Jeri Howell ’16 was recently awarded a prestigious Fulbright grant from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Through the grant, Howell will be an English Teaching Assistant in Costa Rica over the 2016-17 academic year.
“I am most looking forward to two things: building relationships with the community and my students, as well as experiencing inner growth and identity shift within myself, especially as I discover who I am as a teacher,” Howell says.
The competitive Fulbright grant program, established in 1946 as the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, allows a carefully selected group of people to teach, research and advise others in a number of foreign countries. Howell will be one of 1,900 Fulbrights doing work abroad in 2016-17.
Along with teaching English, Howell plans to incorporate her other interests—including music and the environment—into her Fulbright year as well.
“I will conduct an original music project that seeks to capture Costa Ricans’ cultural perspectives on the environment,” Howell says. “I plan to combine these positions with community ‘open mic nights,’ during which I will share my original music, my university students will share their original works in English and community members will share their songs, stories, dance and poems.”
Howell, a Spanish and environmental studies double major from Frankfort, Ky., is no stranger to accolades and accomplishments at Centre College. She was awarded the Gavin Easton Wiseman Valedictorian Prize for the top female graduate at the 2016 Commencement exercises. At this year’s Honors Convocation, she was awarded both the Mason Knuckles Award for an outstanding senior and the Leonard and Vivian DiLillo Spanish Prize for the most outstanding senior Spanish major.
A talented singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Howell is a member of Centre’s Kentucky Ensemble, a music group that recently toured New England over the College’s spring break. She has also released two albums of her own music.
In 2015, Howell was part of a group of students who presented research and internship findings at the Latin American Studies Symposium. As a junior, Howell completed an internship at the Backside Learning Center (BLC), a non-profit organization that aims to better workers at Churchill Downs through both academic and community opportunities. She also completed an internship with The Nature Conservancy over the summer before her senior year.
Howell, who has worked in Centre’s Residence Life Office since officially graduating early from Centre in the fall, says she could “write a book” on how the College has prepared her for a Fulbright year. She credits the people she came to know at Centre as playing a huge role.
“My professors taught me that creativity and social justice can go hand in hand with academic analysis and study,” Howell says. “Staff members taught me that building community and character is just as much a part of the college experience as classes; even more, that it is integral to everything that you do in life.”
More than anything else, Howell credits the liberal arts education she received at Centre as being crucial to her life and work.
“When I came to Centre, I did not think that my diverse passions could combine into one life,” she explains. “I felt that my music could not be a part of my academic pursuits, and that my love of community and service did not have anything to do with my research papers. But Centre proved me wrong and opened up a whole new, fulfilling world to me.
“The liberal arts experience that I received here at Centre helped me to realize that I am not a person of separate identities,” Howell continues, “but of interconnected interests and loves that inform and inspire one another.”
by Elizabeth Trollinger
June 9, 2016