UTEP Senior is Campus’ Second Fulbright U.S. Student Program Awardee in 2021
Last Updated on June 15, 2021 at 11:00 AM
Originally published June 15, 2021
By Pablo Villa
Ana-Flor Bernal possesses a stoic determination, a trait that has carried her through a nomadic journey through higher education that began at Florida International University and led to a teaching stint in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, before The University of Texas at El Paso beckoned.
What awaits the senior English and American literature major after completion of her undergraduate work in December 2021 is momentous. Bernal is a recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistantship award for the 2021-22 academic year. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Bernal is the third UTEP student to ever receive the honor and the second to be named this year, a testament to the University’s status as America’s leading Hispanic-serving research institution.
“The best students at UTEP can compete with the best students anywhere,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said. “We are encouraging our exceptional students to apply for these very competitive honors and I’m pleased to see Ana-Flor as well as Aylin Duarte recognized for their scholarship and potential by the Fulbright program this year.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is one of the most competitive academic exchange programs globally. The program fully funds U.S. students as they research, develop creative projects, and/or teach English abroad, all while dedicating part of their time to building greater understanding between the United States and host countries.
The weight of such a lofty accomplishment was cause for Bernal to momentarily cast aside her usual calm, collected demeanor.
“I was with my sister when I received the news,” Bernal said. “I’m usually very calm, I don’t get emotional. But when I read the announcement, I just fell to the ground. I was so happy. I am honored to be selected for this prestigious award and eager for the opportunity to conduct research in the Brazilian education system.”
Bernal will head to Brazil for a year-long English teaching appointment beginning in February 2022. She will be near fellow UTEP Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship awardee Aylin Duarte, a December 2020 graduate who will conduct research, participate in community service and teach English in Argentina starting in the spring 2022 semester.
The selection of two University students for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in the same year underscores UTEP’s commitment to providing an excellent and engaged education. Furthermore, it highlights the impact of the Office of Student Fellowships and Awards, which was established in 2020 to raise awareness of opportunities like Fulbright and assist UTEP students as they apply for graduate and undergraduate scholarships and fellowships.
“We are thrilled that Ana-Flor will spend a year in Brazil on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship,” said Melanie Meinzer, Ph.D., director of the Office of Student Fellowships and Awards. “Her passion for teaching and learning about other cultures and languages make her an ideal fit for the program.”
Bernal also received support during the application process from Barbara Zimbalist, Ph.D., associate professor of English at UTEP. Bernal turned to Zimbalist, who was a Fulbright selection herself, to help navigate the essay portion of her application. The faculty member lauded the work ethic of her student.
“Ana-Flor’s outstanding academic work, her service to our UTEP community, and her enthusiasm to experience the world make her a fantastic candidate for the Fulbright,” Zimbalist said. “This award recognizes her excellent achievements here at UTEP and offers her amazing new opportunities for the future.”
While Bernal waits to receive more details about her transition to South America, she is taking the time to learn Portuguese and honing her knowledge of classroom instruction. She is grateful for the opportunity to take part in the Fulbright program.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at UTEP, this is the right place for me,” Bernal said. “I’ve been able to read so many amazing texts and be involved in something new every semester that I’ve been here. I hope being a part of the Fulbright program shows others that they do deserve these significant awards. I look forward to getting started.”