Shenandoah University alumna Niulka Franco Marin ’17 is the recipient of a Fulbright Award, the first Shenandoah undergraduate alumna to ever win a Fulbright Award, and one of two undergraduate Fulbright recipients this year.
The Fulbright Program was created to promote healthy relationships between countries and spread awareness of cultural differences. According to the program, 59 Fulbright alumni have won the Nobel Peace Prize and 82 alumni have won the Pulitzer Prize.
“The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship is an extremely competitive award, and Argentina is one of the most sought-after countries. Niulka’s success is a tremendous credit to her outstanding work at Shenandoah and her vision for her work in Argentina,” said Adrienne Bloss, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
There are two types of Fulbright Awards for students. The first is research-based, through which applicants hope to do research in another country. The second is an English teaching program. Marin will complete an English teaching assistantship in Rosario, Argentina. She is the first Shenandoah student to win this type of Fulbright Award.
The application process for the Fulbright Program is extremely laborious and taxing. Jonathan Noyalas ’01, M.A., director of the McCormick Civil War Institute and Shenandoah’s Fulbright Program adviser, helps students with writing their applications and their personal statements.
“Niulka is a very impressive student; disciplined, motivated, well-spoken, ambitious and focused. I can’t offer enough adjectives to capture her myriad wonderful qualities,” Noyalas said.
The application process proved to be taxing on Marin. “It took me around five months to feel fully confident in my final drafts of the Personal Statement, Grant Purpose, and the official application; I had four drafts throughout the five months to be exact. What made it the hardest was the word limit of one page for each individual statement, which made it very limiting to state why I was worthy and qualified for the opportunity. On top of that, I also was expected to tell my life story and future goals from the experience within the one page as well.
“At first it was kind of overwhelming because I didn’t really expect to get the award,” Niulka said, regarding her win. “I feel very validated. It’s definitely helping my self-esteem in regard to my own academic and career aspirations.”
In order to participate in the Fulbright program, a candidate needs to already have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Marin graduated in December of 2017 with a double major in Spanish and Global Studies.
She is looking forward to working with the citizens of Argentina. There, she will be teaching English and assisting with literacy in both English and Spanish.
“I am more interested in finding vocational schools where I can help whoever needs help learning English or learning how to read Spanish in general. I already do that in my free time. I help people learn English or to become literate,” she said. She especially enjoys teaching children with learning how to read.
Marin is extremely grateful for her experiences at Shenandoah University.
“I am very excited that I had all of the proper mentors,” Marin said. “Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible. At Shenandoah University, I had more attention and more one-on-one opportunities than any other school I’ve gone to in the past. I like the faculty mainly because they treat you like family, not only as a student but also after you graduate. They’re always rooting me on. It’s nice to see that we are like a family relationship,” she said.
Marin also added that she keeps in touch with many of her professors. “I definitely want to thank the Shenandoah faculty, specifically my professors and everyone who truly mentored me. I would not be the person that I am today without them.”
In addition to Marin’s win, music education major Drake Stoughton ‘18 also won a Fulbright Award this semester. Stoughton will complete his research-based Fulbright Program in The Hague, Netherlands. Marin and Stoughton are the first undergraduate Fulbright recipients in the history of Shenandoah University. Congratulations to both of them!
Written by Rachel Deanne Sherman | Psychology major ’18