Stories

Shawna Richardson photo

Shawna Richardson photo

Fulbright Scholar Shawna Richardson

Shawna Richardson ’18 is a liberal studies major who will participate in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program in Taiwan. 

When was your “aha moment” when you realized you could be a Fulbright candidate?

Last year I took a class with Dr. Leilani Miller and Dr. Stephen Carroll where they talked a lot about different fellowships and awards that are going on. They had someone come in who was a previous Fulbright Scholar so we got to meet them and talk to them. It seemed like a really great program and when I was in India working, I reached out to Dr. Miller and she started helping me go through the process. I initially was really hesitant to apply mostly because I’d have to be far away for a long time and I’d never really left home. But my passions for travel and working with others in a global context made the decision fairly easy.

What sort of “high impact” experiences did you have at SCU and how did they prepare you for being a Fulbright?

I was able to engage in a research project in the Greater Washington community neighborhood where we worked a lot on developing resiliency and healthy attachments between Latino mothers and their children. I worked on developing curriculum, how to play certain games to help with emotional management and self control. I was able to work on that project for two years which was also really helpful, and it actually just became a non-profit recently. It was really cool to see the work we put in get implemented into the community. For what I’m doing now, it was a good way to dip my toes in the water and realize that I can do it on my own.

Where did you observe SCU’s values most in this process?

Santa Clara really pushes advocating and helping others, being men and women for others, which I think is great. But until you are actually in that situation you're not gonna know what it’s like. With any nonprofits you really move slowly so it’s hard to know if you made a significant difference and also being there for only two months is really not long enough to do all you hope to do. “Did I make a difference?” is a question that I grapple with and I think it’s the kind of question anyone going onto a foreign context and then coming back grapples with. But that is also not necessarily the point. I really gained a good sense of the power of presence and what that means in terms of an international context.

How would you describe the responsibility you were given as an undergrad at SCU?

Coming to Santa Clara brings all these crazy opportunities. I felt like there were so many times were I wouldn’t have as much fun as I wanted because I was always working and pushing myself to do more and more. There are a lot of expectations at Santa Clara to be great so it’s nice being able to relax and have a plan for after graduation. I feel so proud of myself to have gone to this point and to have other people notice. My hard work has finally paid off and I get to do what I love to do the most which is travel and teach.

What sort of support did you get along the way?

The director of Global Fellows, Tanya Monsef Bunger, was one of my biggest advocates. She really showed me that I am a good candidate and that I could do this. I would have been so stranded otherwise, because at some schools you have to apply to your school before you can then apply for the committee.

Dr. Miller helped me with maybe 10 drafts of my application; helped me check in with my recommenders and also helped handle my transcripts, while I was in India. I was telling a girl who was in India with me (who was also applying for a Fulbright) that my advisor said this and this,” and she was like “What! I need this much help. I tried sending one email to ask a simple question and they didn't get back to me.” So having the faculty support here, even having just one person helps so much. But I was lucky to have all my advisors and mentors really encouraging me to do it.

Interesting moments?

There was this one time I walked into the class thinking I was going to be observing. But the teacher just never showed up. So I was like “ERRRR! What? What the heck?” I’m all alone in this class with fifth graders so I was trying to ask them what they’re learning. All they could tell me was that they had a test in two days. It was absolutely wild.