Fulbright Semifinalist Takes Next Step

By Abigail Cloutier

Jambar Contributor

Over 1 million people speak Korean in the United States, according to the 2011 U.S. census. 

Though Youngstown State University doesn’t offer Korean studies, senior Emily Henline decided that she wanted to be one of those million. Years later, she is a semifinalist for the Fulbright Program for a master’s degree in Korean studies. If she is accepted, she will complete her degree in South Korea.

Emily Henline (center) poses for a picture in South Korea. She studied abroad in South Korea during the 2017-2018 academic year. Photo courtesy of Emily Henline

“It’s a great opportunity, and I hope I become a finalist. Being a semifinalist is such a huge reward for me, and it just [affirms] that I can really go further with education,” she said. 

Henline is double majoring in integrated language arts and English with a linguistics minor and teaching English to speakers of other languages, or TESOL, endorsement.

She is considering a few different routes for her career, but she wants to study Korean language identity and linguistic imperialism in her master’s program. 

Henline said she first fell in love with the Korean culture and language after becoming friends with a few South Korean students at an International Coffee Hour event at Jones Hall. It encouraged her to learn Korean and study abroad, and she completed a yearlong study abroad program in South Korea in the 2017-2018 academic year. 

“When I got [to South Korea], I just felt like it was home, and it’s hard to describe that. It’s like the culture has welcomed me,” she said. 

The Fulbright Program is a competitive program that goes through a few rounds of applications. At YSU, that application starts in the International Programs Office and goes through the YSU Fulbright council before moving forward.

YSU hasn’t had a Fulbright semifinalist since 2016, according to Ann Gardner, assistant director of the International Programs Office.

“She’s made it through the first rounds of this highly, highly competitive prestigious scholarship. Now, the Fulbright committee in the host country, which in her case is South Korea, is reviewing the applications that have made it through to decide if she should win the Fulbright,” she said. 

Several components go into the application process, including essays and faculty recommendations. 

“She had to submit a very competitive application which included several essays talking about her background and the research she would like to do in South Korea,” Gardner said. “She had to submit letters of recommendation, and I have to tell you the letters of recommendation from her faculty members were outstanding. She’s chosen very good faculty members who know her well,” 

One of those professors was Nicole Pettitt, an assistant professor of English and the TESOL endorsement coordinator. She finds Henline’s persistence unique.

“She wanted to study Korean and the university wasn’t offering Korean classes, so she was like, ‘Where do I go?’ So she called a Korean church,” Pettitt said. “ They said they offered Korean classes mostly, I think, for kids whose parents speak Korean. So she would go to Korean classes at this random church where she didn’t know anybody. I just find her unusual in those ways. ”

Pettitt taught Henline linguistics and literacy. In the course, “teacher candidates learn how to support multilingual and culturally-sustaining literacy development for English learners.”

Emily Henline is a senior integrated language arts and English double major at YSU. She’s a semifinalist for the Fulbright Program for a master’s degree in Korean studies. Photo courtesy of Emily Henline

Stacy Graber, an associate professor of English who taught Henline in a creative think-tank course for students who will teach English, seized the opportunity to support one of her students.

“Emily embodies what is best about so many of the [integrated language arts] teacher candidates in terms of her industry, broad-mindedness, inventiveness, and commitment to equitable access to academic and professional opportunities. She can envision a better world for her students, and she refines that vision every day through her work,” Graber said. 

According to the Fulbright Program application timeline, all applicants are notified of final selection between March 1 and May 31. 

Summary: Emily Henline is a Fulbright Program semifinalist who studies Korean and is currently awaiting a final decision from the Fulbright Committee.