Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

W&L Alumnus Benji Hess ’23 Earns U.S. Teaching Assistantship to Austria Hess will teach English in Austria and prepare for a career as an educator.

Benji-Hess-600x400 W&L Alumnus Benji Hess ’23 Earns U.S. Teaching Assistantship to Austria

Washington and Lee University graduate Benji Hess ’23 has been awarded a U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) to teach English in Austria. At W&L, Hess majored in classics with a double minor in art history and archaeology. Hess is from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Seneca Valley Senior High.

The USTA Program is administered by Fulbright Austria on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. Teaching assistants are placed in secondary schools throughout Austria to teach English language and linguistic skills, serve as informal cultural ambassadors, and promote mutual understanding between the United States and Austria.

Hess is grateful for the opportunity to spend time in a classroom again, building connections with the local students and educators and strengthening his German language skills.

“My long-term goal is to become an educator, and there is no better preparation than spending time in the classroom,” said Hess, who feels the assistantship will confirm his plans to focus his early career on language studies and education.

Since graduating from W&L, Hess has been living in Athens, Greece, working on his post-baccalaureate degree in classics. He is enrolled in full-time coursework in Latin, ancient Greek and German, as well as completing volunteer internships in two archaeology labs. With the USTA, Hess is eager to continue this international and multicultural education, building upon the five semesters he spent studying abroad while he was a student at W&L. He is especially looking forward to returning to Austria after spending his senior year Spring Term in Graz, the capital of the Austrian state of Styria, and will be placed in the nearby and “truly idyllic” town of Leoben.

“I cannot sufficiently express my excitement to go back to the people and place that I love,” Hess said.

At W&L, Hess was a Bonner Scholar, a member of the track and field team and hosted a radio show on WLUR. His most impactful experience was participating in the Volunteer Venture Leading Edge program as an incoming student and as a trip leader during his senior year and having the opportunity to travel to Charleston, West Virginia, a city he feels a special connection with having grown up in the surrounding mountains just outside of Pittsburgh.

Hess is also grateful for the support and guidance he received from his major and minor faculty advisers, as well as his mentors within the Shepherd Program and Mudd Center for Ethics. “They were indispensable to my W&L experience, and I wouldn’t trade learning under them for anything,” he said.

“Benji was one of those students who always showed the initiative to ask what needed to be done next in our field excavations at Liberty Hall,” said Donald Gaylord, research archaeologist and instructor of anthropology. “Benji’s records stood out far above his peers when I was working through our excavations during his Field Methods in Archaeology class. He was also a positive light and affable co-worker for me and his fellow students, even when the heat and hard work of field excavation might have dulled others’ spirits. He made himself and our field season memorable in many ways.”

With the USTA, Hess will depart in September 2024 for his year-long program. Upon completion of the program, Hess will attend graduate school to continue his research in Latin and Ancient Greek literature.

The Fulbright Program was established more than 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. 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’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Washington and Lee University is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2023-2024 Fulbright U.S. Students for the sixth consecutive year.

If you know a W&L member who has done great, accolade-worthy things, tell us about them! Nominate them for an accolade.