Q&A With Baylor Fulbright Recipient Ashley Killough

April 29, 2009

Baylor University senior Ashley Killough is one of five Baylor students, who have been selected to receive the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. An international studies/journalism major from Plano and a member of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC), Killough will spend the 2009-2010 academic year in Armenia, where she will take master's level journalism courses and conduct research at the Caucasus Media Institute in the capital city of Yerevan.

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?

Ashley Killough: When I saw the big manila envelope sticking out of the mailbox, I got excited, as I know the whole "thin letter vs. fat letter" routine. I read the first line, saw that it was good news, then made my roommate read the rest because I was too shaky. While I had been expecting a notification since Monday, I'm glad I found out on Dia because I got to spend the day celebrating.

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

Killough: One of my professors, Dr. Elizabeth Dell (full-time lecturer in English), encouraged me to go Elizabeth Vardaman's Fulbright workshop my sophomore year. (Vardaman is Baylor's Fulbright representative and associate dean of special academic projects in the College of Arts and Sciences.) I was instantly hooked on the idea and scheduled a meeting with Dean Vardaman to talk about how I should prepare the next couple years. However, for some reason, I didn't give it much thought after that until my junior year when another professor, Dr. Brad Owens (full-time lecturer in journalism), encouraged me to apply, as well.

I decided to apply to Armenia because I had a professor from there, Artyom Tonoyan, a doctoral candidate in the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, and he talked a lot about the Armenian Genocide in his class. I was so disturbed that I had never heard about it, that I did some more research on the country. Armenia is the oldest Christian nation in the world, located right at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and plays an important role in the Caucasus. Its history has been plagued with oppression and misfortune, but the people are known for their resilience and hospitality. Maxey Parrish (senior lecturer of journalism) has been to Armenia, and after talking with him about the Fulbright, I was sold on wanting to go there. I spent the next several months networking and researching on potential projects.

God has truly been working in my life and bringing this opportunity to fruition. I feel so blessed.

BMC: What will you study/research in Armenia?

Killough: I will be a research intern at the Caucasus Media Institute in the capital city, Yerevan. It's a well-respected think tank that specializes in media and political science in the Caucasus. After the 2008 presidential election, the government declared a 20-day state of emergency due to mass protests and riots that resulted in 10 deaths. During that time, the government shut down the independent media, so that only state-run media and citizen blogs were reporting the news. The blogosphere expanded and it became an important medium in the discourse over the election. I proposed to study how that 20-day period was framed in the state-run media versus the blogosphere. I will also be enrolled in masters-level journalism courses taught in English at the institute to gain an understanding of how journalism is taught in Armenia.

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

Killough: Both my father and brother came here, so I've grown up with Baylor. I was primarily attracted to the international studies department and the opportunities it offered. I started taking some journalism classes after I got here and was immediately hooked, so I decided to add journalism as a second major my junior year.

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

Killough: This summer, I'll be interning at The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. I believe the Fulbright will open up a lot of doors in my chosen path of international journalism, and I hope to be a foreign correspondent covering the former Soviet Union. Eventually, I would like to settle back in Washington and cover government and policy there. Graduate school is also something I'm considering.

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

Killough: My favorite part about Baylor is its faculty and staff. There are so many people here who have encouraged me and coached me along this whole process. Dean Vardaman has quickly become one my very favorite people. Artyom Tonoyan has taught me so much about Armenia and helped me get the position at the Caucasus Media Institute. Dr. Brad Owens wrote one of my recommendation letters and encouraged me from the start. Dr. Cassy Burleson (full-time lecturer in journalism) let me assist in her research project to gain some research experience. Dr. Elizabeth Dell was the first one who mentioned the Fulbright and edited my essays. My co-workers during my internship at Voice of America last summer also wrote a recommendation letter and have been like a family to me. Countless other professors, staff and administrators have offered encouragement, prayers and crossed fingers that I couldn't even name everybody. I just remember telling myself over and over again that if I didn't win the Fulbright, then it would have been all worth it because of the people I've gotten to know at Baylor.