Lauren West, a Manship School master’s student, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. West, a native of Tulsa, OK, will teach English to Russian college students at Murom Institute, Vladimir State University in Murom, Vladimir Oblast, Russia.
Two of the three Fulbright Award finalists from LSU this year were Manship School students. Valencia Richardson, who graduated in May, was awarded a Fulbright Binational Internship in Mexico. West will be the first LSU student to go to Russia on a Fulbright scholarship.
West studied Russian in high school, and continued her language study at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in Russian Studies and History before earning a master’s degree in 20th Century American History. It was as an undergraduate, West said, that she felt “inspired to start working for government – perhaps the State Department or the CIA. That was the first time I really saw it as a viable professional outlet.”
It was the Manship School’s focus on media and public affairs that inspired West to pursue an Master of Mass Communication, her second master’s degree. “It is actually what I wanted to do my entire academic career – political communication,” she said. But before she learned about the offerings at the Manship School, West said, “I didn’t even know it existed as an option.”
West is working on a thesis about the beginnings of systematic American propaganda abroad, looking especially at Vira Whitehouse and her work in Switzerland in World War I. Professor Jack Hamilton, her thesis chair, said “Lauren has done what the best students do. She has come to learn, not just get a degree, and she is using the strengths of the school, in media and public affairs, to build a foundation for a career in public affairs overseas. Her thesis has the potential to break new ground in the history of public affairs diplomacy.”
West said the Manship School’s dedication to diversity was another draw for her and something she would like to extend towards international relations. “I hope I can contribute to that diversity on a whole other level.” She has “a passion for connecting with other people,” she said, and sees public diplomacy as a way to combine that passion with her Russian language skills and “tie it in with the communication skills I learned at the Manship School.”
The Fulbright Award is not the first time West’s Russian skills have taken her overseas. She spent the summer of 2013 at Bashkir State Pedagogical University in Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, on a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant programs place grantees in schools overseas to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker presence in the classrooms.