Fulbright fulfills travel dreams for IST alumna Charlise Harris

In San Juan de la Maguana, a small city in the center of the Dominican Republic, Charlise Harris, a 2014 graduate from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) — and a Fulbright award winner — is teaching English while fulfilling her lifelong dream of living abroad.

Harris, a 2014 graduate of IST’s Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) program who minored in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), found out about the Fulbright program through Penn State’s University Fellowships Office and was one of 10 Penn State students who received the award last year. Bitten by the travel bug at a young age, Harris applied for the program, in part, because of her interest in living abroad, something she’d never done before her Fulbright appointment to the Dominican Republic.

“As my mom puts it, I’m always trying to find a way to ‘escape’ from home," said Harris. “My father is in the military, so I moved around quite a bit when I was a kid. I attribute a lot of the interest I have in travel to the experiences I had when I was younger.”

The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program that sends more than 1,900 students in numerous fields of study to more than 140 countries around the world for the purpose of study, research and teaching each year. 

Harris’s primary responsibility in the Fulbright program is teaching pronunciation concepts for the Ministry of Education’s English for Professional Communications program at la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo’s (UASD) branch campus in San Juan de la Maguana. Aside from her work in the classroom, Harris also conducts teacher training and organizes a peer-tutoring program, which she said is closely correlated to her TESOL classes at Penn State.

Harris identified her work as a research assistant, gathering and analyzing data to present at the 2013 Undergraduate Student Research Symposium, as helpful to her current work. “It got me used to the idea of being a leader and at the forefront without being forced to do so,” said Harris. “I will never love being the center of attention, but I don’t dread it anymore, either, which has been critical to my being able to carry out my teaching duties, as well as the projects I conduct outside of the classroom.”

Though Harris’s work both in and out of the classroom keeps her busy, she still finds time to enjoy herself and her adopted home, noting the list of things she will miss about living in San Juan is long. “Just to name a few, the climate, the ease of travel by motorcycle taxi, the acceptance and encouragement of loudness and shows of carácter, and the relationships I’ve built are all things that will be hard to let go of,” she said.

Penn State ranks among the top-producing research institutions in the country for Fulbright awards. In 2015-2016, in addition to Harris, Penn State's Fulbright winners include: Cali Buckley, Marina Burka, Molly Cain, Nathan Clay, Coral Flanagan, Theresa Kutasz, Christopher Rumple, Laura Shupp and Amanda Thoet. For more information about Fulbright scholarships, visit http://ufo.psu.edu/.

Last Updated May 12, 2016