By Marie Sutton
Unrest in the Middle East continues to swell, but soon some grace will come their way – Grace Benton, that is.
The recent University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Jordan. She is the second UAB student to receive the award this year and the 15th since 1993.
"I am honored," said the 21-year Newburg, Md., native who received a degree in international studies Saturday. "Thanks to the unwavering support of my parents, my grandmother and my mentors at UAB, I have been offered an incredible opportunity to further my Arabic language skills and ability to negotiate a different culture, and also to be privy to an incredibly interesting socio-political phenomenon."
Benton plans to spend the next academic year in Jordan working as an English language teacher. Upon her return to the America, she will work to complete a master's degree in either Arab studies or Middle Eastern studies. Ultimately, her goal is to teach and develop cultural exchange programs for Americans to study in the Levant region.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, gives students the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research overseas as part of the organization's goal to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Participants are selected based on academic merit and leadership potential and help contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
"We are so proud of Grace and other recent Fulbright Scholars from UAB (five in the past two years) for their deep commitment to academic excellence and service to our global community, both of which are core values of this university," said UAB President Carol Z. Garrison, Ph.D., "As Grace serves very ably and passionately as a teacher in Jordan, I know she will represent UAB, Alabama and our nation very well."
Throughout her college career, Benton has traveled to various parts of the Middle East for several study-away programs. She is excited to return during a time where historic changes are happening in the governments there, she said.
"The Middle East is in an especially unique period of transition," Benton said, "and I am thrilled to have such an opportunity to observe and reflect such changes while in-country."
A University Honors Scholar, Benton received numerous honors while at UAB including a scholars' award, a Bryant-Jordan scholar-athlete award and induction into the Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Iota Rho (International Studies) honor societies.
In 2008, she participated in the Tunisian Community Center Study-Abroad Scholarship program as an English language fellow for the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education. She conducted discussion groups with Tunisian students at the language village in Nabeul and lived with local scholars to better facilitate the cultural and linguistic exchange.
In 2010, Benton was selected as a William Jefferson Clinton Scholar and spent the spring semester at American University in Dubai. While at UAB, she was an international mentor and a foreign language ambassador.
Her parents are Paul Benton and Martha Daughdrill of Lottie.