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Sara Worsfold in her fifth and sixth grade classroom at Horace Mann Laboratory School. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Sara Worsfold in her fifth and sixth grade classroom at Horace Mann Laboratory School. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

April 24, 2017

Worsfold is Fulbright finalist for 2017-2018 academic year

When Sara Worsfold crosses the commencement stage at Northwest Missouri State University and embarks overseas to begin her next teaching assignment, there’s no doubt she’ll be thinking of all the people who inspired her to keep going, including her late sister.

Worsfold is completing her master’s degree in education with a reading emphasis this spring at Northwest. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program has announced Worsfold as a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for the 2017-2018 academic year, and she will move in September to Obchodná Akadémia in Žilina, Slovakia.

Worsfold will teach English as a second language and continue through a term ending in July 2018.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I feel so grateful for it,” Worsfold said. “It will help me in all aspects of teaching. It will help me with relating to people, communicating and just being able to work with others who will have different barriers. I will learn so much about myself, the world, and I’ll be able to bring that culture back with me to include more diversity in my classroom for years to come.”

The scholarship is awarded by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board after an extensive application and interview process.  

Worsfold is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad during the upcoming academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

“We talk at Northwest Missouri State about being a ‘University of Champions’ and Sara has exemplified that throughout her academic career, in the classroom and on the soccer field,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “We are so proud of Sara and know she will actively embrace the additional learning opportunities that come with the Fulbright teaching assistantship.” 

Worsfold’s path is one she never envisioned just a few years ago.

A native of Papillion, Nebraska, she chose Northwest for three reasons. Her older sister, Christina, was attending the University. That had caused her parents to establish an affinity toward the institution. And she wasn’t ready to give up her passion for soccer.

Worsfold joined the Bearcat soccer team and followed in Christina’s footsteps by pursuing her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. The sisters became roommates while Christina finished her bachelor’s degree in 2013 and began pursuing her master’s degree that fall.

But in December of that year, Christina died suddenly from pulmonary hypertension. The loss of her sister turned Worsfold’s life upside down, and she nearly transferred from Northwest to be closer to her family in Nebraska.

Ultimately, Worsfold concluded Christina would have wanted her to continue her education at Northwest. She draws inspiration from Christina’s memory now in nearly all of her pursuits.

“In part of my Fulbright application I spoke about how going through that made me realize my need to venture out and experience life,” Worsfold said. “I’d already created roots at Northwest through friendships and connections with faculty. I was really invested and it felt like family here, making it easier to stay.”

By her senior season with the Bearcat soccer team, Worsfold had completed the required coursework for her bachelor’s degree. But she wanted to continue challenging herself. 

“It’s funny because I always told (Christina) I’ll never – I didn’t know how she was going to continue school,” Worsfold said.

Yet, Worsfold completed her student teaching at Carriage Hill in Papillion during spring 2016 and took more classes last summer. Worsfold soon realized she could complete her master’s degree within the next year and decided to finish while serving a graduate assistantship at Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School with first grade instructor Laura King.

Then, another door opened for Worsfold.

When Horace Mann fifth and sixth grade instructor Sarah Winans resigned in December, Worsfold believed she could fill the void.

“I went into (Horace Mann Principal Sandy) Seipel’s office, and I told her, ‘I just want to help. I can maybe do part-time in first grade and part-time in fifth and sixth grade to help the new teacher transition in,’” Worsfold said.

Seipel encouraged her to apply for the full-time teaching position, and Worsfold was awarded the job.

“They keep saying, ‘We’re so thankful you were willing to take over,’ but I am saying, ‘No, I’m the one who’s lucky here’ because the innovation that’s happening is unlike anywhere else,” Worsfold said. “We’re constantly doing new things. The collaboration has been transforming. I love learning from all my experienced coworkers and professors upstairs, even from the observation and practicum students who come in my room. It’s a great school, and I’m constantly learning.”

While Worsfold’s relationships and familiarity with Horace Mann played a role in her receiving her teaching position, another connection helped her achieve her status as a Fulbright scholar.

As an undergraduate, Worsfold had been following her four-year plan and needed to take Northwest’s American Historical Survey course. She also needed it to align with her soccer schedule, and connected with Assistant Professor of History Dr. Elyssa Ford.

Worsfold again rose to the challenge, and her hard work made an impression on Ford.

“We just connected,” Worsfold said. “I really enjoyed the rigor of her course.”

So last spring when the application process for the Fulbright award began, Ford reached out to Worsfold to gauge her interest. The combination of teaching and travel caught Worsfold’s attention, and she applied.

“Sara was incredibly hard working and motivated, and she brought that same skill and attitude to her Fulbright application,” Ford said. “The application process is quite labor-intensive, both for the student and for the advisor. Sara was clearly devoted to the process and spent the time to continually craft her essays for a period of several months.”

Last fall, Northwest’s Fulbright committee, consisting of Ford, Study Abroad Program Manager Jeaneth Puriel-Foot, Professor of Political Science Dr. Brian Hesse and Assistant Professor of Geography Dr. Brett Chloupek interviewed Worsfold and verified she was a serious applicant. In March, Worsfold learned she would receive the Fulbright scholarship award.

In addition to her teaching duties, Worsfold must complete a supplemental project and hopes to organize a women’s soccer club or afterschool club aimed at history research.

“I’m really appreciative of Northwest and the fact that we have these opportunities for students,” Worsfold said. “Dr. Ford and everyone on the committee worked very hard, and she just went above and beyond. I’m so thankful for that. This next year will be another opportunity to grow professionally and personally.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Northwest through its Study Abroad Office. Puriel-Foot and Ford serve as the Fulbright program advisers. Worsfold is the second Northwest student in as many years to receive the prestigious scholarship; Delaney Howell, a 2016 Northwest graduate, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship last year and is pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural science and journalism at Texas Tech University.    

For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program at Northwest, visit or contact Puriel-Foot at or Ford at


About the Fulbright Program

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries throughout the world.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the United States Congress to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

In the United States, the Institute of International Education administers and coordinates the activities relevant to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on behalf of the Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.     

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas. In addition, some 4,000 new foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study for graduate degrees, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468