Shenandoah University music education student Drake Stoughton ’18 is first of two Shenandoah’s undergraduate students to ever win a Fulbright Award.
The Fulbright Program was created in 1946 to promote healthy relationships between countries and better understanding between cultures. Program winners receive a fully funded trip to study in a country of their choosing.
“A Fulbright is an extraordinary honor, said Adrienne Bloss, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “This award is a tribute to Drake’s hard work and talent and to the creativity and impact of his project. I could not be prouder of Drake or happier for him to have this opportunity. I also know that he is leading the way for many more Shenandoah student Fulbright Awards in the future.”
There are two types of Fulbright Awards for students. The first is research-based where the applicants are hoping to do research in another country. The second is an English teaching program. Stoughton applied for a musical research program in The Hague, Netherlands. Stoughton is one of two first-time undergraduate students to earn a Fulbright at Shenandoah this year (alumna Niulka Franco Marin ’17, who graduated in December, also received a Fulbright), but they are not the only Shenandoah students to have received the honor. Hannah Standiford ’17 was a Shenandoah music therapy graduate student when she won a Fulbright to study Indonesian music last year. Standiford applied for the program through her undergraduate school, Virginia Commonwealth University.
The application process for the federally funded program is so meticulous and difficult that students have to start working on it almost a year in advance. The application involves a personal statement as well as a statement of their planned research. All of this must be done in two pages or less.
Jonathan Noyalas ’01, M.A., director of the McCormick Civil War Institute and Shenandoah’s Fulbright Program advisor, assists students in writing their statements and guides them through the process. According to him, the most difficult part of the application process is justifying why they should be doing the research in the country of their choosing.
“You have to make the argument ‘why that country?’ That’s one of the things in the review process that’s kind of difficult for students at times and maybe frustrating. We are constantly kicking back the application saying, ‘but you’re not telling us exactly why this country. If it’s something that can be done in Chicago, go to Chicago.’”
In addition, in order to participate in the Fulbright program, the candidate needs to already have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Stoughton will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May.
Noyalas described the type of students that can even be considered for the Fulbright award.
“Exceptional is not a strong enough word for it,” he said. “These students have to not only be strong academically, but they have to be well versed in the culture and language of the country they would visit. They have to be extremely self-motivated because they are going to be doing this on their own. They also have to be extremely independent. You’re going to be living and working in a foreign country for quite a long time away from parents, family and friends. So, it takes a special kind of person.”
”From the first time that I met [Stoughton], he gave this impression that he was mature beyond his years,” said Noyalas. He is far more focused than a traditional college student is. He is very well spoken and very intelligent. I think he embodies a lot of the qualities that every faculty member dreams of.”
This will not be Stoughton’s first time outside the U.S. He was selected in his freshman year to be a part of Shenandoah University’s Global Citizenship Project (GCP) and traveled to Malaysia and Singapore. He stated that before his GCP trip, he would not have even considered applying for a Fulbright Award.
“I really think it had a profound impact on me,” he said. “My dad went outside the country a lot for work, but it’s not like he went to experience the culture. My mom has never been outside the country. We’re not world travelers. I don’t come from that kind of background.”
However, since that first GCP experience, Stoughton found himself craving more international travel opportunities.
“After GCP, I definitely considered looking at other programs. I looked for, maybe, summer programs that I could do in another country; get credit somewhere else. But unfortunately, the opportunity just never arose because the music education program here is so intense. You really need to be here to finish all your coursework. When I found this opportunity, to take almost a whole year and go study, I was just like ‘wow, that would be so amazing.’”
Stoughton will be studying the musician, Raaf Hekkema, in The Hague, Netherlands. Hekkema, a native of The Hague, is a professor and writes music for reed quintets. Stoughton saw Hekkema perform at Shenandoah in 2016.
“I loved their performance and the instrumentation so much that I decided to put together my own reed quintet the following Fall. I got some friends together who were willing to play, and I started making some transcriptions for us to perform. The Shenandoah faculty was also very supportive of the ensemble.”
Professor of Saxophone Timothy Roberts, D.M.A., nominated Stoughton for the program, and the application process began in March 2017. Stoughton had already heard of the program from his friend, Joey Speranzo ’17, who had made it to the semifinals the previous year. Stoughton received the acceptance letter on March 28, while on a ski trip with his friends.
Stoughton said he is excited to have this opportunity and is ready for the challenges that it will bring.
Shenandoah University alumna, Niulka Franco Marin ’17, also received a Fulbright Award. She applied to the Fulbright program for an English teaching assistantship in Rosario, Argentina, where she will teach English and work to spread awareness of cultural differences. Marin graduated from Shenandoah in December 2017, having received a bachelor’s in Spanish and Global Studies.
Congratulations to both Stoughton and Marin for their outstanding academic achievements.
Written by Rachel Deanne Sherman | Psychology major ’18