Three From Samford Earn Fulbright Grants
by Sean Flynt
Samford University graduates Chris Barbee `13 and Zach Brown `14, and rising sophomore Stone Hendrickson have received prestigious grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the flagship international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.
Samford music education alumnus Chris Barbee of Trussville, Ala. will use his grant to study choral conducting and music education at the Jazeps Vītols Latvian National Conservatory. He might also have an opportunity to work with the Riga Dom Choir School.
“Through this work I'm hoping to devise a structure and strategy for a nationwide music and arts education program that centers around choral singing and focuses on underprivileged students here in the United States,” Barbee said. “Apart from that I hope to build relationships, learn more about their culture and how music is so woven into it, and hopefully start and conduct a choir.”
Barbee currently serves as Choir Director at Homewood Cumberland Presbyterian Church as he prepares for graduate school in the fall. Reflecting on his time at Samford, he praised the university’s challenging academic program and encouragement of free thought. “This emphasis on cultivating the mind as well as developing strong humanistic priorities had a profound effect on me,” Barbee said. “It definitely helped shape my definition of what success truly is.”
Barbee also singled-out supportive and inspiring Samford faculty and staff, including David Bains, Stephen Chew, Philip Copeland, Shannon Flynt, Joseph Hopkins, Kristin Kenning, Rachel Lim, Donald Sanders, Carol Vaughan-Cross and Christina Villaverde. “Samford seems to be willing to open as many doors as you're willing to walk through,” he said. Barbee offered special praise for music professor and mentor Copeland, who “opened up a universe of possibilities for me via choral music and has never doubted me once.”
History and University Fellows honors alumnus Zach Brown of Franklin, Tenn. received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Tajikistan in the 2014-15 academic year. He said Samford history professor Jim Brown’s Modern Russia course sparked his interest in the central Asian region that was once a part of the Soviet Union.
“I wanted to see how those different countries developed in the post-Cold War era, and am so excited to get the opportunity to do so,” Brown said. Having served as Editor-in-Chief of the Samford Crimson student newspaper his senior year, he also hopes to explore Tajik media during his assistantship.
In addition to his Russian history professor, Brown praised the support of University Fellows faculty Shannon Flynt, Bryan Johnson, Chris Metress and Jason Wallace.
Freshman University Fellow Stone Hendrickson of Edmond, Okla. was accepted to the four-week Fulbright Summer Institute at England’s Durham University. The theme of the 2014 institute is The Northern Borders of Empire to the Making of the Middle Ages. Hendrickson will study ancient Roman and medieval English history and culture as he takes part in a major archaeological excavation at the site of the Roman fort and town at Binchester.
The excavation--begun in 2009 and led by teams from Durham University and Stanford University--has so far uncovered the best-preserved Roman bathhouse in the UK and some of the most impressive mausolea seen on a Roman site for 150 years. The project aims to investigate the character and diversity of the local population, to explore connections between fort and town, and to pursue questions concerning the way the border was conceived and worked from Roman to medieval times.
Hendrickson, whose long-term plans include graduate school in either law or English, said the institute corresponds well to his current Samford studies as a classics and English double-major.
Samford classics professor and Fulbright Program Advisor Shannon Flynt said these honors are always hard-won. “Fulbright is such a well-known, long-standing and prestigious program, that the application process is extremely competitive,” said Flynt, a 2000-2001 Fulbright alumna. She noted that tens of thousands of U.S. students submit proposals for fewer than 2,000 international study grants. “Our undergraduates are competing against even doctoral students for these positions in some cases,” she said.
Boards in the U.S. and host countries review and confirm candidates based only on written applications. “Our students who win Fulbrights are invariably the ones who have been very dedicated and persistent in the application process - some of them spend months crafting their proposals, going through a dozen or more drafts,” Flynt said. “These students really have to shine on paper. In the space of a few pages they have to demonstrate that they are worth the investment that Fulbright will make in them.”