Emily McTyre and Kelsey Keith are the first Middle Tennessee State University Honors College students to travel to the United Kingdom as part of the three- to four-week US-UK Fulbright Commission’s Summer Institute.
MTSU students have received nine- and 12-month Fulbright Awards, but this marks the first time they’ve participated in the brief summer program.
The Fulbright Award gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to travel abroad and participate in research, study and teaching.
The UK Summer Fulbright program, which is open only to U.S. freshmen and sophomores, is more competitive than the U.S. Fulbright Student competition, however. Any student nationwide with a GPA of 3.75 or higher may apply, but only 59 students were offered awards in 2017.
Candidates must complete essays, provide recommendation letters and test grades and be involved in extracurricular activities.
Keith has returned from her stint at the University of Bristol. McTyre completes her summer Fulbright at the University of Birmingham Aug. 4.
“My time (there) … was such a privilege, being so educationally, culturally and socially expansive,” said Keith, 19, a sophomore and Murfreesboro resident.
“I became an even more informed global citizen, but the incredible thing about this program is that it was not only educational but catalytic. I left with the tools (knowledge, connections, strategies and more) to create change.”
Keith’s program focused on arts, activism and social justice, “so, as an artist myself, I saw it as my responsibility to learn how to use my artistry properly moving forward.”
A sentiment expressed by someone during a poetry panel made a lasting impression, she said: “Speak your truth and know that tomorrow you could have a different truth. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’ve changed your mind.”
“I find this especially important in regard to creating change here at home,” Keith said. “There are many people who were perhaps brought up to think a certain way, a sort of passive ignorance where they know no different and know no better, and their beliefs could be very close-minded to a group of people.”
The program reminded Keith, an English major, of the importance of listening — “to the world, to its people, to yourself. Listening is acknowledging the merit of what someone has to say, and in a world full of borders and divisiveness I think everyone could use reminders to listen.
“I now have a greater understanding of my country and I recognize how much I grew as a person because I spent a month learning from the group of nine other college students and educators we met in Bristol.”
McTyre, 19, a sophomore from Maryville, Tennessee, reached England July 12, so she said she hasn’t yet realized the full impact of her participation. The video and film production major said she finds the trip personal.
“My family has roots in Scotland and England,” she said. “I’ve grown up in the Presbyterian church — my father (the Rev. James McTyre) is pastor of Lake Hills Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee — so throughout my childhood we’ve had very close ties with those cultural roots. To go and see that will be very exciting.”
Emily McTyre credits Adam Ford, Maryville High School associate band director, Maryville High art teacher Raquel Roy, Laura Clippard in the Honors College Undergraduate Fellowship Office and Honors Dean John Vile for writing recommendation letters and helping her obtain the award.
“The US-UK Fulbright Commission is so proud of what our programs have achieved, the number of Americans and Brits who have benefitted from educational exchange and of the ‘special relationship’ we continue to renew and strengthen,” said Penny Egan, executive director of the organization.
“The Summer Institutes provide students with a great opportunity to experience the UK higher education system, immerse themselves in British culture and further develop intercultural understanding between our two countries,” Egan added.
To learn more about the Undergraduate Fellowship Office, call 615-898-5464 or email Laura.Clippard@mtsu.edu. To learn more about the Honors College, call 615-898-2152.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)