Kelsey Lee to travel to Thailand on Fulbright grant

Kelsey Lee to travel to Thailand on Fulbright grant

Kelsey Lee

Since graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in spring 2013, Kelsey Lee has been working as a youth coordinator for Americorps, putting her anthropology major and minors in human rights and humanitarian affairs to good use.

For the past three years, she has focused particularly on serving Karen refugee youth from Thailand by working with the Asian Community and Cultural Center in Lincoln. From creating an "Around the World" club at a local elementary school to being an English for Language Learners tutor through Lincoln Literacy, her commitment has inspired her to better understand Karen culture.

Lee's interest in Burma began when she enrolled in a cross-cultural mentoring course taught by UNL professor Mary Willis, in which she was paired with a Burmese refugee in Lincoln. By receiving a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Thailand -- one of five ETA grants awarded to UNL students for the 2015-16 academic year -- Lee will be able to take the next step toward reaching out to this community.

"The Karen youth that I serve always talk about how much they miss Thailand," Lee said. "So I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to go there.”

Laura Damuth, UNL's fellowship adviser, said, "Kelsey is continuing her work toward furthering cultural exchange, this time visiting the home country of the refugees with whom she works and acting as a cultural ambassador."

The Fulbright program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster this understanding between the United States and other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of 155 designated countries. About 8,000 grants are awarded annually, and about 1,600 of those are awarded to U.S. students.

While in Thailand, Lee will reach beyond the classroom to further impact the community. Specifically, she wants to work with DEAR Burma (Development of Education and Awareness for Refugees from Burma), which works toward strengthening democracy in Thailand, and the Shanti Volunteer Association, which promotes literacy and language development for refugees.

"I want to develop skills that will help me better serve the immigrant and refugee community here in Lincoln," she said.

A graduate of Lincoln East High School, Lee will carry her experiences in Thailand with her to graduate school. She plans to pursue a master's degree in teaching, learning and teacher education.

She is among five UNL students who earned Fulbrights in 2015.