Going for the Fulbright

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Murray State student breaks into semifinal round for international opportunity

Story by Connor JaschenFeatures Editor

Having taught in France, lived in London and had breakfast in Quebec, Bryant Powell, senior from Mayfield, Kentucky, now sets his sight on the Fulbright Program, one of the highest honors in academic scholarships offered across the country.

Powell said learning about his push into the semi-finalist round of the application process sent him into overdrive.

“I was thrilled,” Powell said in a press release. “Totally amped up and ready to start the next round.”

Fulbright scholarship alumni range from writers to heads of state, with 54 Fulbright alumni having won Nobel Prizes and 82 having won Pulitzer Prizes, according to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Now, a Racer is hoping to break into those ranks.

Powell, who was originally an English major, is no stranger to prestigious scholarships and programs. He has already been named a McNair Scholar, an award granted to first-generation college students for graduate studies.

Andy Black, professor of English and philosophy, worked with Powell as a mentor for the McNair scholarship. In regards to Powell, Black said what set this student apart was a great work ethic and the ability to take a chance when he sees it.

“I think it reflects well even that he’s made it to this semi-finalist round because that’s kind of an honor in itself,” Black said.

Black also went with Powell to the Mid-Atlantic Pop and American Culture Association conference, where Powell presented an undergraduate paper – even though the conference was geared towards senior scholars.

Being a first-generation college student hasn’t seemed to slow Powell down, Black said. Instead, Powell has based his collegiate career off of seeking out opportunities to make up for the seeming lack of chances some students face.

“I think it’s remarkable,” Black said. “Rather than saying, you know, ‘I’m from this small town and I’m just going to stay there,’ he is seeing the world.”

Black, who Powell said had been the one pushing him towards the Fulbright application, recognized the difference in what Powell has done for his own education compared to the ‘just-go-to-class’ philosophy many students cling to.

“I think what Bryant has done is taken ownership of his education in a way that he finds these opportunities, and he’s grabbed hold of them,” Black said.

Black’s advice to other students who may not feel like they have the same opportunities was simple: Go and find them. When a student sees a study abroad flier or an organization advertisement they may otherwise turn down, Black said to at least check it out. This can put students in contact with teachers who can help, setting up personal and professional relationships that Powell took advantage of getting to where he is today.

For a small, regional college like Murray State, success stories from small towns, like Powell’s, are lessons to be learned for the rest of the student body, Black said.

“The lesson, I think, is something that you want to do, find a way to do it,” Black said. “But don’t think you have to do it all by yourself.”