2018 News

College of Education student receives Fulbright Award to teach English in Malaysia

Lauren Madsen

After graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, College of Education student Lauren Madsen will participate in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in Malaysia.

TAMPA, Fla. (April 26, 2018) – Lauren Madsen, a senior in the College of Education’s Elementary Education program, will use her teaching skills to make a global impact as part of a Fulbright Award she received to teach English in Malaysia.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest exchange program in the United States providing opportunities to pursue international graduate study, advanced research, and teaching in more than 155 countries worldwide. As part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program in Malaysia, Madsen will spend time in the classroom assisting teachers and leading English activities. She will also lead school-related activities and clubs to further student learning and engagement.

Having already traveled abroad to 15 different countries, Madsen said she was drawn to the Fulbright program in Malaysia because it’s a part of the world she has yet to experience. Her previous travels have taken her to Europe, South America and Central America. She’s done these trips through both self-guided backpacking tours and Education Abroad trips with USF, including the College of Education’s teaching abroad experience in Costa Rica.  

Through her time abroad, Madsen said she’s realized the world is a diverse place that she’s only seen a small part of, and she wants to bring her travel experiences back to the classroom to share with her students.

“As an educator, I think it’s important to have this well-developed understanding of what the world that we live in is like, and to help prepare our students for their adulthood and to be productive and knowledgeable members of society,” Madsen said. “I think through my international experiences I can bring those into my teaching career and influence students with what I know and what I’ve learned.”

Madsen said she’s known from a very young age that she wanted to become an educator. She was inspired to pursue teaching abroad by both of her parents — her father, who is a pilot and regularly travels the world, and her mother, an elementary school teacher who used to bring Madsen into her third grade classroom.

When she began the elementary education program at USF, Madsen quickly reached out to her instructor, Randi Latzke, Ph.D., about turning her dream of teaching abroad into a reality. On the first day of Latzke’s class, Madsen approached her and asked: “What do I need to do to teach internationally?” 

“She never lost sight of that goal, and I have had the privilege of working with her over four semesters in her elementary education field experiences where she has prepared herself to be a culturally-responsive, globally-minded teacher,” Latzke said. “No matter the task or challenge, Lauren has met it with determination, consistently reflecting on what she could continue to do more successfully to meet the needs of her diverse group of learners. Unwaveringly reflective, she has grown into a confident teacher, and she is the perfect candidate for this opportunity to continue to learn and grow and to apply her teaching talents in an international context.”

While at USF, Madsen has completed extensive hours teaching in local schools, conducting research and networking with the local community of educators that surround the university. Through these experiences, she’s been reminded why she chose to go into teaching in the first place — to help the students who need it most, such as a student from Puerto Rico that she worked with as he struggled to learn a new language and culture.

“I wanted so badly to reach this kid and to help him be successful,” Madsen said. “Moments like that, working with students like him, have pushed me to want to make a difference and to help these students. I think that’s a pretty powerful thing to do.”

Madsen said she looks forward to learning more about the people and cultures in Malaysia, and plans to take some time to learn the language in the country. As part of her community involvement projects in the Fulbright program, she hopes to start a community garden to get her students involved in environmental science, awareness, ecology and the arts. She also hopes to start a “Challenge Club,” an after school program that will inspire her students to participate in team building experiences out in nature, such as hiking and camping.

“I want to get (my students) intrinsically motivated about their learning,” Madsen said. “I want them to promote self-efficacy and to know they have the potential to be great individuals.”  

In 2017, USF was the institution with the most Fulbright student awards in the state of Florida, with 10 students having received awards through the program. The university encourages students to participate in the Fulbright program by providing advising and support resources through the Office of National Scholarships and by hosting a number of foreign Fulbright students and faculty from across the globe to teach and study at USF.

“We are delighted that one of our talented students has been selected for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Roger Brindley, Interim Dean for the College of Education and USF System Vice President for USF World. “The USF College of Education is focused on providing our students with the knowledge and skillset they need to be effective educators at both a national and international level. It is educators like Lauren who are critical in developing the next generation of global citizens.”

After completing her Fulbright program, Madsen said she hopes to return to the U.S. to teach at the elementary school level and to pursue a graduate degree in speech pathology — a career path that is still an opportunity for her to apply her experiences in education. 

“All of my passions and all of my dreams — how I want to make a difference in this world — I can streamline that into education and fostering an even better society,” she said.