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Cook Honors College Student Wins Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship

Erin O'Brien

An IUP senior is one of only fourteen students in the nation selected this year for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Erin O’Brien, a History and Asian Studies double major in the Robert E. Cook Honors College, will teach English in Taiwan for eleven months following her May graduation from IUP.

O’Brien, formerly of Pasadena, Calif., and now of Matawan, N.J., is IUP’s eleventh student Fulbright recipient since 1996. She is the daughter of Skip and Susanne O’Brien and is a 2006 graduate of La Salle High School in Pasadena.

“The noteworthy academic honor is one that brings pride and honor to IUP and to the Robert E. Cook Honors College,” Dr. Tony AtwaterIUP president, said. “Ms. O’Brien is to be commended for this outstanding achievement.”

O’Brien has not yet been assigned to a site for her teaching work, which will begin in August.

“I got interested in Asian Studies during my freshman year from [Religious Studies professor] Dr. Stuart Chandler’s presentation during orientation,” O’Brien said. “I started studying Mandarin during my freshman year. I received Enhancement Funds from the Cook Honors College for a summer trip to China with Dr. Chandler, which helped with my language studies.”

O’Brien first got involved with teaching English abroad through a program affiliated with Cal Poly Pomona in her home state of California.

“I taught English in Taiwan to children ages six to fourteen at a summer day camp there in summer 2009 and enjoyed it immensely, and wanted to continue that work.”

O’Brien credited Cook Honors College professors with outstanding assistance in helping her to complete her Fulbright application, especially Cook Honors College Director Dr. Janet Goebel and Anthropology professor Dr. Francis Allard.

O’Brien is co-creator of the Cook Honors College’s presence in Second Life, an on-line, digital world. The Cook Honors College’s Whitmyre Island is the most trafficked Second Life destination of any college or university in the nation, O’Brien said.

O’Brien also has been a volunteer with the Kids Read literacy program locally and the Cook Honors College improvisational theater company, TOST and Turned.

Following her IUP graduation and her teaching work in Taiwan, O’Brien plans to enroll in a graduate program, possibly in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).