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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Fulbright Award Winner to Teach in Latin America

Ryan Ezelle heads to the Dominican Republic in August—

The recipient of a 2013 Fulbright U.S. Student Award is a May graduate with degrees in international studies and Spanish and a minor in English from Union, Miss. He said he wanted to further his studies and experiences abroad, specifically in Latin America, beyond the typical semester, so the Fulbright is the perfect opportunity. An internship last summer with the Sunflower County Freedom Project, where he was a writing teacher and mentor for middle-school students, inspired him to apply for an English Teaching Assistantship.

“Last summer when I was interning with the Sunflower County Freedom Project, I had several duties, including teaching writing to seventh-to-ninth graders, leading an exercise group and accompanying the kids on camping trips to places important to the civil rights movement,” Ezelle said. “It was truly a formative experience, one where I learned both the difficulty of teaching and its value as a part of the wider movement for educational equality. It will be great, I think, to take those things that I learned here in my home state and enrich them in an international context.”

Becca Bassett, program director for the Sunflower County Freedom Project, said Ezelle used his experience as a writing tutor at UM to craft thoughtful, engaging lessons for her students.

“Although every day didn’t always go as planned, Ryan’s enthusiasm and genuine desire to help students improve their writing created a classroom environment where students worked hard to succeed,” Bassett said. “Ryan was not only a teacher, but also a mentor at the Freedom Project and spent time during trips and fitness class building strong relationships with students.”

Ezelle found out he had been awarded the Fulbright during the hectic time of final exam week.

“It was still a thrill to find out, and a relief. I’m still not sure it’s completely sunk in, since I’ve been so busy with graduation,” said Ezelle.

“I don’t have all the details yet, but I know I’ll be serving as an English teaching assistant at a university in the Dominican Republic, probably in the capital, Santo Domingo,” said Ezelle, who was a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa, as well as a Carrier Scholar and Taylor Medal recipient. He won the Gerald M. Abdalla Prize for International Studies and the Estella G. Hefley Award for achievement in Spanish.

“From what I understand, I’ll be helping give presentations to English classes, particularly ones having to do with U.S. culture, society and language. I’ll also be carrying out a project on the side to go along with these responsibilities, tentatively an English language drama club.”

Brenda Robertson, director of the UM Writing Center, said she recommended Ezelle because his skills, patience and leadership experience will serve his students well.

“Ryan Ezelle has the admirable ability to balance academic responsibilities and a social life,” Robertson said. “Somehow he has also found time to serve his community in multiple ways and to also work as a writing consultant in the writing center. Ryan accomplished much through his own efforts but his greatest strength is good character, a quality he began developing before he entered Ole Miss, but one he never failed to draw upon in any situation he encountered.”

Ezelle leaves for Santo Domingo in August and will remain there for a full academic year. He said he is looking forward to studying and working in another country, as well as forming and strengthening relationships with partners at the U.S. Embassy and Dominican colleagues and friends.

“Besides that, I love the history and culture of the Caribbean, and to live there for extended period of time will be fascinating,” he said.

Ezelle is the university’s 12th Fulbright U.S. Student Award winner since 2000. Last year, Martin Ducote won a Fulbright for research in the field of automotive engineering in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Tim Colston won a Fulbright for research in the field of herpetology in Ethiopia.

“I could never have successfully applied for the Fulbright without the guidance and unrelenting support I have received from my professors, friends and family at Ole Miss,” said Ezelle, the son of Joey and Susan Ezelle. “Especially those in the Croft Institute and the SMBHC who have always encouraged us to investigate the world around us and have provided us with the knowledge to do so responsibly.”

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Students interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Award are encouraged to contact Andrus Ashoo, the Fulbright Program Adviser of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement, at

Ezelle served as Class Marshal for the College of Liberal Arts during spring commencement ceremonies at the University of Mississippi. He was chosen by his academic dean.

A graduate of Union High School, he is the son of Joey Keith and Susan Wall Ezelle of Union.