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South Carolina’s Madison Fellow focused on teaching about the constitution


Abigail Fleig, a double major in education and history at Clemson University, was recently recognized as South Carolina’s 2022 James Madison Junior Fellow through the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation of Alexandria, Virginia.

The fellowship competition was named in honor of the United States’ fourth president. The award, which aims to strengthen recipients’ knowledge of the Constitution while also ensuring secondary school students are taught the nation’s constitutional heritage, is awarded to both promising and distinguished teachers.

We’re proud of Abigail for representing our best-in-class secondary education program, and our state, as this year’s Madison Fellow. Abigail’s fellowship serves the dual purpose of greatly benefitting her students’ learning, while also allowing her to build on what she has learned in the classroom.

George Petersen, founding dean of the Clemson University College of Education

The foundation offers one fellowship per state every year and funds up to $24,000 toward a master’s degree.

Junior fellows, like Fleig, are college graduates who aspire to become secondary school teachers of American history, American government and civics, with a particular focus on those who plan to teach courses on the history and principles of the United States Constitution.

“The Madison Junior Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for our senior undergraduate teaching candidates to secure funding for graduate study that will enhance their teaching toolkit before they enter the classroom,” said Robyn Curtis, director of the Clemson University Office of Major Fellowships. “We’re very pleased to have two junior fellows in the last three years and hope to support more candidates in the future.” 

Senior fellowships are awarded to teachers who plan to pursue part-time graduate study on top of their work in the classroom.

Every fellowship recipient is required to teach American history, American government or civics in a secondary school for at least one year for each year of fellowship support.

Fleig plans to use the fellowship to focus on preparing secondary school students to engage in the democratic process. She sees an understanding of the American Constitution as vital to that mission.

Knowing the Constitution, including everything that goes into the electoral process, is the only way to be able to partake in those rights and liberties. It’s an old document, but it’s also the law of our land, so for me it’s about how to make the past relevant, flaws and all, so I can get my students to relate to this document that dictates how we operate as a nation.

2022 James Madison Junior Fellow Abigail Fleig

She is particularly excited about the summer institute that comes with the fellowship. Fellows participate in a four-week summer program in Washington in which they study the principles, framing, ratification and implementation of our country’s constitutional government.

Fleig and fellows from other states will visit sites associated with the Constitution and may also have an opportunity for a private meeting with a sitting Supreme Court justice.

“The summer institute is what I’m most excited about. Getting to study in D.C., which is basically a history museum on the Constitution,” said Fleig. “I also get to network with different people in the education field and people who just want to make teachers better. It is a huge opportunity.”

She plans to put what she’s learned into action this fall, when she completes the College of Education’s Teacher Residency program. The bachelor to master’s degree program blends face-to-face and hybrid courses with a rich, immersive, year-long field experience with a master teacher.

Fleig’s master teacher currently leads a government class at Easley High School. After she completes her graduate degree, she plans to stay in South Carolina to teach in a secondary school with a long-term goal of working in state education policy.

She says she’s grateful to the James Memorial Fellowship Foundation for the opportunity to fully focus on her education over the next year.

“I’ve paid for my own education, working a lot of hours, taking out loans and everything, so it was exciting to come home from work, get to my doorstep and see a package from the Madison Foundation,” said Fleig. “It relieves some of the financial burden, especially as I focus on student teaching and taking classes. Now I can focus just on my residency and completing my master’s degree.” 

Students or alumni interested in the James Madison Fellowship or other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or fellowships@clemson.edu

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