The College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities is proud to announce two new Fulbright Scholars, both of whom are majors in the Department of Languages.
Elise Blackburn is a language and international health major concentrating in Spanish, and Nicholas Longo is a language and international business major concentrating in Mandarin Chinese. They have been accepted into the Fulbright Program for English Teaching Assistantships English in Spain and Taiwan, respectively.
Focus on fitness
While Blackburn is headed to Spain to teach English, she plans to make an impact that goes beyond language learning.
“As a public health student, I understand the importance of physical activity but find I can struggle to meet my daily fitness goals,” she explained. “Playing Ultimate Frisbee in high school and college both gave me the routine of practice and teammate accountability to ensure I stay active. This sport empowered me to take care of my body and build lasting friendships with teammates.”
She said she hopes to establish an Ultimate Frisbee team in the Spanish community in which she is placed to help her students develop teamwork and confidence. In addition to her goals for impacting her students’ health, she also wants to help them find their voice as they learn a new language. Having worked for three years as a Writing Fellow in Clemson University’s Writing Lab has given her valuable experience as she prepares to work in the Writing Center at IE University in Madrid.
“I love helping second language learners at all steps in their writing process, from outlining their ideas to refining their work. Refining language skills is a vulnerable practice, so I always begin in conversation to create a welcoming space and kickstart their flow of ideas,” she said.
Vulnerability is a theme that guides Blackburn’s approach to teaching.
“As a Spanish student, I constantly encounter the need to be vulnerable. I may make mistakes, but I trust that native speakers see my effort, that they will respond with empathy so I can learn. When I am vulnerable with new people, I have found that they will share a part of their own lives,” she said. “Regardless of the professional path I pursue after the Fulbright, I know this skill of using vulnerability to foster community is transferrable.”
Blackburn has distinguished herself at Clemson as a National Scholar and student of the Clemson University Honors College. After completing her English Teaching Assistantship, Blackburn says she plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and then enter either government or non-profit work, using her language skills to increase healthcare access for Spanish-speaking Americans.
Nick Longo’s path to Taiwan begins with his grandfather, Charles Longo, who is an entrepreneur and owner of a stained-glass manufacturing company. Nick says his grandfather was one of the first Americans to travel to China after the country opened to U.S. travel in 1972.
“I have spent countless summer nights sitting outside on their front porch while he told me stories,” he said. “During the early years of running this company, he had to travel to Asia to meet with suppliers. It was because of him telling me stories about traveling to China and Taiwan that I first got an interest in learning Mandarin.”
The Fulbright Program won’t be Longo’s first opportunity to travel to Asia. He began studying Mandarin in 8th grade and participated in a study abroad program in China during high school. While he had planned to be a part of the study abroad program in China offered through his language and international business major, the trip was canceled because of the pandemic. The Fulbright program offered a second chance.
“As one could imagine, when I told my grandfather about this opportunity, he replied, ‘You better sign up immediately.’”
Longo will head to Taiwan equipped not only with his education from Clemson, but also with the experiences and interests that stem from growing up on the Jersey Shore. An avid surfer, Longo has spent the last six summers as a lifeguard, and hopes to be placed near the coast for his teaching in Taiwan.
“I would bring my passion for the environment with me and work to establish environmentally friendly organizations within the community. If positioned near the ocean, I will work to implement similar ocean cleanup activities I spearheaded in New Jersey,” he said.
Throughout his high school and college career, Longo has taken opportunities to build bridges with a wide array of organizations ranging from non-profits to high fashion. He has been active in Greek life as a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity, a member of the Chinese Language Club, an assistant at The Harbor School for the Multiply Disabled, a volunteer for the South Carolina Special Olympics and an intern for Christian Louboutin in New York.
In the long term, Longo says he hopes to use his ability to make connections for diplomatic work.
“While current geopolitical relations between the U.S. and Eastern Asian countries are somewhat complicated, it would be an honor and a privilege to someday use my personal experience and knowledge of this area to assist the U.S. in shaping new friendly relations in the region,” he said.
Blackburn and Longo are two of five Clemson students participating in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year. Sponsored by the U.S. government, the program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The recipients, depending on their fields, will be serving as teaching assistants, enrolling in graduate degree programs, or actively pursuing independent research.
“I congratulate these students for their accomplishments, but even more for their courage and spirit of adventure,” said Nicholas Vazsonyi, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “This Fulbright opportunity will help them stride the world with both awareness and confidence – this is our goal for all Clemson students.”
Recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. During the application process, students submit their preference for location as well as if they are pursuing study-research awards or a teaching assistantship.
Established in 1996, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities celebrates a unique combination of disciplines—Architecture; Art; City Planning; Construction Science and Management; English; History; Languages; Performing Arts; Philosophy; Religion; Real Estate Development and interdisciplinary studies—that enable Clemson University students to imagine, create and connect. CAAH strives to unite the pursuit of knowledge with practical application of that knowledge to build a better and more beautiful world.
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