Bright Futures for Fulbright Scholars

Two recent College of Education graduates were among three UNLV alumni awarded nationally competitive grants through the Fulbright Program to study, research and teach abroad. Master’s student Meredith Whye (early childhood education) and undergraduate student Hannah Kelley (secondary education) are headed to Kenya and Norway, respectively, to teach English.


BY FRANCIS MCCABE • Read this article at the UNLV News Center

Three UNLV students have been awarded prestigious Fulbright Scholarships that will allow them to study, conduct research, and teach abroad.

Meredith Whye just graduated with a master’s degree in early childhood education through the Teach for America program. She will be heading to Kenya to teach English at the university level.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to help,” Whye explained. Originally from Iowa, Whye has been teaching Pre-K in the Clark County School District at Ruben P. Diaz Elementary school.

She applied to Kenya because of family roots. Her grandfather once worked in the African nation with the East Africa Research Organization. “I had this personal connection and I was always interested in going there,” Whye said.

Eventually, Whye hopes to get her doctorate in international education with a focus on how education policymakers in the U.S. can learn from how other countries educate their citizens.

Secondary Education major Hannah Kelley has recently added Fulbright grant recipient to the ever growing list of her accomplishments at UNLV.

President Len Jessup announcing Hannah Kelley as Spring 2017 Outstanding UNLV Graduate. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

Kelley, who graduated in May with a 3.99 GPA and was named a UNLV Outstanding Graduate, will be moving to Norway to teach English as part of her Fulbright commitment.

The Honors College graduate has said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher to give back to the community.

While at UNLV, the former Green Valley High School valedictorian worked full time to support herself while balancing extracurricular activities such as serving as Editor in Chief of UNLV’s chapter of The Odyssey online news publication, as a workshop instructor at the Writer’s Block Bookshop, and as a peer instructor and mentor for the Honors College.

Following her time in Norway, Kelley plans on teach in the Clark County School District before going into educational policy.

UNLV history major Sean Cortney will spend the academic year in Changsha, Hunan, China at Hunan Normal University.

Cortney, who graduated in December, will study the transformation of Yuelu Academy (a renowned Chinese academy of higher learning circa 976) to Hunan University in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how it reflected a landmark transition toward modernity in Huxiang culture and society.

Cortney became interested in the Yuelu Academy during a side trip to the province while studying abroad in China. “It’s one of the oldest continuing education centers in the world,” Cortney said.

And the transition from the Yuelu Academy to Hunan University is unique in that incorporated classical Chinese learning tactics with international elements including math and engineering, Cortney said.

Plus, Cortney quipped, “I really like Hunan food.”

Cortney is hoping to parlay his experience and UNLV education into a position with the government or the world of business before heading to graduate school.

Susan Thompson, director of UNLV’s international programs office – which helps mentor and guide students applying for Fulbright Scholarships – said the success of Cortney, Kelley, and Whye should fill UNLV with pride.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for these students. They join a long and growing list of UNLV students who have earned this prestigious scholarship. It will be an experience they will never forget,” Thompson said.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright after World War II because too few Americans could speak the languages of their allies. However, scholarship recipients nowadays aim to grow international goodwill through studying and teaching abroad.

The program awards about 1,800 grants annually. Grants are awarded to U.S. students, foreign students, U.S. scholars, visiting scholars, teachers and professionals who study, research, or teach abroad for about a year. The Fulbright program operates in more than 140 countries covering more than 100 different fields of study.

Winning a Fulbright Scholarship is a highly competitive process, with dozens of students applying annually from UNLV and thousands applying from colleges and universities across the nation.

Teaching with Heart: Three COE Students Recognized at 2017 Heart of Education Awards

Three members of the Educational Policy and Leadership cohort have been recognized by the Heart of Education Awards for Clark County Teachers. Debra Huckins and Cory Garr were named finalists and Bonnie Lamping received the Las Vegas Review Journal People’s Choice Award, presented along with a 2,500 dollar prize to the four teachers who receive the most votes in an open contest.

Educational Policy & Leadership Students, Debra Huckins, Bonnie Lamping and Cory Garr, were recognized at the 2017 Heart of Education Awards

Teachers can be nominated by anyone—students, parents, community members—for a Heart of Education award, and are recognized by how they’ve gone above and beyond to support students in their classrooms.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, along with the Rogers Foundation, launched the Heart of Education Awards with the goal of honoring, recruiting and retaining great educators in Southern Nevada. The awards seek to celebrate educators and what they have given to their students and our community.

Spotlight: 2017 College of Education Alumna of the Year

Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV Athletic Director and College of Education alumni honoree on February 13, 2017. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Creative Services)

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Tina Kunzer-Murphy has been a fixture in the Southern Nevada sports community for more than four decades. On July 1, 2013, she added another accomplishment to her long and varied career as she began serving as UNLV Interim Director of Athletics. The move marked two major milestones as Kunzer-Murphy became both the first woman and the first alumni to run the department. She was later named to the post permanently.

Graduating first with her bachelor’s in physical education in 1975 and returning in 1977 to complete her master’s in education from the College, Kunzer-Murphy says she is a proud graduate of UNLV because “[her] education has given [her] so many opportunities.”

UNLV Alumni Association President Patrick Smith presents Tina Kunzer-Murphy with the 2017 College of Education Alumni of the Year Award at the April 26 Recognition Event

“I am eternally thankful to all of the professors, family, and friends who helped me get my degrees,” said Kunzer-Murphy. “UNLV has always told me ‘yes’ when so many said ‘no.’ What a gift it has been—thank you!”

COE Student Named 2016 Truman Scholar

Ms. Hannah Kelley was chosen as one of only 54 students nationwide to win the prestigious 2016 Truman Scholar Award.


By Francis McCabe • Read article on UNLV News Center.

Kelley, a junior in UNLV’s College of Education and Honors College, is one of just 54 college students nationwide selected for the $30,000 award based on academics, public service leadership potential.

UNLV undergraduate Hannah Kelley is one of just 54 college students nationwide to win the prestigious 2016 Truman Scholar Award, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced Wednesday evening.

Truman Scholars are selected for stellar academic and leadership performance and receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school. Award winners also get the chance to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

This is the second year in a row a UNLV Honors College undergraduate has won the prestigious award. And Kelley is the fourth UNLV student to win the award since 2008.

“Being recognized as a Truman Scholar is wonderful validation of Hannah’s incredible efforts, her desire to give back, and what we have always known at the Honors College – that she is amazing,” said Marta Meana, dean of the UNLV Honors College.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in education, the 21-year-old is hoping to dive into a teaching role here in Southern Nevada. “I want to start out as a teacher in the Clark County School District – the community that literally gave me everything I have,” she said. The 15-year plan, which the Truman Scholarship folks make applicants map out, includes four or five years of teaching before pursuing graduate work, Kelley said. Her plans for the summer will take her to the Mediterranean where she will be writing and reporting for an arts and culture blog in Israel.

Kelley, who will be the first in her family to graduate from college, said while in high school she always felt higher education was unattainable until some teachers began to encourage her. “I always wanted to go, but it seemed like a mysterious thing that was out of reach,” she said.

But Kelley had top-notch grades — she was valedictorian at Green Valley High School — and soon New York University offered her a scholarship. While it was a substantial offer, Kelley said, tuition expenses were still beyond her reach.

Kelley had never really considered UNLV, but that changed during a steakhouse lunch offered by the university to local high school valedictorians. She was offered a full scholarship and the opportunity to attend UNLV’s flourishing Honors College. “I had always had this idea of UNLV being a gigantic commuter school with no sense of community,” Kelley said. “But the Honors College is everything I was hoping for. It offers small class sizes under 20 students and makes you feel like you are attending a small liberal arts college, not a gigantic research university.”

And it was only by happenstance that Kelley even considered applying for the Truman Scholarship. She was attending an Honors College workshop about national scholarships being led by her friend and 2015 Truman Scholarship winner Daniel Waqar, when Kelley thought she might apply. “Every single thing I learned about the Truman Scholarship, about being an agent of change, how they were looking for people committed to a lifetime of public service, to work on public policy in health, education, and other fields… it just fit.”

Kelley knew she wanted to be a teacher to give back to the community. “But I also thought about how we can improve public education. And hearing those words about being an agent of change and giving a lifetime to public service, that’s the way I’ve always thought. That’s the purpose of my life,” Kelley said.

Earlier this week, Kelley learned about winning the Truman award while attending an afternoon class of Teaching and Learning Secondary Education. She covered her mouth with her hands as tears streamed down her face. She was overcome with joy. Dean Meana, who made the announcement, along with Education Dean Kim Metcalf and Kelley’s advisor Andrew Hanson, embraced her as fellow classmates applauded.

It was a moment Kelley won’t soon forget. “I never gave myself the credit for the things I could accomplish. I’m very humbled by this award. But I think it shows that anyone can do something like this if they just let themselves,” she said.

Kelley has maintained a strong academic record at UNLV – her GPA is 3.99 – while holding down jobs as a barista and sales associate.

Candidates for the Truman Scholarship go through a rigorous, multi-stage selection process. In 2016, there were a record number of 775 candidates for the award nominated by 305 colleges. The 200 finalists for the award were interviewed in March and early April at one of sixteen regional selection panels. The 54 Truman Scholars will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum on May 29 in Independence, Missouri.

About the Harry S. Truman Scholarship

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.