UNCA’s class of 2009 had many impressive bragging points, the most recent of which are two Fulbright Scholars in the same year. These outstanding students will use the prestigious awards for postgraduate study and travel in Korea and England. Classics major Megan Miller (pictured on left) will continue her studies at Oxford University (England), where she also has received the prestigious Pearson Prize for graduate study. Political Science and Sociology double major Emily Zucchino (pictured on right) will teach English in Korea on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA).
Before winning the Fulbright Award, Miller, of Tryon, learned she had won the $27,000 Lionel Pearson Prize to pursue a doctorate in classical languages and literature at Oxford University, besting four finalists from Ivy League schools. A first-generation college graduate, she attributes her love of classics to a Latin teacher at Polk County High School who piqued her interest in the subject, and to UNC Asheville faculty mentors who provided undergraduate research opportunities.
Miller believes her studies have given her a solid background that most Classics undergraduates would envy. Her experiences at UNC Asheville range from attending professional meetings and workshops in Latin paleography (the analysis of handwritten manuscripts), presenting research at high-level conferences and receiving funding for summer Undergraduate Research.
Miller says her high school counselors pointed her to UNC Asheville for the small, focused, liberal arts experience, where she could pursue the classics and diversity issues, interests she developed as a foreign exchange student in Thailand while in high school. “I learned so much about other people and what it is to be a global citizen and an American. We talk a lot about diversity, but it was exhilarating to be the only person who looked like me for miles.”
Zucchino, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, knew she wanted an international experience after graduation. “The Fulbright ETA grant in South Korea stood out to me because of the age of the children I would be teaching, the opportunity to stay with a Korean family rather than live in a dorm, and get involved in a community,” Zucchino says.
After intensive language and teacher training this summer, she’ll be assigned to teach English to elementary school children, drawing on her experience as preschool teacher, elementary school tutor and UNC Asheville Writing Center consultant.
“I hope to lay a foundation for learning the English language that the children can keep with them as they continue their education after I am gone,” she says. Well traveled in Europe and South America, she plans to introduce American culture to Korean youngsters and acquaintances through photographs and postcards from home, as well as Western multimedia programs and food. “I hope that my time spent in Korea serves as a springboard for my future.”
After participating in UNC Asheville’s first international service-learning trip to Honduras in 2006, her vision for a future in international relations crystallized. She sees herself completing graduate school and launching a foreign service career with the U.S. Department of State.
Miller, who graduated summa cum laude (highest honors), would like to teach at a liberal arts college like UNC Asheville, where classes are small and students can work closely with faculty, she says. After a summer wedding to fellow Classics student Jeremy Parrish ’07, Miller leaves for Oxford in the fall.
Is the scholar worried about the rigor of Oxford? “No. The faculty have prepared me to excel at Oxford. I felt like the underdog, going up against students from Princeton, Brown and the University of Chicago for the awards, but I have no doubts about my abilities in Latin and Greek.”
The notable achievements of these two students bring UNC Asheville’s tally of Fulbrights to 34 since 1973. A robust mentoring program, led by Political Science associate professor Linda Cornett, helps identify candidates early in their UNC Asheville years and guide them through the application process.
The Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government’s flagship international exchange program, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. With this goal as a starting point, the Fulbright Program has provided almost 300,000 participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
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Associate Professor of Political Science