by Colton Campbell

West Poindexter was at work when he got the news. He’d taken a break to check his messages. One of those messages informed him that he was officially a Fulbright Scholar.

West Poindexter
West Poindexter

“I floated through the rest of my day at work,” said Poindexter, a University of West Georgia alumnus. “Nothing could touch me.”

His experience is similar to another UWG alumnus’, who received the same life-changing piece of news.

“I kept opening the email to see the word ‘congratulations,’” said Darrius Shaw, who will earn his master’s degree in the United Kingdom thanks to the scholarship. “It was one of those moments when you can’t stop smiling. I was on cloud nine, and I didn’t come down for about a week.”

Poindexter and Shaw were named recipients in the 2019 Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a prestigious scholarship program that offers grants for study and research in countries around the world. They credit their experiences at UWG – both as undergraduate students and as candidates to Fulbright – for their success.

“If I hadn’t studied at UWG, I wouldn’t have developed the relationships with professors who encouraged me to try for more than I thought I could obtain,” said Poindexter, who will study phenomenology (the philosophical study of consciousness) and critical race theory in Belgium. “Nudging me onto this path – along with all the background support in scheduling, resource gathering and draft feedback from the Office of Undergraduate Research – was key to my landing this opportunity.”

Shaw said he hopes to leverage his Fulbright experience into an enhanced career encouraging students to enter STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) fields.

“As a current teacher, I see there are groups of students who are highly engaged in science and others who are only participating because they have to,” said Shaw, who majored in biology and secondary education as a UWG undergraduate. “With this Fulbright award, I want to use my graduate studies to learn how to engage students who are under-represented in the STEAM fields. So the scholarship is really for them.”

The Fulbright program is aimed at graduating seniors and recent bachelor’s degree recipients, graduate-level candidates, and young professionals, with around 1,900 grants awarded annually.

Students submit a statement of purpose, defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S. Semifinalists like Shaw and Poindexter have been reviewed by a national screening committee and recommended to the foreign or host country of choice for additional review.

The U.S. Fulbright program has seen about 5,000 applicants annually in recent years, with about 800, on average, ultimately selected to receive the award.

“Being selected as a Fulbright scholar is an incredible accomplishment,” said Dr. Janet Donohoe, who serves as dean of the UWG Honors College. “We are so proud of these two students and trust they will represent their alma mater well as they take the next step in their educational experiences.”

Darrius Shaw
Darrius Shaw

Both semifinalists credit their involvement with UWG’s Office of Undergraduate Research – an office in the Honors College – as being integral to their success so far in their Fulbright journeys.

“There is no doubt in my mind that my application stood out because of the help and feedback from Kate Theobald, manager of the Office of Undergraduate Research, and Dr. Donohoe in the UWG Honors College,” Shaw said. “They helped me polish my ideas and writing, and they challenged me to provide more detail when answering the writing prompts on the application.”

Poindexter agreed, calling the experience itself a “wellspring of reflection, interpretation and understanding.”

“Aside from obtaining my master’s degree, I’m looking forward to the experience of studying in a foreign country,” he said. “Philosophy is not just something I'm passionate about; it’s a space where I feel comfortable and content. The Fulbright seemed like the perfect opportunity for an activity that, among other things, strives to develop nuanced understandings.”

For more information on applying for nationally competitive scholarships, visit UWG's Office of Undergraduate Research.

Posted on August 30, 2019