Elon alumna receives Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan

Katherine Shafer ’15, an international studies major from Port Jefferson, N.Y., will spend 11 months teaching English in Taiwan as part of a federal program that promotes mutual goodwill between people of the United States and people of other nations. 

By Sarah Collins ’18

Elon University graduate and Honors Fellow Katherine Shafer 15 will spend eleven months in Taiwan as a cultural ambassador for the United States with support from a 2016-2017 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Shafer, who is currently living in China, relishes the opportunity to extend her experiences teaching in East Asia: “The Fulbright ETA in Taiwan is an opportunity to use my education and cultural experiences to make an impact on a local community across the globe, further international friendship, and enhance intercultural understanding,” she said.

Shafer, who minored in Spanish, Italian studies, and Latin American studies at Elon, has long been interested in global cultures. She spent her fall 2013 semester in Santiago, Dominican Republic, where she completed undergraduate research evaluating rehabilitation programs for the Association of Mothers of Disabled Youth. This experience, coupled with studying abroad in Costa Rica in January 2013, inspired Shafer to pursue an international position post-graduation.

Shafer currently teaches English at Lishui High School in Lishui, Zhejiang, China. In this capacity, she serves as an educational ambassador for the Ameson Foundation, a non-governmental organization that facilitates global cultural exchanges. Support from Fulbright will allow her to continue gaining international experience in East Asia, and while she teaches English, Shafer notes that “the opportunity to spend a second year in the region will also allow me to build upon my foundation in the Chinese language.”

Following her Fulbright assistantship, Shafer plans to pursue a graduate degree in international policy and apply for the United States Foreign Service. “My Fulbright experience, in addition to my experience and research in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, will allow me to have a more contextualized perspective on international classroom discussions and a deeper understanding of border and immigration issues,” she said.

During her time at Elon, Shafer served as the coordinator of Elon’s chapter of Amnesty International and the coordinator of Elon Poverty Simulation. She is a member of Kappa Delta sorority and Epsilon Sigma Alpha, an international service and leadership organization. Shafer also participated in Model United Nations.

Michael Matthews, Associate Professor of History and Shafer’s research mentor while she was at Elon, notes that “Kate is such a deserving recipient of the Fulbright. Working with her over three years, her dedication to both academic and humanitarian matters became abundantly clear. Her work and research as an Honors student in the Dominican Republic brought together these two interests and make her an excellent selection for this prestigious position.”     

Shafer is one of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

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.

Kate, a 2011 graduate of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, is the daughter of Don Shafer and the late Mary Walter-Shafer of Columbus, Indiana.

Elon students and recent alums interested in this award or other nationally competitive fellowships are invited to visit the National and International Fellowships Office in Powell 108 or by calling (336) 278-5749.