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W&L’s Ian Kinney ’24 Selected for U.S. Teaching Assistantship to Austria Kinney will teach English in Austria at an agricultural research institute, blending his interests in German and environmental studies.

Ian-Kinney-600x400 W&L’s Ian Kinney ’24 Selected for U.S. Teaching Assistantship to Austria

Washington and Lee University senior Ian Kinney ’24 has been awarded a U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) to teach English in Austria. At W&L, Kinney is majoring in environmental studies with a focus on conservation biology and minoring in German. Kinney is a native of Richmond, Virginia, and graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at John Randolph Tucker High School.

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.

Kinney began learning German during his first year at W&L, and it quickly became a big part of his education over the past four years. With the USTA, he will be placed at HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein, an agricultural research institute and vocational high school in Styria, and he is looking forward to applying both his German language skills and interest in environmental policy.

“The opportunity to live in Austria is a rewarding culmination of my journey here at W&L,” Kinney said. “Given my interests in ecology and sustainable agriculture, I am particularly excited to teach at a school that also functions as an agricultural research institute and provides agriculture vocational training.”

Kinney is looking forward to returning to Austria, where he spent Spring Term 2023 abroad with the course Traces of Empire, taught by Debra Prager, associate professor of German.

“Living with host families in Austria for four weeks was an invaluable opportunity to improve my German language skills while deepening my understanding of Austrian culture and history, and my experience on that trip encouraged me to apply to the USTA program,” Kinney said. “Additionally, Professor Prager has been a consistent source of support throughout my four years at W&L. Her encouragement of my study of the German language has made possible a variety of exciting opportunities, including teaching English as part of the USTA program.”

Prager agrees that it was during Kinney’s time abroad and living with an Austrian family that he “really set his sights on the USTA program.” She recalls how he took advantage of every opportunity to improve his language skills as well as explore Austrian culture and history.

“It was wonderful to have him in the class because he is such an engaged conversationalist, a critical thinker, and an astute observer of culture,” Prager said. “In all his classes, his questions and contributions reflect a higher level of intercultural competence as well as language skill.”

At W&L, Kinney volunteers with the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity and has served as the chapter co-president since his junior year. This experience has enriched his time on campus, and he has appreciated the opportunity to meet other students and members of the local community, as well as develop practical skills that directly benefit the community. Kinney has also been profoundly impacted by the academic opportunities at W&L and is grateful for the encouragement and guidance he has received from his faculty mentors, including Prager, David Marsh, professor of biology, and Robert Humston, the John Kyle Spencer Director of Environmental Studies and professor of biology, who have “shaped my experience as a student, while helping me become a more well-rounded and creative thinker.”

“I am thrilled that Ian has accepted the USTA position, and it is a wonderful accomplishment for him as well as another opportunity for him to dovetail his two fields of interest — environmental studies and German,” Prager said. “As a teaching assistant, Ian will help teach Austrian high school students not just the English language, but American culture. For some of them, Ian will be the first American they’ve ever met, and I can’t imagine a better young ambassador. He is relaxed, self-possessed, thoughtful, intellectually and culturally curious, and open-minded. Ian will be a tremendous asset to the teachers he works with, and he will have an enduring and positive impact on his students and the way they think about the United States.”

With the USTA, Kinney will depart in September 2024 for his nine-month program. Upon completion of the program, he is interested in pursuing a career in ecology and environmental policy.

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.

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