Elon senior awarded Fulbright to teach English in France

Omolayo Ojo, an international studies major and Honors Fellow from Maryland, will spend a year in Europe before pursuing graduate studies in immigration law, migration and development.

An Elon University senior majoring in international studies will spend next year teaching English at a high school outside of Paris with support from a 2015-2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Omolayo Ojo, an Honors Fellow and recipient of the Lumen Prize, the university’s top award for undergraduate research and creative achievement, is the latest Elon recipient of a prestigious national fellowship that “facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home and in routine tasks.”

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.”

Ojo will work at Lycée Jacques Brel, a school with a multicultural population in the town of La Courneuve just north of the French capital. That placement gives Ojo a direct view of issues related to migration and immigration in one of Europe’s most diverse nations. Both topics have been the subject of her Elon University Honors Fellow and Lumen Prize research projects.

“I’m fascinated by migration – where people are coming from, where they are going and everything before, between and after that,” Ojo said. “France, like the United States, has a complicated history with immigrants, but in a very different way. I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of this history, how it manifests today and how it affects the individual lives of students in France.”

Upon completing her teaching assignment, Ojo intends to study immigration law in the United States, and hopefully earn a graduate degree in migration and development at the School of Oriental & African Studies in London.

Ojo is the co-founder and president of the Elon African Society, and she serves at Elon on the Black Senior Legacy Committee and as a lead student mentor with the Global Neighborhood Committee.

Ojo was honored with a 2013-2014 David L. Boren Scholarship, a national award that gives students financial backing to study the languages and cultures of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Eurasia, and Central and Eastern Europe. Ojo also is a recipient of the Kenan Scholarship, the university’s top award for incoming students that covers full tuition for four years. She is a member of the Periclean Scholars Class of 2015 as well as Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society.

Other Elon accolades include the World Languages Award, the Outstanding Ethnography Award from the Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies, and Campus Compact’s Newman Civic Fellows Award, among others.

“From the beginning, Omolayo has had her sights set on international work, particularly with respect to refugees and migration. Her Fulbright in France allows her to continue thinking about migrant communities and how they are, or are not, integrated into their new countries,” said Professor Tom Mould, Ojo’s research mentor and director of the Honors Program at Elon University. “The Fulbright will be an excellent stepping stone for her to continue her work in transnationalism and intercultural contact, whether through law, diplomacy, nonprofit work or research.

“I am endlessly surprised and impressed by the scope, depth and quality of the work Omolayo does. The students in the suburbs of Paris have no idea what’s about to hit them, but they’re going to be changed for the better before she leaves.”

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.

Ojo is the daughter of Agatha Ojo and the late Valentine Ojo of Tall Timbers, Md.

Elon students and recent alums interested in this award or other nationally competitive fellowships are invited to visit the Office of National and International Fellowships in Lindner 200 or by calling (336) 278-5749.