Dylan Ashton ’18 Receives Fulbright Award

The prestigious award is granted by the U.S. Department of State to students, faculty and professionals in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Monday, May 6, 2019 09:41 AM

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Dylan Ashton ‘18 has been named a 2019-2020 Fulbright Fellow in France.

Dylan Ashton '18 has been named a 2019-2020 Fulbright Fellow for the English Teaching Assistant Program in France. A French & Francophone Studies major with an Education certification, Ashton will spend the next academic year teaching English at Le Lycée Jacques Brel in Créteil, France, outside of Paris.

The J. William Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The award subsidizes one year’s teaching or study abroad. The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers.

“As an ETA in France, I hope to further expand my definition of community at the local and global scales,” says Ashton. “My primary focus as a language educator is to establish community by developing pedagogies and practices within the classroom that promote sustainability of language acquisition and of positive coping mechanisms.”

He added, “The language class can often be a space that perpetuates generational trauma and recolonization for the most marginalized members of our community. I hope to effectively use my time in France as an attempt to give value to voice, community and communication. Outside of class, I intend to further navigate my role in this community by reaching out to local agencies in order to give support to unstably housed and homeless youth.”

International Studies program director and Political Science Professor Chris Herrick, advisor to the Fulbright award, says, “In a year in which the quality of Muhlenberg applications was high, and the number of US applicants for English Teaching Assistant positions in France was significantly higher than usual, Dylan's application was truly exceptional. In his on-campus interview, Dylan provided one of the most creative descriptions of his plans as an ETA that I have read in over a decade of applications. In particular, his description of his intention to develop an ongoing relationship between current and future students at his French placement school and students at his current school in the United States demonstrated his deep understanding of how to motivate students to engage in meaningful, interesting interactions that will significantly boost their language capabilities.”

Ashton, who landed a position as a full-time high school French teacher in the Lehigh Valley even before he graduated from Muhlenberg, says, “I feel so incredibly grateful to have this [Fulbright] opportunity to further develop my own teaching pedagogy and to further expand my understanding of community, power, and identity. The rigor and the nuance of the education program at Muhlenberg really prepared me to enter the teaching profession and it taught me a lot about what it means to be a teacher in the current American context and the power dynamics that come along with the job.”

“Dylan is full of life, energy, and optimism and he always brought keen insights into our discussions of contemporary French and francophone cultures,” says Eileen McEwan, associate professor of French and chair of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, who served as the resident director of the Muhlenberg in France program in Aix-en-Provence in fall 2016 which Ashton attended. “He made quite an impression on all the professors and students he met on that program, due to his enthusiasm, outgoing personality, and passion to learn all that he could about France and the French people. He was chosen to give the graduation speech at the end of that semester.”

Ashton expressed appreciation for the “tireless support” of Herrick throughout the Fulbright application process and added, “Working with Muhlenberg professors and staff, including Eileen McEwan, Jeremy Teisseire, Eveily Freeman and Mark Emerick, has been an absolute privilege; their continued support even after graduation has been a critical component in my growth as a language practitioner."

“I don't think I would have ever felt prepared to teach a colonial language in any context had it not been for the hours upon hours in which Professor Ioanna Chatzidimitriou allowed me to process the intricacies of teaching language itself. This work, alongside a critical approach to researching identity and power have been essential to my understanding of how to implement trauma-informed practices into the classroom.”

“I think what is really special about Muhlenberg, is that the professors facilitate an environment in which I was able to connect my lived experience with the content of the course no matter the prefix,” Ashton says. “As a French & Francophone studies major I was informed by all of my classes, from neuroscience to geography. In the end, it was the mixture of all of these classes that allowed me to develop a more critical understanding of the communities in which we live.”

Four current Muhlenberg students were named Fulbright finalists this year, including Brigid R. Deegan '19, Amanda H. Joseph '19, Morgan Kelly '19 and Brooke Z. Torjman '19.

Through The Prestigious Awards Initiative, the Office of Academic Life works with academically talented undergraduates and recent graduates in all disciplines to enhance success in applying for nationally prestigious awards, and graduate or professional study. Since its inception, it has resulted in more than 150 awards, finalist statuses and honorable mentions for students and recent graduates, including Truman scholarships, Fulbright scholarships and National Science Foundation scholarships.