WKU student awarded Rotary Global Grant for master’s degree in Taiwan

WKU student Isabel Eliassen will use a $50,000 Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Taipei, Taiwan. Eliassen’s application was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Bowling Green in District 6710.

Eliassen, daughter of Ruth Hemmer and James Eliassen, is from Edgewood. After graduating with degrees in international affairs and Chinese, as well as a Mahurin Honors College self-designed degree in linguistics, she will enroll in the International Master’s Program in Asia-Pacific Studies (IMAS) at National Chengchi University.

In Taiwan, Eliassen will study how the disadvantages ethnic minorities face in economic stability and quality of education in Taiwan affects their access to English language education, a project fundamental to developing effective language education programs equally available to all students in Taiwan.

This project is an extension of work Eliassen started through undergraduate research at WKU. She earned Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) and Lifetime Experience (LTE) grants to support her Mahurin Honors College thesis, “Public Perceptions of Language Education in Taiwan: English in a Multilingual Context.” Working with research mentors, she has published several pieces on language policy including articles in the Journal of Asian and African Studies and the International Journal of Taiwan Studies, as well as other articles in The Diplomat and beyond.

 “At WKU, we’re lucky to have some amazing professors who are excited to work with students and encourage them to dream,” said Eliassen. “I’d like to thank Dr. Timothy Rich, Dr. Elizabeth Winkler, and Dr. Trini Stickle for mentoring me during my time as an undergraduate here.”

The Rotary Global Grant supports exceptional students with personal, long-term commitment to measurable, sustainable change in an area of great humanitarian need. Eliassen’s research and interest in changing ineffective education policies aligns with Rotary’s focus on supporting education.

Eliassen is excited to join Rotary in taking action through service, which she will do by investigating systemic problems in education to assess how to better serve others through language education. “Rotary is a dynamic force in Taiwan, resolving public issues and joining community leaders across borders,” she said, “a testament to the significance of nonpolitical international service organizations.”

Through research, she hopes to impact scalable change, including within Rotary’s major teacher training programs around the world. “Expanding solutions to reach students around the world is a challenge, but empowered by deep conviction and Rotary’s forward thinking,” she said, “achieving better, accessible language education is possible.”  

Eliassen added, “Although I have mainly researched education in East Asia, work on this issue is needed both domestically and internationally. Because many countries face similar challenges, Rotary is the ideal organization to spearhead meaningful change with its mission of fostering global understanding.” 

In addition to being a Mahurin Honors College scholar, Eliassen was involved in Habitat for Humanity and Model United Nations, and she worked as a tutor while studying at WKU. In 2019, Isabel studied abroad in Taiwan through the Taiwan-United States Sister Relations Alliance (TUSA) and is currently serving as an intern for the U.S. State Department’s Office of English Language Programs (ELP) in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Eliassen sought guidance from Lindsey Houchin, coordinator of nationally competitive opportunities in the Office of Scholar Development, in preparing her Rotary Global Grant Scholarship application, as well as her U.S. State Department internship. “OSD staff goes above and beyond for students here,” Eliassen said, “and I am so grateful for the support they provided both emotionally and academically.”

About the Rotary Global Grant The Rotary Global Grant supports exceptional students pursuing a career in an area of great humanitarian need through graduate study outside of North America who are able to demonstrate a personal, long-term commitment to measurable, sustainable change.

About the Office of Scholar Development The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping WKU students in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in nationally competitive scholarships.

Contact: Lindsey Houchin, [email protected]

Janelle B. Smith

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