While Ben Harris was writing a story on the first student from Central Michigan University to win the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship in almost a decade for Central Michigan Life, he was inspired to spend the next two years of his life tailoring his resume in hopes that he too could win the award.
His work paid off – Harris received the scholarship for 2014. The scholarship also grants him the opportunity to teach English courses to South Korean students for the next year.
“The whole thing was so competitive,” Harris said about the application process. “If I didn’t get it, I was OK with it. I experienced lots and lots of doubt. Maybe the month before I found out (I was a finalist), I found a typo in my essay. Little things like that freak me out.”
The Allen Park-native will leave for South Korea on July 4 and will be primarily teaching middle and high school students. Harris is one of four CMU students to receive the scholarship in the last three years.
Harris previously studied in 2013 at Korea University. The double history and English major wants to go to law school once he’s done teaching in the country. The Fulbright Scholarship can be renewed for a second year if the recipient wants. However, Harris still considering that option.
The Fulbright Scholar Program awards 1,900 grants annually to students in 140 countries. Created in 1946, the program has since awarded grants to approximately 325,400 people around the world. The program offers opportunities for students and young professionals to advance their studies in research, teaching and other graduate studies.
Helping Harris through the scholarship process were his family and friends, but also the staff and faculty at CMU. A main conduit for his success, Harris received assistance from the CMU National Scholarship Program office, which helped guide him through the application process from start to finish.
Jonathan Truitt, Harris’ honors program adviser and an associate professor of history, said Harris has thirst for knowledge that has never diminished.
Truitt said Harris deserves to be a Fulbright scholar.
“He’s incredibly inquisitive,” Truitt said. “Outside of the classroom, he was always curious. He’s also constantly willing to work with his classmates.”
Others have noticed Harris’ passion and determination, including Jeffrey Bean, an associate professor in the English department.
Bean said Harris would often come in during his office hours to chat and get recommendations for how to go above and beyond the stated expectations.
“It’s not just about getting the A,” Bean said. “He does this in a lot of classes. It’s part of what’s taken him so far.”
There are many reasons to be impressed by Harris, he added. However, Bean was always dazzled by how humble Harris has been through the scholarship experience.
“He was open to what people had to say,” he said. “He learned from other people in class, too. That’s part of what led him to success.”
For Harris, the year-long expedition will allow him to revisit South Korea, but will give him that chance to experience the country in a way he hadn’t before.
“Working and learning more, living with a new host family, making new friends, seeing old friends; it’s just going to be cool,” he said.
Despite his focused push toward success in his studies, Harris falls back on the fact that he couldn’t have done without his professors at CMU.
“I really can’t say enough how happy I am with how they handled it,” Harris said. “Everybody’s been extremely supportive. The professors really care about their students and to be in a university this supportive is really important to me, because I came here to get the best education.”