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W&L Graduate Katie Cones ’21 Awarded Fulbright ETA to Bulgaria The English Teaching Assistantship provides Cones a stipend to teach English to students in Bulgaria and lead cultural exchange activities.

katiecones-800x533 W&L Graduate Katie Cones '21 Awarded Fulbright ETA to BulgariaKatie Cones ’21

Washington and Lee University graduate Katie Cones ’21 has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Bulgaria. At W&L, Cones majored in math and double minored in classics and computer science. Cones is a native of Montgomery, Texas.

The ETA award provides Cones a stipend to teach English to students in Bulgaria and lead cultural exchange activities. Those activities will include supporting a team for the Bulgarian English Speech Tournament and furthering Cones’ ideas for community engagement, which center around undergraduate experiences in theatre as a cultural touchstone and math as a universal language.

“I am so incredibly overjoyed and overwhelmed to be given an opportunity of this nature,” said Cones. “I come from an agricultural background, and growing up, I was surrounded by people who focused primarily on the practical and local. So an opportunity for a cultural exchange abroad would’ve seemed completely unfathomable to my younger self.”

Cones’ time in Bulgaria will be her first abroad venture. She is mindful of how the Fulbright grant has helped her achieve her travel dreams.

“It is now with pride that I can bring the more rustic side of American life to my first long-term abroad experience and see my background as a tool for connection, not a point of shame,” said Cones. “I hope that in the future, I can show other starry-eyed students from not-so-traditional backgrounds that refinement isn’t the only form of culture.”

During her time at W&L, Cones was an active campus community member. She was a two-year STEM Fellow in W&L math professor Carrie Finch-Smith’s RANCID lab (Research in Algebra, Number theory, Coverings of the Integers, and Discrete mathematics). She also completed an honors thesis on spirolateral graphs with Finch-Smith. Cones was also a learning and technology specialist for two years and was eventually named head learning and technology specialist her senior year in the Global Discovery Labs, led by professor Dick Kuettner.

As an undergraduate, Cones performed in two shows in the university’s Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies, including “The Addams Family, A New Musical” and “James and the Giant Peach.” She served on the First Year Orientation Committee as the social media chair for Friday Underground, was an active participant during W&L’s Mock Con 2020 as a floating chair for Hawaii and was president of Phi Mu Epsilon. She was also an Omicron Delta Kappa member.

Cones credits Dick Kuettner, adjunct professor of romance languages and teacher education and director of the Global Discover Laboratories in the Ruscio Center for Global Learning, and Finch-Smith for mentoring her at W&L.

“If I were to supply you with adjectives that best describe Katie, the first to mind are diligent, dedicated, unwavering, pleasant, receptive and well-informed,” said Kuettner. “She leads, and others follow willingly. While an ETA, Katie will undoubtedly have to overcome challenges, inside and outside the classroom. I can see her handling these challenges easily because of her mature, level-headedness, which plays an important role in her decision-making and actions. She will do all this while being consistent, fair and respectful. Katie is filled with passion and compassion. All are at ease in her presence because she is so comfortable with herself. Without question, she will do remarkable things in the classroom.”

Since graduating from W&L, Cones has taught at the Forman School, a private boarding school in Connecticut that exclusively serves students with learning differences. When she returns to the United States in July 2023, Cones plans to use her Fulbright experience in the Bulgarian vocational education system to continue her education career and complete her graduate degree.

“Because of my background, I have not always had connections or experiences to recommend me,” said Cones. “Despite this, I found people at Washington and Lee University who bet on my success despite the lack of concrete evidence and who continue to show up for me in ways I am yet unable to repay. Dwarfing even the excitement I feel now is unfathomable gratitude for those who have always bet on me. I hope this award makes good on their belief in me.”

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 2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Students for the fourth consecutive year.

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