North Park Alumna Named Fulbright Grantee

Rebecca Miller

CHICAGO, IL (April 16, 2008) – North Park University is pleased to announce that Rebecca Miller, a December 2007 graduate, has been named the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright award. This highly recognized award, presented annually to a select number of college and university graduates nationally, will permit Miller to teach English in Indonesia and to study Bahasa Indonesian over a ten-month period beginning in August 2008.

A native of West Monroe, N.Y., Miller came to North Park for its international neighborhoods. "I want to be connected to the global community," she says, noting that the experience of hospitality, arts, and worldwide cultures in and around Chicago was as formative and meaningful as the education she received in the classroom. She also chose North Park University for the music faculty, who encouraged her to integrate knowledge and practice of classical Western music with gospel, jazz, folk, and world music.

The music of other cultures has always been an interest of this music major, whose concentration was on classical guitar. After beginning the application process with the Fulbright program a year ago, Miller spent the following spring and summer doing what she loves to do: tutor students in English as a Second Language (ESL), study Indonesian culture, and learn a modest level of Bahasa Indonesian. Her primary goal that summer was to craft a plan for using her skills and passion for music of all kinds as an asset in the ESL classroom and for being a bridge of positive cultural exchange as a United States citizen in Indonesia.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress. The purpose of the program is to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." The program is named in honor of the late Senator J. William Fulbright.

Since its inception the Fulbright Program has become an internationally acclaimed educational exchange program. Annually, thousands of students across the nation apply for the limited number of awards available. Miller is the first student in the history of North Park University to be named a Fulbright grantee. North Park will formally recognize Miller's accomplishment at the University’s spring commencement ceremony on May 10.

Miller's grant is an English Teaching Assistantship. Through this assistantship, she will travel to Indonesia in August 2008 and, following a two-week orientation, she will be placed in a secondary or post-secondary school in a location that is yet to be determined. There she will spend the full academic year teaching the English language, as well as educating her students about the United States. Her intention is to use music as a tool for teaching language and also as a point of engagement with American culture. In addition to teaching, she will study Indonesian language and music. She sees this opportunity as a true cultural exchange in which she will be both a teacher and a student.

The competitive application process included preparation of an extended essay in which Miller reflected on her love of English, her ability as a classical guitarist, and her interest in using music as a medium to teach English. Dr. Linda Parkyn, professor of Spanish at North Park and herself a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico during 2001-2002, was Miller's primary mentor in the application process. Dr. Parkyn was joined by a faculty committee formed to review Miller's essay and endorse her application. The committee included Provost Joseph Jones, Dean Charles Peterson, Dr. Tom Zelle, professor of music, and Dr. R.J. Snell, director of the University Honors Program.

Until she leaves for Indonesia, Miller will continue her musical endeavors, which include playing in the Tim Lowly Ensemble and working on her own musical project titled littlethings. "I am trying to live present to this moment and devote myself to the work that is in front of me," she says. When she is not doing these things, she prepares herself for next year.

Miller reflects on her future, saying, "I know that I will grow in immeasurable ways through my year in Indonesia. It is unlikely that I will be placed in one of Indonesia's major cities, so for the first time I will be outside of the direct influence of Western culture. I'm sure this experience will make me a better teacher to my non-Western students and also a better friend to people of all kinds. I look forward to broadening my view of life and my spiritual understanding through experiencing how other people go about study, work, friendship, prayer, and artistic expression — every aspect of life."