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Madison Stephens: First Oklahoma Christian Student to Receive Fulbright Award

Madison Stephens, a senior double-major of Biology and Vocational Spanish, recently received the prestigious Fulbright Award, which enables the awarded to study abroad and deepen their knowledge of other cultures. 

The Fulbright website explains the purpose of giving the award to a select group of hardworking students. 

“Fulbright opportunities are designed to advance scholars’ careers while benefiting their home and host institutions and countries. Upon return from their Fulbright experience, scholars and administrators are uniquely able to infuse curricula with cross-cultural perspectives and facilitate international research and engagement opportunities on their campuses.” 

Stephens shared the role she will have within the opportunity the award is granting her. 

“Most ETA Fulbrighters are placed in schools, but I will be in one of the 3 ETA awards co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy for placements in American Spaces,” Stephens said. “ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the US. I will be at the American Spaces Quixote program in Cuenca, Spain.”

Though the Fulbright award is an honor, Stepehens said gaining the award was a long process filled with applications and interviews. 

“I started my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification my junior year. I had meetings with the Oklahoma Christian Scholarship Committee while writing my application. Dr. Ware submitted a foreign language evaluation for me because Spain requires at least an intermediate understanding of Spanish. I also had multiple people fill out the Fulbright letter of recommendation forms. In order to submit the application, I had to do an interview with the Oklahoma Christian Scholarship Committee,” Stephens said. “After submitting my application in October, I waited until the end of January when I found out I was a semifinalist. After that, I had an interview with the Fulbright Commission and representatives from each of the three American Spaces programs in Spain. Then last Thursday, they let me know I was selected, and this Monday, I received an email that I was selected for the American Spaces Quixote program in Cuenca, Spain.”

Even though the process took almost a year to complete, Stephens described the excitement she felt when she found out she had received the award. 

“I was so excited and honored to receive the Fulbright. I was in the library, so I called my family and then I went upstairs to see if Dr. Ware was in her office so I could tell her,” Stephens said. 

To any aspiring students wanting to apply for the Fulbright award, Stephens gave advice from her own experience with the process.

“My advice would be to get a TEFL certification and do your research on the country you want to apply to. Many countries have a foreign language requirement, so if you are wanting to go somewhere like Spain that has a foreign language requirement, then you will need to get started on learning a language,” Stephens said. “However, there are still multiple countries that do not require one to know the language. I would also recommend speaking to the Oklahoma Christian scholarship committee to see what might be a good fit for you.” 

Stephens’ Spanish Professor, Dr. Tina Ware, explained how proud she is of Stephens’ accomplishment. 

“I am super proud of Madison and incredibly happy for her. She’s most deserving of this prestigious and life-changing opportunity. For the years her friends, family and professors have watched her work diligently toward this goal, and to see it awarded to her makes my heart swell with joy and excitement for her,” Ware said. “I lack the words to fully express my elation for Madison. And, even better, I know she will use this opportunity to glorify God.”

Ware expressed the growth she has seen in Stephen’s Spanish speaking abilities throughout the years she has been in her classroom. 

“I’ve seen Madison’s fluency and confidence in speaking Spanish increase. She’s comfortable speaking it in class, in local medical clinics, abroad and in her intense Spanish speaking classes,” Ware said. “And she speaks fluidly with ease. She will thrive in Spain.” 

Additionally, Ware said Stephens has fully earned this award and is looking forward to seeing where it leads her. 

“I can’t emphasize enough how deserving Madison is of the Fulbright, and how rewarding it is as her Spanish professor to see her receive it. Madison has a way of making projects look effortless, but Fulbrights don’t come easily to anyone,” Ware said. “Madison worked incredibly hard and she earned this honor 100%. I could not be more thrilled for her. She will make the most of this opportunity, and I hope she enjoys it more than she can even imagine.”

This upcoming September, Stephens will be heading to Cuenca, Spain until June 2025 to pursue her role in the American Spaces Quixote program through Fulbright.

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