Mackenzie Brown Awarded Fulbright Grant to Laos

University of Pittsburgh School of Education alumna Mackenzie Brown has been awarded a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to serve as an English Teaching Assistant in Laos. She is one of a record 15 students from Pitt to receive 2020 Fulbright awards.

Brown will be placed at a university in Laos, a country in Southeast Asia, where she will provide native English language instruction to Laotian students. She is expected to begin in July 2021.

“My studies of higher education at Pitt prompted me to think about the sociopolitical context of higher education and how it influences instructional design,” says Brown. “As an English Teaching Assistant in Laos, I want to use the strategies that I’ve learned in my program. I also want to learn about Laos pedagogy and how that informs their class structure.”

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar and Fulbright U.S. Student Programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to support academic exchanges between the U.S. and more than 150 countries around the world.

Brown first developed an interest in Laotian culture in her rural hometown of Catawba County, North Carolina, which includes a small Hmong community. Through her Hmong classmates, Brown interacted with members of the local Hmong community and grew to appreciate their culture. The Hmong people are an ethnic minority in Laos. As Brown learned the story of their diaspora, she was fascinated to learn more.

Brown is a two-time alumna of the Pitt School of Education. She earned her Master of Education in Higher Education in 2020 and her Bachelor of Science in Applied Development in 2017.

She currently works as an instructional design support specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

While in graduate school, Brown focused her efforts on instructional design. She worked as a graduate student assistant in supporting faculty course development and provided extra assistance during the switch to virtual classes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“International exchange is important in the scope of instructional design work. We can learn so much from the pedagogy of other cultures, online and in person,” says Brown.

While at Pitt, Brown also fostered global connections as the graduate intern for the Hesselbein Leadership Summit, which convenes young leaders from countries around the world.

“I want to thank my scholarship advisor, Jeff Whitehead, for helping me immensely through the process,” says Brown.

Upon return to the U.S., Brown hopes to remain an advocate for international exchange through education.

“In a time where we see so much xenophobia, this is a pivotal moment to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries,” says Brown.

Any views expressed in this article are personal and not formally endorsed by any mentioned institutions, including the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.

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The Pitt School of Education Master of Education in Higher Education program is currently accepting applications. Apply here.