years ago, (we were) featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education because it had produced three Fulbright scholars—which placed us among the top liberal arts colleges in the nation for success in this prestigious competition. In repeating this accomplishment, Georgetown College is confirmed as a college with a commitment to national standards of excellence.”
Dr. Allen, who has advised 20 of Georgetown’s Fulbrights and keeps tabs on many of them, knows what a life-changing experience their “year” can be. “They not only have an extraordinary item for their resume, but more importantly they will be able to gain in-depth knowledge of international life and serve as an ambassador for their country,” she said. “These three individuals will do an extraordinary job of representing both their college and their nation.”
All three are already world-travelers: Clemons studied in Ecuador, traveled to Greece with the President’s Ambassadors and visited Chile with a group from Georgetown; Byrd was a high school exchange student in Hungary and Germany, then interned for a summer in Belgium and lived and worked in Tanzania last summer; and Sanderson studied in Spain, and interned in Mexico fall semester. But, all managed to be vitally involved in Georgetown campus life while being great students. No surprise then that all three have been inducted in the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and have GPAs of 3.97, 3.99 and 4.0, respectively.
Initiative is the characteristic the trio has in common, according to Dr. Allen. “They know what they want to do…and believe that they can do it!” she exclaimed.
Here’s a closer look at the three who will be soon representing the U.S. and Georgetown College so well abroad:
Michael – Mr. Involvement – has been the perfect Admissions Ambassador almost from the moment he set foot on campus in 2005. His experience here is almost more than any parent could want for their son or daughter. “He’s the type of student who wanted to get involved on campus and did every chance he had,” said Garvel Kindrick, the College’s Vice President for Enrollment.
As a sophomore Michael was elected Student Government Association secretary, then vice president that spring semester. Earlier he became a team leader with Project Compassion – the College’s unique partnership with the U.N.’s World Food Programme efforts in Guatemala – a great learning experience for this double major in Commerce, Language & Culture and Spanish. (His minor is Political Science).
Somehow he has budgeted his time to run Track and Cross Country, work in the campus Grille, be a Resident Advisor, lead campus tours for parents and prospective students, be part of the Harper Gatton Medallion Program and in the Honors Program.
His leadership roles may be unparalleled. He’s president of his Senior class and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity; and he’s one of 22 President’s Ambassadors who serve President Bill Crouch as a liaison to the student body and in a variety of significant ways with alumni and friends of the College.
No wonder he’s so invaluable to Admissions – he knows the College inside out. “He’s gone from the Freshman who put the closure seals for our view books on the wrong side (i.e., the spine) to the Senior who could probably handle the Admissions Counselor meeting and have the student signing the acceptance agreement before they left,” said Kindrick, the VP. “He makes all the families he tours feel at home.”
Spanish professor Adela Borrallo-Solis, who first pointed Michael toward the Fulbright program, is amazed that this “self-made” major (having had no Spanish in high school) has such a command of the language now. “Michael is special because he has a true passion and interest for the Spanish language and culture,” she said. “And I think this incredible opportunity will allow him to expand that outside the limits of the classroom.”
“I have also watched him grow into a thoughtful scholar and an exceptional individual committed to many philanthropic and service oriented organizations,” she continued. “This combination of developed language skills, reflection and commitment to others, are in my opinion, the skills that will make this new adventure a very successful one.”
Michael – already a “king” (he claimed that title at Homecoming 2008) – is now “El Rey” to Dr. Borrallo. “That’s for his work ethic and drive to never give up learning about other people.”
Michael, the son of Terry and Laura Clemons from the Beechmont/Shively area of Louisville, was very excited to learn last week his assignment would be teaching at a secondary school in Madrid. “When I found out that I was appointed to Madrid, I was ecstatic,” he said. “Not only is it the capital of Spain, but it is also rich with history and culture. I am excited to be able to live in a city so vibrant and modern.”
Bethany was a high school exchange student in Germany in 2005 when she met up with Dr. Crouch and his President’s Ambassadors in Cologne and traveled with them for two days. “That solidified my decision to come to Georgetown,” said Bethany, who doesn’t yet know where her Fulbright assignment will be in Germany.
But, she does know that a year as a Fulbright Fellow is too good to pass up – so, she is asking the University of Kentucky Medical School if her recent acceptance can be deferred for a year.
This German and Pre-Med double major has certainly had enough experiences to go in either direction – from tutoring in German, Philosophy, Chemistry and Biology and being a summer counselor in Georgetown’s Pre-College Academic Experience in Math & Science (PAEMS Camp) to job-shadowing in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“When I wrote her Fulbright recommendation I looked at her resume and I was so amazed to read of her travels and accomplishments and numerous ongoing activities at such a young age,” said Chemistry professor Susan Campbell, Chair of the Department. “She possesses exceptional and varied gifts: the ability to lead, a gift for learning language, a desire and ability to serve others, persistence in the face of difficulty, intellectual curiosity and superior analytical skills.”
“Leading” describes Bethany’s campus life – from serving as class president her first three years, Chapel Leadership Team leader, New Student Orientation Coordinator, and on the executive councils of student government, Panhellenic and her sorority Phi Mu Fraternity.
Somehow she found time to volunteer for such organizations as Children’s Miracle Network in Lexington, and Georgetown Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School, Quest Farm and Scott County Animal Shelter.
Bethany and Jessie Hines (who would eventually be one of her bridesmaids) took on President Crouch’s two-year challenge of reviving the Georgetown College Presidential Mentorship Program with Scott County High. A dozen, promising high school juniors each year will have benefited from the leadership training.
The well-traveled young woman was certainly a great example of Christian leadership for those students. Bethany’s 2006 summer internship with the International Baptist Church in Jurbise, Belgium provided one of the greatest surprises of her life. Her hostess was a ’92 Georgetown graduate (Kristin Chaudoin King) who had lived in the same Phi Mu dorm room. “Crazy! God truly works in mysterious ways,” she said.
Then, while working for President Crouch two summers ago, Bethany met Georgetown graduates Moses and Tunosye Mboya, missionaries in Tanzania. Months later she had reason to exchange emails with them – and they invited her to live with them in the summer of 2008 and work in the local Baptist hospital. “That was truly one of the most profound experiences of my life.”
Bethany and Dustin Hughes both graduated in December and were married in January at Danville’s Gethsemane Baptist Church – where her grandfather Bill Hall was pastor for 22 years. (Her grandmother Ginnie Hall still lives in Danville. Her parents, Ron and Amy Byrd, recently moved there when her mother took the position of headmaster at Danville Christian Academy.) Dwight Moody, the College’s longtime Dean of Chapel, performed the wedding ceremony and Georgetown Physics professor Jonathan Dickinson was their photographer.
Obviously one who is unafraid to seize an opportunity, she and her husband can’t wait to get to Germany. “Dustin seems to be even more excited than I am, if that is possible!”
German professor Sigrid Suesse said, “Bethany’s command of (the language) is wunderbar! She also has boundless energy, is curious, has a keen eye for cultural differences and similarities, and she knows how to laugh at herself – all qualities that will serve her well on her new adventure.”
Instead of letting the Fulbright rejection a year ago get him down, Jordan beefed up his resume.
Last spring as an intern, he helped develop a Spanish language-training program for Minova USA, Inc. in Georgetown and translated all company literature into Spanish. In the summer, he logged more than 100 hours of MBA-level instruction in Vanderbilt University’s Accelerator Program. This “business boot camp” also gave him real-world experience with such clients as American Airlines, Bridgestone, YUM! Brands and Caterpillar Financial.
Then in Fall ’08, Jordan studied Entrepreneurship and International Commerce at La Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico while interning at the Small Business Development Center there. As an intern, he assisted in the consulting of small to medium businesses and aided companies in the exportation of their goods and services to the U.S. through trade regulation research and SBDC networking.
Using disappointment to motivate him is just what English professor Barbara Burch expected from Jordan, a three-year member of her Academic Team. “He is one of the hardest working students I have ever taught,” she said. “Some students just want affirmation of their work. Jordan wants feedback. He accepts criticism with grace and good humor and then does his best to improve his work. I cannot remember a single time that he balked or expressed frustration when pushed.”
When Jordan learned that to be eligible for the Fulbright Binational Business Grant he’d have to cut short his year abroad, he took the risk. After extensive work with Dr. Allen and consultation with members of the Spanish faculty and Georgetown’s Graves Center for Calling and Career, he interviewed (in Spanish!) via videoconference with program officials in Mexico City. His self-confidence rewarded, Jordan said, “Fortunately, I will shortly be able to return to Mexico and begin my career in international business.”
He actually had his sights set as a freshman, declaring a major in both Commerce, Language & Culture and Spanish. “I understood the importance of a balance between business skills and knowledge of foreign language and culture,” said Jordan, whose parents Scot and Cheryl moved from northern Kentucky to Newburgh, IN (near Evansville) after he graduated from high school.
That he was able pull off that difficult double major off and be named a Fulbright comes as no surprise to his elated advisor, Spanish professor Adela Borrallo-Solis. “Unlike Michael Clemons who started in a low level course, Jordan was first introduced as a sophomore in a 300 level course…something very unusual,” she said. “Unfortunately for Jordan, he was in a course full of very, very good seniors (some of them ended up being Fulbrighters themselves) who were outspoken and terribly bright. Most who were not seniors tended to be quiet and passive in the classroom. Not Jordan! It was absolutely adorable to see him face the titans in the class and become one of the semester’s stars.”
Jordan, too, made time to be a factor in campus life, serving a year on the Investment Team, two years as a Resident Advisor and three years on The Georgetonian newspaper staff and the Academic Team.
“As a Fulbright scholar, I am certain that he will be an excellent ambassador for our country’s system of higher education, not to mention a great representative of Georgetown College,” said Burch, the Academic Team coach.
Added Borrallo, “I have no doubt he will be extremely successful because of his extraordinary interest in Mexico, his perpetual energy, proven knowledge and previous experience in the field.”