Fulbright Scholarships to Support UNCW Educators’ Ongoing Work with African Youth

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Two UNCW Watson College of Education faculty members have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships to continue their research in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year, Ann Potts, WCE associate dean for teacher education and outreach, and Elizabeth Barber, a part-time faculty member in WCE's Department of Elementary Education and Leadership, take students to Malawi, Africa, for a month of hands-on research in area schools.

“It is quite significant to have two Watson College faculty scholars selected for prestigious Fulbright Scholarship awards in the same year," said WCE Dean Van Dempsey. "Their work continues along a successful history of Watson colleagues who have made such an impact on a global scale. I commend Ann and Liz on their teamwork and continued commitment to enhancing education for children in Malawi.”

In many emerging nations impacted by European colonization, school is taught in a language that children neither speak nor understand. As a result, few are able to progress to secondary education. Mother Tongue Literacy teaches children using the language they know from their homes – their “mother tongue.”

Potts and Barber met in 1985 while earning graduate degrees at Virginia Tech. Both began work in Malawi in 2004 to support the country’s universal primary education initiative. Their work focuses on literacy development and helping secure critically needed health and educational resources for learners and teachers.

“Our work in Malawi is an outgrowth of all that we have learned together to date and responds to needs explicitly expressed by teacher participants in a Mother Tongue Literacy seminar that we have facilitated since 2010,” said Potts.

They will conduct their Fulbright-funded research from March through July 2018.

While they both admit surprise at being awarded at the same time, they are grateful for the opportunity to continue to work side-by-side with their friends and colleagues in Malawi to co-construct innovative practices that support youth education.  

The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive, merit-based grant for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.

In 2016, UNCW was recognized as a top producer of Fulbright Scholars. Excellence in teaching and scholarship, as well as a global focus, are priorities as outlined in UNCW’s Strategic Plan. Having students, faculty and staff consistently honored with Fulbrights is a measure of UNCW’s continued success. 

-- Caroline Cropp