Alumna cites WU for helping her win a Fulbright grant to teach in Russia

by University Communications,

Since graduating from Willamette University, Kathryn Burns ’12 has helped Russian immigrants who’ve survived domestic violence.

Through a $30,000 Fulbright grant, Burns will learn how to better communicate with these women by working as an English teaching assistant in Russia.

“I see this Fulbright experience as the perfect bridge between Willamette and higher education,” says Burns, who majored in religious studies and minored in Russian. “It will not only enhance my language and teaching skills, it will also afford me the level of cultural competency I will need to be an effective educator and advocate.”

Ambitious Undertakings

Each year the Fulbright program allows Americans to teach English, conduct research or complete graduate work in more than 150 countries. The award covers travel, research and living expenses for up to a year.

In a Russian university, Burns will plan and conduct conversational classroom activities and give presentations on American culture and society. She will also research women’s roles in modern Russian society and how those roles have changed in recent history.

“Willamette prepared me by not only exposing me to the subject matter I’m now most passionate about, but by arming me with the written and spoken communication skills and critical thinking capacity that I will need to be successful as a Fulbright Scholar,” Burns says.

Finding her Calling

When she enrolled at Willamette, Burns intended to study Spanish. But after taking Russian classes her first semester, she fell in love with the department and the language.

“My professors and advisers at Willamette helped me tie together my various interests in true liberal arts fashion, and I couldn’t be more grateful — particularly to the Religious Studies and Russian departments,” she says.

During her time at Willamette, Burns joined the Russian Club and the Environmental Community Outreach Society. She was awarded the Northwest Conference Scholar-Athlete Honor for rowing for the WU varsity crew team, and she spent her senior year working with survivors of domestic violence at a local nonprofit agency.

After graduating, she became an advocate at a domestic violence shelter in Portland. She also volunteers in the same capacity at several agencies, including the Russian Oregon Social Services.

Burns plans on applying for graduate school to study interpretation and language education this fall. Once she graduates, she intends to advocate for immigrant women and their families through both language instruction and interpretative services.

For more information on Fulbright grants and similar opportunities, contact the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.