Helmick ’20, Kirk ’20, Sullivan ’20 Named Fulbright Scholars
May 27, 2020
By Elsa Wenzel
Kenzie Helmick ’20, Mirabella Kirk ’20, and Shannon Sullivan ’20 have earned 2020-21 Fulbright Scholarships.
A trio of recent graduates carries forward Rollins’ long legacy of Fulbright Scholars. Kenzie Helmick ’20, Mirabella Kirk ’20, and Shannon Sullivan ’20 have been awarded 2020-21 Fulbright Scholarships to participate in the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.
Helmick—one of Rollins’ six 2020 valedictorians—will explore issues of women’s reproductive health in India, while Kirk will conduct HIV research in Lesotho. Sullivan will teach English in Colombia.
They join the company of celebrated Fulbright Scholars including scores of Nobel Prize winners, heads of state, authors, artists, and business leaders. The Fulbright Program, launched following World War II, supports research and study across 140 countries.
Worldwide, only about 20 percent of applicants receive the scholarship, and the application is a highly competitive, soul-searching undertaking. Jayashree Shivamoggi, director of Rollins’ Office of External & Competitive Scholarship Advisement, provides critical support in the process, which can span several years, helping students fine-tune their aspirations, including the desired destination and area of service.
Helmick, Kirk, and Sullivan will be the 50th, 51st, and 52nd Tars to participate in the Fulbright Program since 2006. Rollins has been named a top producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars eight times.
Here’s what the trio of global ambassadors revealed as they completed their time at Rollins and journey to the next step in their meaningful lives and productive careers.
Isabella Braga ’20
- Major: Philosophy
- Fulbright assignment: Teaching English in South Korea
How Rollins prepared her: “Rollins gave me the opportunity to develop leadership and critical-thinking skills that are transferable beyond my discipline. I’ve had access to various positions of employment and leadership, from Winter Park to Osaka, Japan, and I’ve had mentors who were as enthusiastic about my journey as they were dedicated to enhancing it.”
Post-Fulbright plans: “My original plan was to earn a master’s in bioethics and conduct bioethics research, then to earn my PhD in bioethics, and to finally earn my juris doctorate before becoming a public health attorney. But with this Fulbright award, I may apply to more East Asian graduate schools to brush up my language skills or apply to a non-governmental organization in the region.”
Kenzie Helmick ’20
- Majors: Philosophy and Public Policy & Political Economy
- Fulbright assignment: Identifying the needs for menstrual education among women in India with hearing and vision impairments
How Rollins prepared her: “Winning the Fulbright wouldn’t have been possible without the connections and experience I gathered through my student-faculty collaborative research with philosophy professor Margaret McLaren during my third year at Rollins. That scholarship funded our trip to India, where I gained a lot of firsthand experience doing research. During my time at Rollins, I also studied in Chile, Spain, and Costa Rica. With the flexibility I was given both inside and outside of the classroom, I was able to dive into anything that I had even a glint of interest in, and there were resources there to support me along the way.”
Post-Fulbright plans: “I’d love to become a professor of philosophy or women’s studies, but I want more real-world experience first. I can see myself working in reproductive health or sex education, involving grassroots mobilization efforts, or freelance writing about feminist issues.”
Mirabella Kirk ’20
- Major: Biology
- Fulbright assignment: Conducting research with Lesotho College of Education into how adolescent girls understand and use PrEP medication to prevent HIV infection
How Rollins prepared her: “Taking the Drugs, Sex, and HIV class with anthropology professor Shan-Estelle Brown exposed me to devastating facts. She assigned an end-of-semester project to choose anywhere in the world to conduct a hypothetical HIV-focused research project. Once I presented to the class, Dr. Brown said to me, ‘You know, you could actually do this.’ After that I was determined to pursue HIV-related research. Dr. Jay and Fulbright Scholar Nico Khazzam ’18 mentored me through the application process, turning my dream into a reality.”
Post-Fulbright plans: “I hope to pursue a doctorate in medicine and public health to become a doctor and make a difference for others. My research in Lesotho will provide a foundation for working with HIV globally, and a degree in public health will enable me to work with other prevalent diseases as well. I hope to be a part of organizations that work toward addressing diseases all over the world.”
Shannon Sullivan ’20
- Majors: International Relations and Spanish
- Fulbright assignment: English teaching assistant in Colombia
How Rollins prepared her: “I’ve always loved learning about new cultures, so I was drawn to Rollins’ emphasis on global citizenship and the importance of developing an intercultural mindset. I served as a 2018 Millennium Fellow to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I studied abroad twice in Spain, including as a student site leader. Classes have challenged me intellectually, emotionally, and physically. One of my favorite classes was Spanish Theater with Spanish professor Patricia Tomé. Our class had to perform a play entirely in Spanish, and when we made a mistake, we had to improvise. This gave me a lot of confidence because after facing that challenge, having a normal conversation in Spanish seemed much easier by comparison.”
Post-Fulbright plans: “Programs like Fulbright are essential to help bring countries together and foster connections between individuals from around the world. I’m interested in continuing to travel and meeting as many interesting people as I can. Longer term, I might explore working in foreign service.”
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