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Meet Colleen Ryan

Class: Haslam Scholars 2017
Major: Global Studies (Politics and Economics) and Sociology (Honors)
Hometown: Cookeville, Tennessee

Before I even began my first year at UT, I started taking advantage of the amazing opportunities the Honors & Scholars Programs provide their students. The summer before I came to campus, I participated in an honors study abroad program to Costa Rica called Honors Bridge. During this trip, we learned about the politics and sustainability of the eco-tourism industry. This in-depth look at what affected how other countries developed began the four-year journey that has culminated in receiving a Fulbright Award.

After Costa Rica, I had the opportunity travel abroad three different times to study, intern, and conduct research. During the course of my undergraduate career, I spent time in London learning about comparative politics, in Uganda working with a grassroots NGO, and in Scotland conducting archival research. Back on campus, I expanded on my experience in the field as a research assistant, a Baker Scholar, and through various internships ranging from the Knox County Public Defenders’ Office to the US Agency for International Development. Through these opportunities, I was able to explore my interests in international development and rule of law — particularly post-conflict transformation. As I was applying for a Fulbright to further explore these interests through graduate study in the UK, my international study and local involvement with local organizations were the types of experiences I could reflect on as having prepared me for advanced study.

Honors & Scholars also stresses the importance of social responsibility within its programs. While at UT, I was active in several advocacy and education groups on campus, most notably Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT). For two years, I served as a co-chair of the organization that puts on educational programming related to sex, sexuality, and sexual assault prevention, including UT’s Sex Week and Red Zone, and had several opportunities to contribute to campus policy and programming in these areas. These experiences helped me understand the importance of social responsibility and the many forms it can take.I think as a Volunteer community, ensuring that our fellow students have a safe and welcoming place to live and learn is one of our most foundational responsibilities if we take seriously the need for equitable opportunity and education. Advocating and educating through these organizations provided a connection between my course and internship work and the type of leadership required of Fulbright awardees.

Outside of the classroom, I convened several lecture series on campus where we examined structural violence both internationally and domestically. I also worked on-campus jobs with the Global Studies Program, the Undergraduate Research Office, and the Honors & Scholars Office where I could contribute to other students having access to these same opportunities. Increasing access to experiential learning opportunities, which are so critical to exploring interests and gaining expertise, is necessary to create graduates who will be ready for the world beyond UT and especially for diversifying the perspectives within fields. Because access is such a determinant of outcomes, it is an important aspect of being socially responsible to be committed to expanding these kinds of opportunities. Through my Fulbright, I hope to continue bringing increased access to various groups.

Belonging to the Honors & Scholars Programs at UT opened many of the doors that I have stepped through to get to where I am today, whether by leading a program, providing the funding, or connecting me to high-achieving students who have been mentors for me along the way. It has been with the support of the Honors & Scholars staff and faculty mentors met through the office that I have built the leadership skills and international expertise that have made my Fulbright Award possible.

I look forward to being able to translate my leadership experiences and growth into my Fulbright year in the United Kingdom. My Fulbright Postgraduate Award will allow me to study for a master’s degree in post-war recovery studies at the University of York, where I will be taking coursework in post-conflict transformation, doing field research on legal reform in transitioning states, and gaining work experience at an international NGO. Following my year in England, I will be returning to the United States to study international law at Indiana University with the goal of working in post-conflict political and legal development.

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