Q&A With Baylor Fulbright Recipient Alex Nix

April 29, 2009

Baylor University senior Alex Nix is one of five Baylor students, who have been selected to receive the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. A Spanish major from Riesel, formerly of Waco, Nix will spend the 2010 academic year in Brazil, where she will assist with teaching English, while developing the study of American poetry as a way of encountering and understanding American culture.

Baylor Media Communications recently conducted a Q&A with each of Baylor's Fulbright recipients.

Baylor Media Communications: How did you find out about your Fulbright selection?

Alex Nix: Although most final decisions come this month in April, I was blessed to find out in March. I received a non-descript brown envelope in the mail with the letter saying congratulations. My mom was driving because we were on our way to dinner and then the Hippodrome to see "To Kill a Mockingbird." I started screaming upon seeing the Fulbright emblem and was only able to read the first sentence before calling Dr. Lizbeth Souza-Fuertes (associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese and director of Latin American studies) and Dean Betsy Vardaman (Baylor's Fulbright representative and associate dean of special academic projects in the College of Arts and Sciences.). It is still hard to grasp the fact that I actually won and will be living in Brazil for nine months. I continue to thank all my professors in guiding my studies and give the glory to God.

BMC: Why did you decide to apply for the Fulbright and why Brazil?

Nix: This time last spring, I was studying abroad in Maastricht, the Netherlands, with Baylor's group study program. Even though we were thousands of miles away from Baylor campus we remained connected via Skype and our email accounts. Thus, it was through an email advertising various international scholarship opportunities that I first became familiar with the Fulbright program. I had never heard of it before. Eager to learn more, I responded to the email explaining my circumstances and scheduled an appointment for May when I'd be back in the United States and able to sit down and discuss the process. Through determination, many, many drafts and the constant support and assistance I received from a group of people including Dr. Vardaman and my mentor Dr. Fuertes, I was able to turn my documents around and present a successful application.

I chose Brazil for many reasons, including the fact that, as a Spanish major, I have already experienced quite a bit of Spain through a semester abroad in Madrid in the fall of 2006 with Baylor's opportunity with St. Louis University in Madrid. I have dabbled in Portuguese and been charmed by the diversity and culture since entering college. At the moment, I am taking Portuguese 2320.

BMC: What will you study/research in Brazil?

Nix: In Brazil, I will assist with teaching English. My proposal is as stated from my submitted documents: "I would like to develop the study of American poetry as a way of encountering and understanding American culture. Poetry as an art form offers a limitless amount of material that would allow me to teach grammar and syntax, as well as engage my students in the bigger questions of the human condition. I believe that language and culture can be taught side-by-side through poetry. Meter and rhyme will aid students' pronunciation and oral abilities while the precision of poetry's diction will increase students' vocabulary without overwhelming them with the length of a novel."

Outside of this, I hope to volunteer, explore the culture and work on research for my master's thesis, which I will return to in the spring of 2011.

BMC: What are your plans after Baylor AND after the Fulbright?

Nix: After Baylor, I will be attending Middlebury College for their Summer Language Program in Portuguese, so that I may develop more fluency before departing for Brazil. This program is seven weeks and will end in mid-August. I will then begin work on a masters in Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They have graciously given me a deferment, so that I may leave for Brazil in March of 2010 and return in November of 2010 (the Brazilian academic year). I will return to Chapel Hill in the spring of 2011 to pick up where I left off and finish my degree. My ultimate goal is a Ph.D. in Spanish literature so that I may teach at the university level.

BMC: Why did you decide to come to Baylor for your undergraduate study?

Nix: As a transfer freshman from another Texas private university, I found a more academic environment at Baylor and realized how much of my life had been woven into the Waco community. I am a native of Waco and have always enjoyed knowing many people throughout our community due in part to our local, family owned and operated business, as well as volunteer activities throughout high school. Waco is home. Baylor is where I became an adult and received the Christian foundation and fellowship that I needed to start my journey.

BMC: Who are some of the faculty members who helped you in your major, as well as your Fulbright application?

Nix: I would not be where I am today academically without the challenge, encouragement, enthusiasm and dedication of Dr. Paul Larson (associate professor of Spanish). He has not only been my advisor, but he has also mentored and guided me in my studies throughout the classes that I have had the pleasure of taking with him. He illuminated the world of Spanish literature and helped me develop my own writing style.

I met Dr. Fuertes in preparation for my studies in Maastricht as she was the professor in charge. She was more than willing to help me with the upper level Spanish classes needed for me to be able to go. Throughout the semester, we got to know each other as she'd give presentations on her home country, Brazil. Even though I had been interested in Brazil before, it was through her enthusiasm and eagerness to share her country with us that I arrived to the point where I "had to visit." What's more is her incessant and untiring dedication to aiding me throughout the Fulbright process. There were about 20 drafts of each document! Dr. Fuertes not only helped me edit and edit and edit, but she also completed a recommendation, evaluated my Portuguese language skills (also a part of the application) and served on my interview committee. Not once did she say no.

It takes a community to raise a child. It took a community to polish and perfect the Fulbright application that awarded me a trip to Brazil, so that I may continue my passion of eradicating the language barrier amongst countries.