Aspiring teacher, theater enthusiast heads to Greece on Fulbright Scholarship

June 2, 2014

During an internship teaching second graders at an inner city school in Brooklyn, New York, Melissa Stone saw the achievement gap in students from low-income families widening and understood the urgency to close it.

”Being able to work as one of the only two Caucasian-American teachers in a minority majority school teaching second grade students was eye opening,” said Stone. “My internship was the first time I had been around so many people who cared deeply about urban education reform and student success. It left me invigorated and intent on pursuing education as a vehicle of change.” Melissa Stone Download Full Image

Stone, who recently graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to serve as a teaching assistant in Greece. Stone will teach English and partake in theater at Athens College from September 2014 through June 2015.

In addition to psychology, Stone pursued a minor in theater from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, having worked on Shakespeare classics throughout school. The theater enthusiast has worked on a diverse array of productions, including "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Once Upon a Mattress," "The Vagina Monologues" and "Hairspray."

“The classes that I’ve taken in college have changed the way I look at art and its expression,” said Stone. “It was cool to see how theater can be used as a voice for the oppressed, and to open people to social change.”

Social change is a force close to Stone’s heart. As a former member of the Omega Phi Alpha community service sorority, she volunteered for service events for a childhood hunger organization. Outside of school, she has volunteered for organizations combating homelessness and sexual abuse, and been on mission trips to Costa Rica, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Nashville.

Using her interest and education in theater as a tool for change, Stone is currently employed as an acting coach for adults with disabilities at Detour Company Theatre in Tempe.

“It is true that the world knows nothing of its greatest people. The people I work with at Detour inspire me daily.”

As part of the Fulbright Scholarship, the recent ASU graduate will be teaching English to students while also participating in activities of the forensics and theater clubs. She will also be working side by side with the school counselor at Athens College.

“My Fulbright responsibilities haven’t been fully defined yet, so I’m trying to approach my upcoming time in Greece with an open mind,” she said. “Never has an opportunity fit my interests so perfectly. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to combine teaching, theater, counseling and traveling.

“I’m a restless person by nature. I’ve always wanted to do more and more, and enjoy spending my days doing fruitful things.”

When asked about her plans upon her return to the United States, Stone becomes introspective.

“I hope to pursue a master’s degree in psychology and counseling, but I know that my experience in Greece might set me on a completely different path, so I’m keeping my options open.”

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Sustainability resonates with change-driven ASU scholars

June 2, 2014

The students enrolled in ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program share two key characteristics with the university: a commitment to fostering meaningful change and an enthusiasm for sustainability.

This August, ASU welcomes its third cohort of scholars, representatives of 15 Sub-Saharan African nations who exemplify academic excellence and the potential for effective leadership. All 40 students come to the land of maroon and gold determined to improve their home communities when they return after four years of undergraduate schooling. MasterCard Foundation Scholars pose with flags and soccer balls at charity event Download Full Image

In addition to providing them with a caliber of education they could not otherwise access, ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program offers these promising students the tools and capacities that innovative solutions require. As a complement to their chosen degree programs, all scholars take SOS 194: Sustainability Issues in Africa, a course offered by the School of Sustainability.

Aryn Baxter, director of ASU’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program and SOS 194 instructor, sees the course as a laboratory for formulating sustainable solutions to concerns in her students’ home countries. Consequently, students participate in a semester-long project aimed at addressing challenges in areas that they identify. Examples include education, entrepreneurship, food production and storage, renewable energy and clean water access.

“I see sustainability as highly relevant to equipping scholars with the critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills they’ll need to fulfill the program’s vision of creating positive social and economic change,” Baxter says.

In a further testament to their enthusiasm for sustainability and commitment to meaningful change, the scholars were well-represented at April’s Earth Day Soccer Classic. This bi-continental charitable tournament, organized by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, generated nearly two dozen highly-durable soccer balls for the Top Ten Soccer Academy in Accra, Ghana.

“It was a great event, and we were able to put school aside for one day and have fun. It brought us together as MasterCard Foundation Scholars, and I can say many hidden talents and personalities were unraveled amongst us,” says Mariama Salifu, a Ghana native whose brother, Shafic Osman, organized the tournament played simultaneously in Accra.

Baxter, who also participated in the tournament, enjoys seeing the scholars’ interest in sustainability pique. She reports that several are now considering minoring in sustainability, recognizing its potential to set them apart from peers and prepare them for leadership roles in their chosen fields.

“A scholar who returned to Ghana for the summer recently sent me an email asking whether – if the internet options at home were good enough – she could take an online sustainability class over the break,” says Baxter. “To me, this is clear evidence that the course is having the kind of impact we’d hoped.”

As Baxter prepares to welcome the incoming cohort, which is twice the size of the previous, she looks forward to the sustainability-guided advances that MasterCard Foundation Scholars – equipped with an ASU education – will make in both Africa and beyond.

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability