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Korbel Student Attains Fulbright Scholarship, Anticipates Diversifying International Experience

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University of Denver

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Note: This article was updated on Feb. 8, 2021.

Tanner Mastaw hopes to expand his understanding of international development, and his recent obtainment of a Fulbright Scholarship is helping to pave the way.

Mastaw, a senior in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies’ BA in International Studies, will leave for Turkey this fall and spend nine months in the country teaching English as part of his scholarship.

Mastaw’s previous international experience has been almost exclusively in developing nations in Asia and Africa, therefore he said he decided to branch out and choose Turkey because of its international status as a “newly industrialized country.”

“In many circles, Turkey represents an idealized ‘next step’ in development,” he said. “My hope is to witness this next step in action, providing me with new frames of reference.”

Toward the end of 2013, Mastaw spent about four months studying abroad in India. While there, he assisted with research for the NGO, Bodh Shiksha Samiti. And about six months later, Mastaw worked in Zanzibar teaching math and English with the Tamani Foundation for two months during the summer of 2014.

“My philosophy behind study abroad was simply that it had to be something that I can’t experience in the classroom here,” he said.

Although there was the possibility of revisiting India, or any number of the seven countries he’s already traveled to, Mastaw said choosing Turkey for the Fulbright was about broadening his scope of the world.

“For me, I’m trying to gain some insight into various worldviews and various perspectives that are driving conversation these days,” he said.

Mastaw anticipates that while he’s teaching in Turkey – though where exactly in Turkey he’ll be placed has yet to be determined – he will also be involved in something similar to a program he currently participates in called the Public Achievement program. He explains that through the PA program, part of DU’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship & Learning, he helps students at Denver’s South High School become more civically engaged in their communities.

Given Mastaw’s work experience in education so far, he said he’s eager to further explore teaching as a potential career while completing his term as a Fulbright. At the same time, he said engaging in community development while in Turkey will also allow him to consider a future in international diplomacy.

For now though, the opportunity to experience another slice of the world is sufficient for him, given his small-town upbringing in Wisconsin.

“The notion that I can go from a town of about 2,000 to working on an international scale, and in something of this prestige in the realm of international relations, is unbelievable, really,” he said.

Luc Beaudoin, associate provost for internationalization, said that although the number of Fulbright scholarships awarded to DU students varies each year, he has begun to see a broader range of students applying for them across campus.

“Fulbrights are a unique opportunity that are among the most prestigious grants to get," he said. 

“For someone like Tanner, getting a Fulbright is an honor – a chance to be abroad as a representative of the U.S."