Baylor Seniors Selected for Fulbright Grants to Mexico, Kyrgyzstan

April 28, 2011

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Baylor University seniors Austin Cook-Lindsay and Chelsea Mitcham have been selected as recipients of Fulbright grants from the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. They are Baylor's 23rd and 24th Fulbright recipients since 2001.

Cook-Lindsay, an environmental science major from San Angelo, and Mitcham, a secondary math education major from Houston, will participate in the English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) Program, an element of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program that places U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools or universities overseas. The ETA program is designed to help improve foreign students' English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while enhancing the U.S. student's own language skills and knowledge of the host country.

Cook-Lindsay - who speaks intermediate Russian - will teach English in Kyrgyzstan, while Mitcham - who is fluent in Spanish - will teach in Mexico.

Both students applied for the Fulbright through Baylor's Office of National and International Scholarships, led by Elizabeth Vardaman, associate dean for special academic projects in the College of Arts and Sciences. Vardaman praised Baylor's latest Fulbright recipients as students who will make their mark on the world.

"Austin's scientific credentials, his Russian language skills, and his fine gifts as an ambassador will combine to make him a marvelous and effective representative for the United States," Vardaman said. "He has also been recognized at the national level for his commitment to environmental issues as well.

"Chelsea is an amazing student who has earned English as a Second Language certification, has majored in math for secondary education and is completing the Honors Program," Vardaman said. "She is also a caring, compassionate individual who lights up a room when she speaks about her students and her love of teaching."

Austin Cook-Lindsay

Cook-Lindsay said he decided to apply for the Fulbright ETA after witnessing a friend's positive experience with the program in Russia.

"He's really enjoying it," Cook-Lindsay said. "I was looking for a way to get a year or so of international experience in, and I also want to improve my Russian as much as possible. I think being in Bishkek will help out with that."

Bishkek is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan.

In 2009, Cook-Lindsay was the first Baylor undergraduate to receive the highly competitive Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) fellowship from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, which sponsors research and academic travel. In addition to the Fulbright, he also hopes that future scholarships will allow him to pursue a master's degree in international environmental studies in Norway.

"Ultimately, I'd like to work with the EPA's International Affairs branch," said Cook-Lindsay, who is quick to credit his success to his Baylor professors, particularly Dr. Bryan Brooks, Dr. Susan Bratton, Dr. Michael Long and Vardaman.

Brooks, associate professor of environmental science, mentored Cook-Lindsay's undergraduate research program, which was supported by the EPA fellowship and Baylor's Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) grant program. Brooks said these opportunities allowed Cook-Lindsay, within the last year, to present research findings at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and contribute to a book chapter on climate change implications for water resource assessment and management. It was published as part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security.

"His accomplishments provide a gold standard example of the impact of Baylor's commitment to undergraduate research opportunities," Brooks said. "Austin is a model candidate for the Fulbright program, who will decidedly represent Baylor well through his commitment and passion for environmental science, policy and management. Simply stated, he's a winner."

"Austin is determined and goal-oriented," said Long, professor of Russian and director of Slavic and East European Studies and the division of Asian and African languages. "He is a young man of many talents and has a healthy thirst for adventure. Austin will do great work for the people of Kyrgyzstan, and will be an excellent representative of Baylor, Texas and the United States. I am very proud of his success."

Chelsea Mitcham

Mitcham said she decided to apply for the Fulbright ETA program simply because it seemed like an "excellent opportunity."

"I have many friends in Mexico and had already considered going to Mexico upon graduation in order to serve in a public Bible ministry where the need is great, which is the case in Mexico, so it all just kind of came together," Mitcham said. "I was going to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) here in my own classroom anyway, so now I'll just being doing that in Mexico."

Dr. Wes Null was one of the Baylor faculty members who first encouraged Mitcham to apply for the Fulbright.

"From the day I met her as a freshman, Chelsea Mitcham impressed me tremendously as someone who is academically talented and deeply committed to the teaching profession," said Null, associate professor of curriculum and foundations of education in the School of Education and the Honors College. "I have only become more impressed with Chelsea as I have watched her grow during the last four years. She even completed her Honors thesis a year early so that she could dedicate all of her time during her senior year to her internship as part of Baylor's teacher education program. Chelsea will bless many young people during her time in Mexico, and I could not be more proud that she will be representing Baylor."

Mitcham focused her Honors Program thesis on "Effects of Relevant Verbalizations on Symbolic Understanding" under the mentorship of Dr. Trena Wilkerson, associate professor of curriculum and instruction in Baylor's School of Education. Mitcham's thesis showed that the ability of high school math students to verbalize the symbols and variables within algebraic equations was a crucial factor in the development of their algebraic thinking skills.

"Chelsea has an exceptional gift for teaching, one that reflects an in-depth understanding of not only content such as mathematics and English but the ability to relate that content to students," Wilkerson said. "She is creative, innovative and committed to providing quality education to all students. It was a privilege to mentor her in her studies at Baylor, and I know that we will continue to see and hear about the amazing things that she does in her commitment to teaching and learning for all."

About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program enables qualified undergraduates, graduate students and recent alumni to design their own study or research plans or to teach English in more than 140 countries. It provides unique opportunities for international experience, personal enrichment and an open exchange of ideas with citizens of other nations. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program is the nation's largest international exchange fellowship program, providing approximately 1,500 study grants and English teaching assistantships each year. More than 8,000 applicants competed for these awards in 2010.

Selection for the Fulbright Student Program emphasizes leadership potential, academic and professional excellence and commitment to mutual understanding. The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275