Lions’ first student Fulbright winner

Senior Mollie Schaefer became the first UNA student to receive a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. She will leave for the Czech Republic in August and stay for 10 months.

Senior Mollie Schaefer, recipient of a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, will promote “international goodwill” in the Czech Republic as an English teaching assistant.

A Bessemer native, Schaefer is the first student from UNA to win a grant from Fulbright.

“I’m honored, honestly,” Schaefer said. “There are several professors and mentors who pushed me to the best of my abilities.”

The purpose of Fulbright is to give students the opportunity to exchange information in the fields of education, culture and science, according to the program website.

One professor who encouraged Schaefer to apply for the scholarship was Matthew Price, director of Premier National and International Awards and Learning Support.

“Fulbright is looking for students who are engaged and want to connect with other people and cultures,” Price said. “With Mollie, you can tell she has this deep passion for connecting to the world.”

Price said he and Schaefer worked together to determine which country would be most likely to accept her into the program. Schaefer will leave in August and stay in the Czech Republic for 10 months.

Price said his role was to support Schaefer in every step of the process.

“We worked together over a couple months,” Price said. “We strategized who to ask for letters of recommendation and edited the two essays that are at the heart of the application.”

Schaefer suffers from severe dyslexia, and she said she planned to “scrape by” in college, but no obstacle separated her from the grant.

Price said he could write 10 pages of how deserving Schaefer is of the Fulbright award.

“Being granted this high of an honor still feels unreal,” Schaefer said. “It’s wonderful to see hard work pay off, and this goal is far greater than anything I would have seen for myself as a freshman.”

Schaefer said Price helped her with revisions to her essays.

“The biggest challenge is formulating essays in a way that is personal and professional,” Schaefer said. “Aside from that, there are several sections which ask about experience.”

Schaefer said during her free time, she goes to Rivertown Coffee in Florence to read or do homework. She also sings, plays guitar and writes songs.

“I don’t plan on pursuing a career in (music), but I enjoy playing and writing more for myself as a means of processing my feelings,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer will graduate with a degree in visual art and a minor in public communication.

Senior Rachel Milwee said she is eager to see what Schaefer will accomplish after she graduates.

“Mollie is one of the only people I know who manages to be incredibly driven and also incredibly kind and thoughtful,” Milwee said. “I have seen her attack problems from a place of intelligent thought, and she truly considers every side of any situation.”

Schaefer serves as Senate advisor for the Freshman Forum branch of the Student Government Association. She is a member of Phi Mu sorority, Art Club of UNA and Canterbury UNA, the campus ministry for Canterbury Episcopal Church.

Freshman Jasmine Culliver said she was able to work with Schaefer in the Freshman Forum.

“Mollie is an absolute treasure,” Culliver said. “She’s honestly one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet.”

Over spring break, Schaefer spent her week in Desab, Haiti, with the Alternative Breaks program at UNA.

Bethany Green, assistant director of Student Engagement, said she traveled with Schaefer to Haiti and will do so again in July before she moves to the Czech Republic. She described her as “one of the most fascinating and unique people I’ve ever met” and said she is never afraid to take risks and welcomes new challenges every chance she can.

“Mollie is the type of person who wants to experience life, not just exist, which is probably my favorite thing about her,” Green said. “She listens, she offers compassion and she challenges us to be intentional with our actions. Fulbright definitely made the right decision in offering her this opportunity.”