Millsaps College senior D.J. Hawkins has been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and study in Russia as an English Teaching Assistant.
A biochemistry major from Clarksdale, Hawkins plans to pursue a career as a gastroenterologist. He is the 16th Millsaps student to be awarded a Fulbright grant.
“Being accepted for this award means a lot to me,” Hawkins said. “I had many doubts that I would be chosen because I am not a humanities major and I will have a future career in the sciences.”
Hawkins is one of over 2,100 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English and provide expertise abroad for the 2019-’20 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.
Hawkins’ Fulbright interview was conducted entirely in Russian. He cited his fascination with the language and culture as a reason for selecting Russia as his scholarship destination. He has not yet been informed as to where he will be teaching in Russia.
“I was introduced to Russian at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, and I continued my studies independently while at Millsaps,” he said. “I found that appreciating a culture outside of one’s own plays an intimate role in forming bridges between people, and I will use this opportunity to do just that.”
There won’t be any lack of opportunities for Hawkins to stay busy during his nine- month term, which begins in September and runs through June 2020. He will teach 20 hours a week at a university.
“I plan to engage the students by creating skits and mini-films of different scenarios that will supplement the coursework in class, and to lead a cooking club that will serve as a gathering to prepare various American dishes,” he said.
Hawkins also hopes to work on his medical skills.
“I proposed volunteering in a medical setting, as shadowing doctors and medical volunteering in Russia will introduce me to common practices in the Russian health care system and provide me with clinical exposure that will be valuable for my future studies in medical school.”
Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College, praised Hawkins’ selection for the award.
“The work D.J. has accomplished is a wonderful example of the blending of the sciences and the humanities, and demonstrates the unique learning opportunities found at Millsaps,” Pearigen said. “He is a hard-working, focused student, and I appreciate the good work and direction from the faculty who have supported him during his time here.”
Hawkins received support and guidance through the Fulbright process from Dr. Lynn Raley, associate professor of music and a Fulbright Program adviser. Raley was a Fulbright Scholar in 2012-13, teaching at the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and performing solo concerts around the island that showcased new scores by both American and Taiwanese composers.
"I have been impressed with D.J. ever since I saw his steady leadership as student chair of the Honor Council when I served on the council,” Raley said.
“I've helped several stellar students prepare their applications for the Fulbright over the last four years, but D.J. stood out immediately in many ways, not the least of which was his demonstrated determination to master the Russian language, something he began while in high school, at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. Fulbright sends out ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) to countries all over the world as cultural ambassadors, and I am sure D.J.'s application impressed the reviewers, with his compelling personal statement. ETA fellowships have become highly competitive in recent years, and Russia is one of the most difficult to get. I'm very proud of D.J., and not surprised he got this. And as I recently told him, his life is about to be forever changed."
Hawkins has had a very active career as a student leader in his four years at Millsaps. He has served on the Honor Council since his first year, studied as a summer researcher in chemistry with Dr. Wolfgang Kramer through the MS IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence program, and worked as a lab assistant in chemistry and teaching intern in physics.
During his junior year, he was a Ford Teaching Fellow in organic chemistry with Dr. Kristy Stensaas. In the summer of 2018, Hawkins was awarded a Melikian Center Advisory Board Scholarship to study in an eight-week intensive course in Russian at the Critical Language Institute at Arizona State University, where he was also recognized for outstanding achievement in intensive intermediate Russian, earned the highest grade in the course, and had the highest performance on the exit oral proficiency exam.
In the midst of his studies, he has also found time to serve as a residence hall director and as a science fair judge at Madison Central High School.
Hawkins plans to apply to MD/MPH programs at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Since 1959, Fulbright recipients from Millsaps have studied and taught in the former West Germany, Australia, India, Mexico, Albania, Jordan, Bangladesh, Poland, Georgia, Spain and Taiwan.
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbrighters address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 84 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.