Elon senior receives Fulbright teaching assistantship

Molly McKnight Costigan, an Elon University Spanish major, has been named the recipient of a 2010 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, which will fund one year in Spain teaching in an elementary school while conducting an independent project.

Molly Costigan

The Frankfort, Ky., native will use her language skills through June 2011 as she works with children through a sponsorship with the Valencian Regional Government and the Commission for Cultural, Educational and Scientific Exchange between the United States and Spain.

Costigan is one of more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2010-2011 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The Fulbright assistantship is the latest in a string of academic recognitions for the Honors Fellow. Costigan is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, she is the co-recipient of the Senior Spanish Award, and she has recently presented research at the conference for the National Association of Hispanic and Latino Studies, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum at Elon.

Her thesis for the Honors program, “Immigration from Mexico to the United States and from Morocco to Spain After the Terrorist Attacks in 2001 and 2004: A Comparative Study of Themes Presented in Documentary Films,” was completed in Spanish under the guidance of associate professor Donna Van Bodegraven.

“The project that I proposed is to volunteer with an organization that serves the immigrant population in Spain so, in addition to the chance to continue learning about some of the themes addressed in my undergraduate research, I’ll be able to explore some career possibilities,” Costigan said of her Fulbright application.

Outside of the classroom, Costigan stayed active with El Centro de Español and Methodist Fellowship, and she volunteered at Centro la Comunidad.

“As a first-semester freshman Molly was my student in an upper-level class. She later became my advisee, and I got to know a modest, gifted, young woman with a strong sense of purpose,” said Rebeca Olmedo, an assistant professor of Latin American literature. “Over her years at Elon she has juggled a very demanding academic schedule with grace, without complaints, and never missing a deadline.

“With uncommon analytical skills, a positive, refreshing attitude, and outstanding work ethic, Molly was one of the top students in the Spanish senior seminar. She began well, continued notably, and finished with aplomb.”

Costigan’s selection represents the third time since 2007 that an Elon student or alum has been named a Fulbright recipient. Jennifer Romano ’07 received Elon’s first Fulbright award in late 2007 to teach English in Argentina through a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant.

Victoria “Tori” Davis ’09 is currently using a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant in Japan, where she is conducting research on modern Japanese diplomacy and whether efforts to address terrorism are undermining the government’s professed concern for “universal values” and human rights.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright was established in 1946 by Congress to “enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Costigan, daughter of Jim and Ellen Costigan of Frankfort, Ky., is in the process of examining specific career paths and views the Fulbright assistantship as a way to explore two related passions.

“I’ve considered teaching English as a second language and working with an organization that supports immigrant populations,” Costigan said. “By doing both of these things in Spain I can get a better idea of which option I may want to pursue and also learn about how another country approaches these fields.”

Since its establishment under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

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