Marist Fulbright Winners Will Teach English in Spain, Malaysia

Marist college

April 12, 2018 — Marist students Andrew Best ’18 and Laura Gardner ’18 have each been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), the latest in a long line of students from the College to receive this prestigious fellowship. The graduating seniors will teach English in Malaysia and Spain, respectively. Best is a psychology/special education major from Montclair, New Jersey, while Gardner is a Spanish/adolescent education major from Thornwood, New York. In recent years, Marist has had tremendous success with this nationally competitive award, with 24 students winning the Fulbright in the last 15 years. 

The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Marist President David Yellen noted, “We’re proud that Marist students continue to successfully compete for our nation’s most competitive fellowships. This record of success is the result of our students’ hard work, as well as the excellent preparation they receive at Marist, including the mentorship of our dedicated faculty.” 

Vice President for Academic Affairs Thom Wermuth concurred, “A central part of the Marist educational experience is study and research abroad; indeed, more than 50 percent of Marist students study abroad during their time here. This cultural exploration helps them gain a more expansive view of the world and their place in it. I think this is a big part of the reason Marist has been so successful with the Fulbright.” 

Best is looking forward to traveling to Malaysia in January 2019 to teach English, and he is well suited for the challenge.  During summer breaks, he has worked as a teacher and residential counselor for emotionally challenged youth, as a teaching assistant working with children with learning disabilities, and as a camp counselor with the Montclair YMCA. At Marist, he was a member of the men’s crew team from 2014 to 2016, and he belongs to both Teachers of Tomorrow and the Delta Alpha Pi honor society. 

Best has extensive international experience; he was born in London and has traveled to countries including Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, and Spain. In fact, he and his father climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Trickle Up, a non-profit organization that fights global poverty by helping women in the developing world start businesses.  “I’ve never been to Asia, and I know Malaysia needs a lot of support, so I’m really excited to go and help,” said Best. He added, “The idea of applying for a Fulbright can be intimidating, but I felt like it was another mountain I could climb.” After graduation and before his Fulbright begins, Best will spend this summer honing his teaching methods at a therapeutic camp. 

Laura Gardner, who is a member of the Marist College Band, Kappa Delta Pi (the education honor society), Sigma Delta Pi (the Spanish honor society), and the College’s Emerging Leaders Program, will travel to Spain this fall to begin her ETA. Gardner is no stranger to international travel, having spent the fall of 2016 in Madrid, where she cemented her interest in teaching English as a second language (ESL). She noted, “I had basically never left New York, so I enjoyed my year in Madrid to the fullest. Studying abroad is not just about the language – it’s also the culture, the people, the food.” After returning to Marist from her semester abroad, Gardner taught ESL to first- and second-graders in Red Hook, New York through the CultureConnect program. She has gained additional experience working with youth through an after-school program in Chappaqua, New York and as a tutor with the non-profit R.E.A.L. Skills Network in Poughkeepsie.  

While Gardner admits to being “shocked” when she learned she had won a Fulbright, she looks forward to reconnecting with the friends she made in Spain in 2016 and embracing the unknown. “I’m usually someone who likes to have a plan, but I’m learning to let go. It’s a little scary but also exciting.” After returning from her Fulbright year, she plans to attend graduate school and teach ESL as a career.

About Marist

Located on the banks of the historic Hudson River and at its Florence, Italy campus, Marist College is a comprehensive, independent institution grounded in the liberal arts. Its mission is to “help students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global community of the 21st century.” Marist is consistently recognized for excellence by The Princeton Review (Colleges That Create Futures and The Best 381 Colleges), U.S. News & World Report (9th Best Regional University/North), Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (“Best College Values”), and others. Marist educates approximately 5,000 traditional-age undergraduate students and 1,400 adult and graduate students in 47 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate programs, including fully online MBA, MPA, MS, and MA degrees.

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