Six seniors receive Fulbright awards

The Class of 2014 is sending more scholars overseas next year with Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grants than any previous class in Elon University history.

A record number of Elon University students received top national awards this spring to support their plans to teach English next year in one of five different countries.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grants to seniors Mat Goldberg, Julia Okada, Nakhila Mistry, Kyle Whitaker, Lauren Kepke and Eryn Gorang. Two additional seniors and an alumna – Cara McClain and Kyle Keith, along with Katie Moran ’13 – were named award alternates.

Elon set its previous record for Fulbrights in 2012 when three students and an alumnus secured fellowships for teaching and research.

“We’re incredibly proud of our winners, and indeed of all the students who applied this year and put considerable time and effort into creating strong applications,” said Professor Janet Myers, director of the Office of National and International Fellowships. “Our office has witnessed rapid growth in the number of seniors and recent alums who apply for Fulbright grants as a way to build upon forms of global engagement that began at Elon. In some cases, this means returning to a country or region where a student studied abroad to teach English, or in other cases, pursuing an original research proposal that grows out of an undergraduate research project. 

“Throughout the application process, students benefit from the expertise of faculty and staff on Elon’s Fulbright Campus Committee, who mentor and interview students as part of an application process that helps candidates reflect on the importance of cross-cultural exchange while also refining their personal goals and plans for the future.”

The Fulbright Program currently operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. The U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program awards about 8,000 grants each year to students and educators across the globe.


<p>Mat Goldberg '14</p>
<p>Mat Goldberg ’14</p>
[/caption]MAT GOLDBERG (South Korea)

The psychology major originally from New Jersey is one of two students headed to South Korea after graduation. Recipient of several leadership awards during his time at Elon University, Goldberg is an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow and a Periclean Scholar with an active interest in leadership studies.

Goldberg took part in the university’s Center for Leadership, the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, Elon Hillel and the Handmade Co-Op, which supports local artists and helps sell art that creates a positive impact on the community. He also interned in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the Interactive Resource Center, which provides assistance to people facing homelessness in the city.

“I feel excited for a new opportunity and the experience to ask questions, connect with a new culture and community and have an adventure,” Goldberg said. “I believe the Fulbright will help me understand the dynamics of education across cultures, offer me experience teaching, and challenge me to think how to connect my commitment to service in my professional career.”

Goldberg was a finalist for the national Truman Scholarship in 2013. He is the son of Harlene and Marc Goldberg of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Eryn Gorang '14
Eryn Gorang ’14[/caption]ERYN GORANG (South Africa)

The human service studies major and Honors Fellow from Salt Lake City, Utah, returns to South Africa in the coming months after traveling there the fall of her junior year.

At Elon, Gorang served the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement as a Leader in Collaborative Service for a Title I high school in nearby Burlington, North Carolina. She recruited, trained, and coordinated 25 Elon students to tutor at-risk students; coordinated the Cinderella Project that, among other activities, provides prom dresses for 50 low-income students; and established a partnership with Elon’s Handmade Workshop, giving Cummings High School students a chance to learn about entrepreneurship as they sell their own artwork and handicrafts. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

“This Fulbright ETA means that I can serve as a multicultural ambassador between the United States and South Africa, bridging the gaps between these two very different parts of the world and combating stereotypes that limit collaboration between our nations,” Gorang said. “As a leader, I have the responsibility to understand the situation and needs of those I am leading. Therefore, serving as an ETA gives me the opportunity to work as a teacher on the ground-level in South Africa to gain greater insight into the South African school system and the challenges teachers face. In turn, I hope to apply my knowledge in order to best implement educational programs in the future that will truly get to the root of the issue and make the greatest difference in the lives of South African youth.”

Gorang is the daughter of Kristin Wann Gorang and Alan David Gorang of Salt Lake City, Utah.

<p>Lauren Kepke '14</p>
<p>Lauren Kepke ’14</p>
[/caption]LAUREN KEPKE (Guatemala)

An elementary and special education major from Cary, North Carolina, Kepke is a Teaching Fellow at Elon University with membership in the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma academic honor societies.

She was active with the New Student Orientation program, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Teaching Fellows program, where she served as social chair. Kepke also helped found E-Splash, a program in the School of Education to connect incoming and current students with faculty at informal social events.

“As a future educator, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship will further prepare me to serve my students,” Kepke said. “The immersion experience will develop my Spanish speaking skills and introduce me to new pedagogical knowledge.

“The award will also allow me to exchange ideas about culture and education with the people of Guatemala.”

Kepke, who plans to eventually teach special education in North Carolina, is the daughter of Mark and Ann Kepke of Cary, North Carolina.

<p>Nakhila Mistry '14</p>
<p>Nakhila Mistry ’14</p>
[/caption]NAKHILA MISTRY (Sri Lanka)

The mathematics and religious studies double major from Texas plans to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland after her year in Sri Lanka. Mistry has been involved at Elon University with several academic and leadership honors societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon and Theta Kappa Alpha.

The Elon College Fellow served as a tutor to university classmates and to recent immigrants at the Avalon Community Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mistry also worked as a tutor for young children taking part in the university’s “It Takes a Village” Project.

“The Fulbright award means that I can fulfill my passion of teaching foreign students in South Asia,” she said. “I hope it will be a stepping stone between my undergraduate career and my plans for graduate school. I want to become a university professor, so I feel as though this opportunity will help me immensely in the future through giving me hands-on teaching experience.”

Mistry is the daughter of Rashmita Mistry of Wilmington, Delaware, and Bharat Mistry of San Antonio, Texas.

<p>Julia Okada '14</p>
<p>Julia Okada ’14</p>
[/caption]JULIA OKADA (South Korea)

Okada, who joins Goldberg in South Korea next year, majored in history and earned her teacher licensure through the School of Education as a Teaching Fellow. With research interest in education reform and international criminal justice, the Ohio native took part in several campus organizations, including the Alpha Chi Omega fraternity for women, and the Phi Alpha Theata and Kappa Delta Pi academic honor societies.

Okada was the 2013 recipient of the Watterson-Troxler History Scholarship.

“I hope to take this incredible opportunity to expand my understanding and practice of instructional approaches in education,” she said. “It’s crucial in this day and age that educators gain a global view of instructional practices to best serve future students, especially when the world begins to become more interconnected and diverse. South Korea has such an incredible international professional learning community for educators and I want to capitalize on that resource as best I can when teaching for the next year.”

Okada is the daughter of Ron and Ann Okada of Strongsville, Ohio.

<p>Kyle Whitaker '14</p>
<p>Kyle Whitaker ’14</p>
[/caption]KYLE WHITAKER (Malaysia)

An English major and Honors Fellow from Duluth, Georgia, Whitaker regularly earned President’s List and Dean’s List honors throughout his collegiate studies, and he participated in the Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Tau Delta honor societies.

Whitaker was active with the co-ed a capella group Twisted Measure and he served as a SPARKS peer educator, teaching students about healthy lifestyle behaviors and the risks involved with drugs and alcohol. Whitaker also was active in New Student Orientation and the Epsilon Sigma Alpha co-ed service sorority, and he was inducted this spring into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

At the conclusion of his Fulbright service in Malaysia, Whitaker plans to earn a graduate degree in higher education and student affairs with the goal of one day working in a division of student life for a college or university.

“It is an indescribable honor to have been chosen for this fellowship,” he said, “and I can’t wait to get started.”

Whitaker is the son of Diane Whitaker of Duluth, Georgia, and Mark Whitaker of Winder, Georgia.


Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered through the Institute of International Education, 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.”

Since its establishment under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 325,000 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.

Elon University students and alumni interested in fellowships such as the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award should contact the Office of National and International Fellowships at (336) 278-5729.