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One student and one alum from Appalachian named Fulbright Scholars

By University Communications

BOONE, N.C.—The Office of International Education and Development (OIED) at Appalachian State University has announced that student Ryan Hellenbrand of Boone and alumna Megan Holt-Smith of Mount Airy have been chosen as recipients of Fulbright scholarship awards. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research and/or teach English abroad.

View larger imageStudent Ryan Hellenbrand has received a 2017 Fulbright award. Photo submitted by Ryan HellenbrandView larger imageTwo-time alumna Megan Holt-Smith has received a 2017 Fulbright award. Photo submitted by Megan Holt-SmithView larger image

Hellenbrand and Holt-Smith are among over 1,900 U.S. citizens selected for the 2017-18 academic year. Recipients of Fulbright awards are chosen on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

They were among eight Appalachian students who applied for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards, with five being chosen as semi-finalists.

Hellenbrand is a graduating senior double majoring in sustainable development and global studies. He has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to Austria in sustainable development from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Hellenbrand will complete a research project with the Center for Migrants in Tyrol and support the teaching of English at two high schools in Innsbruck as part of a Community-Based Combined Grant. The project, “Stewards of the Future: Connecting Memory, Environments and Regional Identity,” will examine the integration of migrants and refugees in its environmental context, expanding the idea of integration from being only a social and cultural process. With the opportunity to teach English as well, Hellenbrand will be able to examine the similarities between such processes in Innsbruck and Boone.

Holt-Smith received two degrees from Appalachian: her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and German in spring 2015 and her Master of Arts in Romance Languages (Spanish): College Teaching in fall 2016. Holt-Smith will support the teaching of English in Germany as part of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

About her award, Holt-Smith wrote, “Studying world languages and cultures has been a passion of mine ever since my first experience with Spanish classes in high school. Being able to interact with and learn from people of varying backgrounds adds joy, curiosity and challenge to my life, and this Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Germany will only continue to add to this… I greatly look forward to putting my language teaching and linguistic skill sets to the test and also sharing American culture with my students in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.”

Regarding his award, Hellebrand wrote, “This grant is my first step after graduating this semester. I look forward to working with the Center for Migrants in Tyrol on my project which examines cultural processes as they take place in relation to environment. Innsbruck sits right in the middle of the Alps, which is often geographically and climatically, as well as culturally, quite different from many of the places that immigrants and refugees are coming from. This will provide me with practical experience in applying the methods and knowledge from my interdisciplinary studies and research at Appalachian. My future plans include working towards graduate school in regional and community planning and forestry, and to continue expanding my theoretical knowledge and practical experience at the intersections between humans and environments.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 370,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbrighters address critical global challenges in all areas while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 57 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

According to Dr. Maria Anastasiou, executive director of OIED, “This is wonderful news. Fulbright is one of the most respected programs in the world for student and scholar international exchange and engagement. On behalf of all the faculty and staff, I congratulate Ryan and Megan for being chosen for such a wonderful honor.”

The Fulbright competition at Appalachian is open to all current students and alumni, and is administered by the Office of International Education and Development.

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State, visit or contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Press Office at 202-632-6452 or

About the Office of International Education and Development

The Office of International Education and Development is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society.

About Appalachian

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.