Student awarded Fulbright, BW’s first in 14 years



Each year, the United States Department of State presents Fulbright grants to approximately 1900 domestic college students through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

This year, for the first time since 2005, a Baldwin Wallace student will be included among this group of distinguished international scholars.

William Lekan, a senior undergraduate with a double major in psychology and philosophy, was selected from a pool of highly qualified candidates to receive a grant which will afford him the opportunity to live and teach English on the Taiwanese island of Kinmen.

As part of his application process, Lekan had to lay out a proposal for what work he would be doing, what community service he would be a part of, and the reasons why he felt he was qualified to perform these tasks.

Lekan said that for his work portion, he will be assistant teaching the English language to middle school age Taiwanese children. For his volunteer work, he has decided to work with Tzu Chi, a Buddhist charity organization based out of Taiwan which seeks to “help the poor and educate the rich.”

Lekan said that he had long been fascinated with Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism.

“Growing up in rural Ohio I always knew that I wanted to travel,” said Lekan. “BW was a step towards a bigger city, but the ultimate goal was always international; I want to teach English abroad.”

Lekan was able to separate himself as an applicant by participating in an eight-week intensive Chinese language program as well as a two-month study abroad trip to Taiwan in 2017. On campus, he has taken Chinese language classes and remains active in the Chinese Club. He also credited the support of his parents, his girlfriend, and some talented women from the university Honors program, namely Dr. Amy Lebo and Dr. Margaret Stiner, for helping him attain this goal.

Lebo, a professor of philosophy and director of the university honors program, described Mr. Lekan’s selection as a Fulbright Scholar as “a mark of distinction that he will carry with him forever.”

“Honors is working hard to build a culture of interest in these kinds of awards,” she said. “We want to spread awareness of these awards, to increase our number of both applicants and winners.”

This year was the first in which the Honors Program assumed sole responsibility for advising Fulbright applicants, and the year was a success by all measures. Aside from Lekan’s selection as a grant recipient, three other applicants pursued the process, the most single year applicants in roughly a decade, according to Lebo.

Clara Harb, a biology and French double major, was a semi-finalist for the Fulbright grant alongside Lekan. Both Harb and her fellow Fulbright applicant Joe Rini were awarded the French Embassy Teaching Assistantship to teach English to French children, in Versailles and Martinique, respectively.

Lebo said that language abilities, study abroad experience, and strong academics are major factors that increase the likelihood of success for Fulbright applicants.

However, she also stressed that awards like the Fulbright grant are attainable, and that the Honors program is in a position “to raise the profile of BW students by winning these awards and highlighting their successes.”