Three Alumni Earn Fulbright Awards

By Scott Craig   |   May 28, 2024

Three Westmont alumni, Kenna Brase (‘22), Simeon Michelson (‘24), and Elizabeth Potter (‘22) have won prestigious Fulbright Scholarships to teach English outside the United States. Brase will serve in Turkey, Michelson in Azerbaijan, and Potter in Thailand.

For Brase, the trip to Turkey is coming to fruition after a more than four-year delay due to the pandemic. She was studying with Westmont in Cairo, which was supposed to include a stop in Istanbul, but was canceled two months and four countries sooner than expected due to COVID in March 2020. “Since then, I’ve had a curiosity about Turkey, and a longing to complete my travels there someday,” Brase says. “In addition, as a country that bridges Europe, Africa, and Asia, Turkey’s history carries a wealth of diversity. There are layers of history everywhere – cities have changed names, rulers and religious affiliations. I’ve always been fascinated by Turkey’s unique position as a country, and am excited to learn more about it.” 

Brase, who graduated with a degree in communication studies and a minor in global studies, has been working as a Westmont admissions counselor. “Westmont’s global aspect of education, particularly the study abroad trips offered, was what initially ignited my interest in cross-cultural engagement,” she says. 

Michelson, who earned a bachelor’s in international history and won that department’s Outstanding Graduate Award in May, also received the Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Morocco this summer. The Nashville resident will then serve in Azerbaijan from September 2024 to June 2025. 

After teaching and studying in Azerbaijan, he plans to pursue graduate studies in Middle Eastern history. “There is a gap in historical research on Eurasian countries,” he says. “Even though the Turkic language family is among the world’s 10 largest language groups, American media and researchers tend to focus more on Arab-speaking nations. As a result, Azerbaijani culture and history are underrepresented in American scholarship.”

Potter was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and lived there on and off for eight years until she was 12 years old. “I wanted to move back and invest specifically in the language, culture and people of the place that gave so much to me as a kid,” she says. “Though Thailand is geographically relatively small, there are so many distinct cultures, languages and landscapes within the country, and unique challenges that each people group faces. I’m really excited to experience life in a new part of Thailand and to receive fresh perspectives, even as I give my time teaching.”

Potter, who played the French horn in orchestra, won the David K. Winter Servant Leadership Award in 2021. “Westmont allowed me to pursue many of my passions at once and my well-rounded skill set was encouraged and strengthened,” she says. “Being a part of Intercultural Programs (ICP) at Westmont helped me to see how injustices in Thailand are related to those in the U.S. and the rest of the world.”

The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants from over 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.


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