Two WKU students awarded Fulbright grants

2021 Fulbright

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Two Western Kentucky University students have been awarded Fulbright US Student Grants for the 2021-22 academic year by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ariana Pedigo, of Russellville, and Reuben Tang, of Glasgow, are among a smaller than usual cohort of graduating seniors and recent graduates nationwide selected from a larger than usual pool of applicants. Grantees are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

The Fulbright US Student Program funds an academic year of research, study or English teaching in one of about 140 countries worldwide. Pedigo will use her Fulbright grant to conduct research in Mongolia, and Tang will serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan.

Ariana Pedigo, a graduate student pursuing a master of arts in folk studies with concentration in public folklore, is the daughter of Mary and Terry Pedigo of Russellville.

Her research interests are in prehistoric nomadic movement, monuments, textiles, lifeways and climate change.

While studying in Mongolia in 2021-2022, she will collect, catalog, and produce a geographic information systems (GIS) predictive map of archaeological sites at risk for looting. After her grant period, Pedigo will complete her master’s degree at WKU before pursuing further education in geoarchaeology in Canada or the United Kingdom.

Pedigo earned a bachelor of arts in anthropology at WKU in 2020, completing concentrations in cultural resource management, archaeology, and biological anthropology, while also minoring in folklore.

Her record of research and involvement as an undergraduate speaks to her intellectual curiosity; it includes an ethnographic study of the WKU Dance Program, volunteering at Living Archaeology Weekend (Kentucky’s oldest and largest public archaeology event) and the WKU Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, representing the department on the Potter College Dean’s Council of Students, serving as an archaeology field technician at Mammoth Cave National Park, and completing field research with faculty mentor Dr. Jean-Luc Houle in Mongolia that prepared her for her Fulbright project.

Reuben Tang, who will graduate in 2021 with degrees in architectural science and Chinese, is the son of Yue Rong Li and Zhen Tang of Glasgow. In Taiwan, Tang will serve as an English teaching assistant in a primary or secondary school.

With a focus on bilateral exchange, Tang will work to improve Taiwanese students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while increasing his own language skills and understanding of the host country. Following his grant year, Tang will pursue a career in international affairs, a pathway taking shape through graduate study in South Korea toward a role as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State.

Language and cultural studies and ambassadorial involvement have been through-lines of Tang’s career at WKU. He studied in the Chinese Flagship at WKU, the intensive language program sponsored by the National Security Education Program designed to produce students with a professional level of fluency by graduation.

He was a frequent visitor in the Office of Scholar Development and Study Abroad and Global Learning, earning multiple nationally-competitive scholarships like Gilman and Freeman-ASIA to study and intern in Taiwan three times. Tang is well-known across campus; he has served in official and unofficial ambassadorial roles for multiple organizations and university offices he has encountered at WKU.

While interning at Kris Yao Artech in 2019, an opportunity arose to serve as a Team Leader at the American Institute in Taiwan-Southeast Asia-South Asia-Taiwan’s (AIT-SEASAT) youth camp. The experience clarified his ambassadorial interests and skills, paving the path toward a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, where he will teach English and American culture to Taiwanese students.

WKU Fulbright US Student Program applicants work intensively with Melinda Grimsley in the Office of Scholar Development to conceptualize and develop their application materials over a period of weeks or months prior to the national deadline.

The process, Tang reflected, produces both clarification and confirmation of students’ future goals.

“The value of the application process came from the questions,” Tang said. “There were many questions that made me question my own past, present and future. I reaffirmed myself throughout the process multiple times—that I was chasing the right dreams, that I was following and listening to my heart—that’s what motivated me.”

Students and recent alumni interested in discussing the program are encouraged to schedule an appointment by emailing The campus deadline for the 2022-23 grant year is September 1, 2021.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings, and help people and nations work together toward common goals. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns. The Fulbright Program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide, is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.