MTSU students earn Fulbright, Peace Corps awards

Pel Doski and Leia Green of Nashville, Tennessee, are the latest MTSU students to earn Fulbright Fellowships to teach or conduct research abroad later this year.

Doski, a biology major, will be teaching English in South Korea, and Green, a foreign language major, will be teaching in Argentina. They join 14 former MTSU students who have accepted Fulbright awards since 2010.

A third finalist, Hermon Phuntling of Knoxville, Tennessee, an MTSU senior majoring in in global studies and human geography, also earned a Fulbright to teach in Thailand. He decided, however, to perform health care work with the Peace Corps in the African country of Benin during the next two years.

The U.S. State Department sponsors the Fulbright program to increase mutual understanding between people in the United States and other countries by placing U.S. students in other nations to teach or conduct research for eight to 10 months.

Prior MTSU Fulbright recipients have received awards to Brazil, Germany, Israel, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Slovakia, Spain and Tanzania.

University Honors College Dean John Vile said this year’s winners reflect the diversity of the MTSU student body.

Doski, who was born in Guam after her parents fled persecution in Iraq, will leave this month for South Korea for her 12-month Fulbright teaching assignment. It will begin with six weeks of intensive sessions before Doski is placed with high school or middle school students.

“I was in utter shock,” Doski said of learning about her award, adding she “felt intimidated” by previous recipients from Ivy League schools and those who have majored in Asian studies.

Doski thanked Laura Clippard, an Honors College staff member who works diligently to assist MTSU students pursuing Fulbrights and similar awards, for her help.

Green, who is an aerial silks dancer and yoga instructor plans to attend graduate school to teach second language acquisition.

Green previously visited Latin American schools, which should bolster her preparedness, Vile said.

Phuntling, 22, who graduates in August, was born in India and immigrated to the United States from Burma. After serving in the Peace Corps, he plans to enter the health care field.

At MTSU, Phuntling has been involved for four years with the Student Government Association, serving as a senator and vice president of marketing as a senior.

“I thought I would cast a wide net to see all the possibilities (out there),” he said. “I realized (for now) the Peace Corps would help me more.”

Phuntling leaves for Africa in mid-September. He said he will reapply for a Fulbright research fellowship after his Peace Corps commitment ends.

Led by Clippard, the Undergraduate Fellowship Office in the Honors College assists students in applying for Fulbright and other international awards.

MTSU is placing more emphasis on study abroad opportunities, in part because the experience often prepares students for future fellowship opportunities, Vile said.

The Honors College sponsors a Passport Day each year in which students obtain passports to make international travel possible.

“The success of MTSU students has been particularly impressive because the competition has become increasingly competitive and includes many applicants from Ivy League and other private colleges and universities,” said Vile, who serves on a national Fulbright selection committee.

MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. The Honors College, the first in the state, is one of nine colleges within the university. It offers students an Ivy League experience.

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