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Alumnus gets second chance with Fulbright award

grayson rowlands

Greyson Rowlands

By Julia Duvall

The old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” For Western Carolina University alumnus Greyson Rowlands, trying one more time for a Fulbright Award was exactly what he needed to succeed.

Rowlands, a 2019 graduate from Concord, received a Fulbright U.S. student program award for an English teaching assistantship to Jordan for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Working in international public service is a field Rowlands became very interested in during his first few weeks at WCU.

“During my first semester at WCU, I attended a career fair and met someone from the Red Cross, and she and I decided to start a Red Cross club on campus,” Rowlands said. “That was probably the first public service-related thing that I did as an adult. The constitution of that club stated that our mission was ‘to alleviate human suffering.’ I've always kind of taken that idea with me in all my classes at Western and in my career pursuits.”

Rowlands double majored in international studies and political science, and double minored in economics and history.

“I have always had this goal of working internationally in public service and solving global issues,” Rowlands said. “This type of work has always been my calling and was further influenced during my time at WCU and abroad.”

During his junior year, Rowlands studied abroad in Morocco, learning Arabic and continued studying the language through UNC Online when he was back at WCU.

“That same year, I had a summer internship at the Department of State in Washington D.C. with the Foreign Service Institute teaching diplomats Arabic,” Rowlands said. “That was a really awesome experience and I met a lot of people in the international public service field, which further confirmed my career trajectory.”

Having these amazing experiences as a junior, Rowlands decided to look into Fulbright awards that would allow him to continue doing public service abroad. During his senior year, Rowlands applied for a Fulbright award to travel to Kazakhstan but was not chosen.

But he did not let that deter his career plans.

After graduating from WCU in December 2019, Rowlands continued his journey of finding a career to help others and be a champion for human rights. He began teaching English in Vietnam in 2020 and continues that work today.

After a few years in Vietnam, Rowlands decided to apply again for a Fulbright award, this time to Jordan.

Even though he had not been a student in several years, Rowlands knew he could count on his alma mater and former professors to help him with this journey, like they had when he was a student.

“Dr. (Ingrid) Bego was such a huge encouragement in helping me apply again,” Rowlands said. “This time I knew that I needed to share why international public service was my calling and how I could do that in Jordan, whereas the first time I focused more on how it would look on a resume.”

This time, Rowlands was chosen for the Fulbright award to be a volunteer fellow in Jordan to teach English for the 2024-2025 academic year.

“This is such a great example of even if you do not get the Fulbright award on the first try or even as a student, you can always try again as an alumnus,” said Bego, who serves as director of WCU’s Office of National and International Awards. “I have gotten to work with several alumni on Fulbright awards in the past few years. If the student has not gone onto graduate school with another institution, WCU will still be their home institution for the Fulbright application process.”

In addition to teaching English in Jordan, Rowlands has been accepted into the four most prestigious internal studies graduate programs, including a full ride to John Hopkins University.

“We knew he was going to go places when he was at WCU, but he has truly outdone himself with these amazing opportunities his hard work has gotten him,” Bego said.

In addition to Bego, Rowland credits professors Niall Michelsen, Jen Schiff and Michael McDonald from the political science department for their guidance and encouragement.

“These WCU faculty members were always happy and willing to give great advice and were constants for me throughout my time at WCU,” Rowlands said.

“Fulbright awards provide our students and faculty with unmatched opportunities to immerse themselves in new cultures,” WCU Provost Richard Starnes said. “Recipients not only receive the immediate enhancement of their academic experiences, but their lives are transformed, their perspectives broadened and their understanding of the world deepened. Truly, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

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