Four UMKC Students Earn Fulbright Awards

Two faculty members also earn Fulbright grants, adding to impressive showing

Four University of Missouri-Kansas City students — all who applied this year — received Fulbright scholarships to study and teach abroad for the coming academic year. They are Julie Bates, Andrew Cole, Sa Shea Gaston and Ryan Occena.

“This is the first time in UMKC’s history that we have had 4 students receive Fulbright awards in the same year,” said Linna Place, Director of UMKC’s International Academic Programs (IAP). “Our applications are increasing as word of student success spreads. A lot of credit is due to faculty and staff who provide time and support to our applicants. There are so many ways to excel at UMKC, and four Fulbright grants tell the story of our outstanding students.”

In addition, two UMKC professors, Thomas Stroik, Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Lindsey Williams, Assistant Professor of Music Education; were awarded Fulbright Scholar grants to teach abroad.

Cole, a Doctoral Fellow in music composition, will research and arrange new music forms at the New Zealand School of Music, and Occena, who earned a bachelor’s in Music Education, will continue his studies at the Kodaly Institute, Kecskemet, Hungary. Bates and Gaston have full grants to teach English. A double major in studio art and German, with a minor in art history, Bates will teach in Germany; and Gaston, a graduate student in romance languages, in Mexico.

Stroik has been offered a Fulbright to teach English linguistics at the University of Silesia in Sosnowiec, Poland during the spring 2013 semester. Williams’ teaching grant covers an academic year in Thailand. He will develop and implement a series of workshops — “Continuing Education and Professional Development in Music for K — 12 Educators in Thailand” — providing professional development opportunities for Thai music educators. He will assist the Mahidol University College of Music leadership in securing monetary incentives for increased training in schools.

Bates advised students to “go for it. Study Abroad is great and IAP is there to ease your doubts.”

Cole is eager to mine the unique natural surroundings of New Zealand for music influences.

“The fusion of man-made music forms with natural sounds is known as ecoacoustics. As a field for composition, there is so much that hasn’t been explored. This is my chance to compose music that gives voice to the New Zealand and American landscapes.”

Gaston, a first-generation college graduate, said she “always wanted to teach. This Fulbright allows me to give to others the great gift of a second language that was given to me. It opens up a whole new world.”

Professor Williams said, “I am honored and excited to represent UMKC and the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Thailand. I am humbled to have an opportunity to work with my colleagues in Thailand and advocate for music education as both a profession and a calling. This will truly be a life-changing experience for my family.”

Nine other UMKC students were awarded substantial competitive grants for foreign study.

The Harry S Truman Good Neighbor Awards went to the following students: Amanda Arnold, fall semester 2012 in Granada, Spain; Lisa Green, 2012-2013, Lyon, France; Keron Hopkins, 2012-2013, Florianopolis, Brazil; Sydney Llewellyn, spring 2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Josh Munyan, fall semester 2012, Vilnius, Lithuania; and Joseph Salazar, 2012-2013, St. Petersburg, Russia. The Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation annually awards fourteen scholarships to students at UMKC, the University of Kansas, Georgetown University and Northwestern University.

A student of history and social change, Hopkins is “delighted to talk with people firsthand about the freedom movements and activism that led to the abolition of slavery in Brazil. As my language skills increase, my work and my research will be more meaningful and more fulfilling.”

DAAD, a German coalition of higher education institutions based in Bonn, granted three scholarships to UMKC students. DAAD supports study of German academic, cultural, and scientific policies. Kevin Baker researched the experience of ordinary German soldiers stationed on the Eastern Front during World War I; Courtney Neaveill has a two-year grant for a master’s program in history; and Elliott Goff will continue his research on age-related bone formation.

Occena’s words gave meaning to what can be gained through international exchange.

“I will be surrounded by people and places that cherish the arts, and it will affect all that I bring to teaching.”

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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