College of Education senior wins Fulbright

April 15, 2019

The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board selected Rachel Shriver, a senior secondary English education major from Manassas, Virginia, for a Fulbright award to Colombia.

According to the notification letter sent by Ambassador Jeffrey L. Bleich (ret.), chair of the Fulbright board, "Your grant is a reflection of your leadership and contributions to society, and is made possible through funds appropriated annually by the U.S. Congress and, in many cases, by contributions from partner countries and the private sector."

Shriver said she's pleased that she gets to continue to learn.

"I feel so incredibly honored, because before I came to Penn State, I thought that that type of thing was for other types of people. I didn't think that was like a 'Rachel' thing," Shriver said. "What it means to me is that I get to continue to form a greater understanding about how our world is multilingual and multicultural and practice my own global citizenship. The most important part is that it's a way for me to better myself and my skills for my students in the future and my students that I'll have next year, so I can continue to be better for them and for what I can bring to the classroom for them."

The Fulbright Program is devoted to increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world's largest and most diverse international educational exchange program.

For Shriver, this is the latest in a continuing trajectory for her that started when she became a S.C.O.P.E. student in the summer before her senior year of high school.

Shriver's S.C.O.P.E. experience was the first time she realized that there was more than one way to be an education major.

"I didn't have to do it in the 'traditional' sense," she said. "That was my first mind blow, and then that's what really gave me the energy to say, 'I want to come to Penn State and I want to learn how to be a revolutionary teacher that doesn't always play by the rules or how I've known education to be.'"

"Rachel is a Renaissance woman with a passionate commitment to learning. Her fearless, reflective and disciplined approach to learning explain her abilities as a scholar and a leader."

~ Maria Schmidt, assistant dean for multicultural programs

"Rachel is a Renaissance woman with a passionate commitment to learning," said Maria Schmidt, assistant dean for multicultural programs and founding director of S.C.O.P.E., the Summer College Opportunity Program in Education. "Her fearless, reflective and disciplined approach to learning explain her abilities as a scholar and a leader. Since her S.C.O.P.E. days we knew her energy and enthusiasm blended with her analytical skills would take her far. Her proposed course of study builds on her strengths and educational training, and gives Rachel the opportunity to pursue her passions on a global scale."

Shriver said she has undergone a great change during her time in the Penn State College of Education. "My time here has been one of rapid expansion over my four years. I'm changed in the way that I feel I can like travel now. I didn't know that before," she said.

"I can be a teacher, and a good teacher and an informed teacher and one who's like constantly learning. And I wanted to be that before. But I don't think I completely understood to what level that was. I had no intentions of learning Spanish before I came here and now I really want to be fluent."

Elizabeth Smolcic, associate professor of education (English as a second language), attributes Shriver's success to her hard work and determination.

"Rachel excels because she is determined and tenacious and is willing to ask for help from others to support her in moving forward toward her goals," Smolcic said. "As an example, when we arrived in Ecuador two summers ago, she had very limited abilities in Spanish. Despite the lack of previous background, she dove right in and began speaking the few phrases and words in Spanish that were available to her with her Ecuadorian classmates and host family. As it is with a muscle that one begins to exercise, her Spanish abilities grew tremendously in the month we were there. I remember her making lists of new words and trying them out during the day.

"Once we returned to Penn State, she immediately registered for a Spanish course for the next semester and began talking about how she dreamed of becoming Spanish proficient. Two years later, I can now carry on a conversation with her in Spanish and not only about everyday social matters, but also concerning more academic topics," Smolcic said.

An example of Shriver's proficiency in Spanish stands out to Dean David H. Monk.

"Rachel made a presentation to one of our volunteer alumni groups and demonstrated the success she experienced learning Spanish in one of the college's immersion programs by passionately describing the power of the college's mission statement in Spanish," Monk said. "She inspired us to realize that the college's mission cuts across languages and cultures and prompted us to make a poster with the mission statement translated into no fewer than 11 languages, in addition to English. The poster sends a strong signal reflecting the college's deep commitment to globalization."

Shriver said, "It was really cool for me to see that poster, because one of my dreams for our nation is to know and then respect and honor that this is not, should not be, a monolingual nation. It's not, but for a lot of people it is. I hope that one day, so many different things, like the mission of the College of Ed, are in all of those different languages. Then so many different people can have access to that space. So that was really cool to see our mission be in so many different languages, honoring that multilingualism."

As a Fulbright grantee, Shriver will join the ranks of distinguished participants in the program. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists and teachers. They include 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors. Since its inception in 1946, more than 390,000 "Fulbrighters" have participated in the program.

As a representative of the United States in the program, Shriver will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners in educational, political, cultural, economic and scientific fields. She also will have the opportunity to engage in the local community while on her Fulbright exchange to Universidad Industrial de Santander, in the city of Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander, Colombia.

Last year, Shriver earned an Erickson Discovery Grant for her research project titled "Mas Que Mojitos: Reciprocity within Global Conversations Course." That grant enabled her to fund a second Teaching ESL Immersion trip to Ecuador. The work she does during her 10-month Fulbright experience in Colombia from July 2019 through May 2020 will build on what she has done in Ecuador.

"When I received the Erikson Discovery Grant last year, that was to work on a cross-cultural project with the Penn State students and the students at the Universidad de Cuenca in Cuenca, Ecuador. I'm still doing that research with that research team," Shriver said.

"That's going to continue in the sense that when I go to Colombia, I'm a cultural ambassador. How am I bringing my culture to the table, and how are they bringing their culture to the table, in this cross-cultural experience? How do I make space for that in my classroom? And then what happens when we both walk away? So, it's similar to the Ecuadorian research and what Dr. Smolcic is doing in her program. I want to do that very deliberate, intentional honoring of both cultures in my space."

Those who know Shriver have every confidence she will do just that.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 19, 2019