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Fulbright Scholar Becoming a Global Citizen

This June, Santa Clara University senior Shawna Richardson will walk in SCU’s 167th commencement ceremony. However, Shawna’s post-graduation plans follow a different path than most. As a Fulbright scholar and award recipient, Shawna will spend her first year as an SCU alumna teaching English to primary school students in Taiwan.

Shawna is one of eight Broncos offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study or teach abroad next academic year, and one of three current students to achieve the honor this year. This profusion of Fulbright awards signals SCU as a “top producing” school for Fulbright scholars, placing it in the top five percent of similar schools nationwide. SCU’s Jesuit values of service, leadership, and excellence make students a natural fit within the Fulbright Program’s mission to create mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

Shawna’s trip to Taiwan will be the longest period of time the Bay Area native has spent out of the country, although she has availed herself of similar opportunities during her college career. Shawna’s love for teaching found a place within SCU’s Child Studies major, facilitating a culture of success.

SCU’s innovative Child Studies degree will be particularly helpful academic foundation as Shawna moves forward professionally; it’s designed for those interested in a career working with children, whether in community or classroom settings. Shawna has wanted to become a teacher since high school, and she chose Santa Clara University for its emphasis on educating the whole person.

Shawna’s first exposure to teaching abroad was when she studied in Italy during her junior year and taught English for three months in an elementary school classroom. She worked in collaboration with the teachers as well as developing her own lesson plans. ‘“We worked a lot with cross-cultural learning, so teaching American customs [to students] and learning about their traditions,” Shawna explains.

She also participated in the Global Fellowship program, which helps foster leadership and competence in students as global citizens. The summer before her senior year, Shawna went to India to teach in an orphanage for girls. She enjoyed teaching here because she was allowed more flexibility with her lesson plans. This freedom enabled Shawna to bring out her more creative side, which is something she’s passionate about bringing to the classroom.

The role of teaching is changing, and Shawna is excited by new developments in education. “There is a shift towards creativity,” she comments. “I am excited to be apart of the generation that is revolutionizing the way children learn. We are moving towards creative thinking and asking questions and processing information and actually retaining it.”

Shawna’s study abroad experience and her participation in the Global Fellowship program helped her understand what it means to be an American in other countries, especially as someone with the privilege of higher education. Shawna believes SCU students have an obligation to enter broader cultural conversations as global citizens.

The best way we can help people is by “being individuals who can listen and respect and immerse ourselves in other cultures, so that when we enter a foreign context, we can take the time to adjust to a different culture and way of life.”

As Shawna makes the final preparations to embark on her year-long teaching adventure in Taiwan, she looks forward to what awaits her. “I am excited to have a full school year with the students to see them grow and assess their needs; to stick with them for a whole year and see their progress.” Shawna is also eager to see how she will grow as a teacher. “I am most excited to be able to develop a fun curriculum with reading and arts activities, and different alternative strategies to teach English instead of just rote memorization.”

When Shawna walks across the stage at graduation, she will take a decisive step into the next phase of her life. Equipped with her Child Studies degree and an open heart, Shawna is ready for success: “My time abroad has been exciting, informative, and eye-opening. I can’t wait to see what Taiwan will teach me.”