Two UK students awarded Fulbright scholarships

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Public Affairs) — University of Kentucky Office of Nationally Competitive Awards has announced that two recent UK graduates have been offered Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarships to travel abroad to teach, study or pursue research for the 2021-22 academic year.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 140 countries.

This year’s UK Fulbright recipients are:

  • Schuyler Baas, a 2020 management and Lewis Honors College graduate, who will teach in Spain and lead a Model United Nations Program; and
  • Clarissa Grace Somers, a 2021 food science and Lewis Honors College graduate, who will pursue graduate studies in Ireland.

Schuyler Baas, the daughter of Dan and Ronna Baas, of Louisville, Kentucky, is a recipient of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. She will use her grant to teach English to 12- to 18-year-olds in Madrid, Spain, as well as lead a Model United Nations Program at a local school.

After graduating UK, Baas earned her Teaching English as a Foreign Language degree and has been teaching ninth and 10th grad English through the AmeriCorps Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, Florida. Beyond teaching, she has also volunteered at various service projects in the area, including distributing personal protective equipment, leading at vaccine distribution sites, handing out backpacks, and harvesting vegetables for the hungry. After gaining valuable experience, Baas is thrilled to teach in Spain this year with Fulbright.

“Pursuing a Fulbright with the Community of Madrid seemed like a great opportunity to continue civil service, but this time, abroad,” Baas said. “And, as former founder and president of my high school’s chapters of Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA) and Kentucky Youth Assembly (KYA), I am excited to have the opportunity to lead a Model UN chapter again as a part of Madrid’s Global Classrooms program!”

While at UK, Baas previously studied abroad with Semester at Sea in Spring 2019 and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spring 2020. She credits mentors Gatton College of Business and Economics faculty Darshak PatelJoe Labianca and John Garen and Gatton College staff Shonta Phelps, and Thomas Teague (now at University of Louisville) as inspirations on her road to becoming a community leader.

Upon completion of her Fulbright ETA, Baas hopes to pursue a career in international relations.

Clarissa Somers, daughter of MeLinda and Jeff White, of Bolivia, North Carolina, will use her Fulbright toward a master’s degree in food microbiology at University College Cork in Ireland.

The learning experience at UCC will allow Somers to advance her previous studies on human milk at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and UK, while preparing her for future research endeavors in the field. “Human milk is an amazingly complex food designed to fit an infant’s specific needs that adapts with the child as it grows. Its prebiotic and probiotic components and their impact on the infant microbiome particularly interest me.”

Somers credits Pat Whitlow, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, and Department of Animal and Food Sciences faculty Melissa MorganRachel Schendel and William Boatright, in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, for encouraging her to pursue graduate school and the Fulbright.

Upon completion of her Fulbright and her master’s degree, Somers plans to earn her doctoral degree abroad and pursue an international career in human milk research. Her ultimate goal is to make new discoveries, advocate for positive change and teach others what she has learned in the process.

“My experience teaching general chemistry at UK has reinforced my desire to continue teaching throughout my career,” Somers explained. “As a caregiver and longtime Girl Scout, I thrive when working in the service of others. These experiences have taught me that no matter where my career leads me, my true passion lies in teaching and helping others. To me, my research is meaningless if I cannot share its benefits with others.”

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics and won such prestigious honors as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Foundation Award, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education. For further information about the Fulbright Program, visit the website http://eca.state.gov/fulbright.

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