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Dec. 20, 2017

McCurren selected to teach in Brazil with Fulbright scholarship

Matthias McCurren

Matthias McCurren

Matthias McCurren, a graduate student at Northwest Missouri State University, will return to Latin American in February and teach English as a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Awarded by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the assistantship is granted after an extensive application and interview process. McCurren, who is on track to complete his master’s degree from Northwest this spring in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), will teach English as a second language in Brazil between February and November 2018. 

“He was an excellent candidate for the ETA award and will be such an asset to his assigned university in northeastern Brazil,” Dr. Elyssa Ford, an assistant professor of history who advises Northwest students for the program. “His fluency in Spanish, strong grasp of Portuguese, TESOL degree and work experience, which includes Teach for America, the Peace Corps internationally, and here at Northwest as a recruiter, will help Matthias positively impact the students in his classroom and be an exemplary representative of what it means to be a Bearcat and to be an American.” 

A native of Jefferson City, Missouri, McCurren earned his bachelor’s degree in international studies with a focus in Latin America from Westminster College in Fulton. He spent several years teaching in Colombia and taught Spanish at a Memphis, Tennessee, high school through Teach for America. In September 2015, he came to Northwest to work as a recruiter, specializing in the Hispanic and Latino populations, in the Office of Admissions.

McCurren applied for the Northwest recruiting position because it appealed to him but said he knew little about Northwest or Maryville. Looking back on his experience at Northwest, he is grateful he did.

“At Northwest, what has been abundantly evident to me is the pride in the institution,” he said. “You feel like you are a part of something a little bit grander, but on the other side of that is that Northwest is also small enough to where you don’t sacrifice that liberal arts, smaller-class-size focus. It really is that kind of sweet spot between a more intimate academic experience but also a pretty vibrant social scene, and also there is a lot of pride within the institution.”

McCurren’s work at Northwest also provided him the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree, and he joined the TESOL program developed by Assistant Professor of Professional Education Dr. Nissa Ingraham for individuals who desire to be certified to teach English as a second language.

The coursework had ignited a desire in McCurren to return to the classroom when Ford connected with him and suggested he consider applying for the Fulbright program. McCurren began working through the application process last spring, and he met with Ford throughout the summer to develop his essays. He interviewed with Northwest’s Fulbright committee and learned in September that he had been selected to receive the grant.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Northwest through the University’s Study Abroad Office. Study Abroad Program Manager Jeneath Puriel-Foot serves as the Northwest program’s adviser with Ford.

“Dr. Ford and Jeneath were huge in both advertising those opportunities and then helping me along through the application process,” McCurren said. “I really cannot thank Dr. Ingraham, Dr. Ford, and Jeneath enough for making students aware of those possibilities and then aiding them through the process. Without their help it would not have been nearly as attainable.”

In addition to a teaching commitment, Fulbright scholars develop programs outside of the classroom to support their experience. McCurren, a musician who has enjoyed performing with his brother in his spare time, plans to incorporate his passion for American music into his lessons, teaching English and American culture through lyrics. He grew up listening to music by famed songwriters such as James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

“Those songs, they are really great narratives of American life,” he said. “They have this two-fold benefit of teaching language but also giving a cultural understanding of what it means to be American.”

McCurren is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad during the 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.

He is the third Northwest student in as many years to receive the prestigious scholarship. Delaney Howell, a 2016 Northwest graduate, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship that same year, and Sarah Worsfold, who completed degrees at Northwest in 2016 and 2017, is teaching at Obchodná Akadémia in Žilina, Slovakia, with the support of a Fulbright award she received last spring.

“We are so excited to see the growth of the Fulbright program at Northwest,” Ford said. “Just a couple of years ago, we had no applicants and now those numbers are increasing every year. The rigor of our academic programs and the quality of our students is easily visible as Northwest Fulbright applicants have attained great success against Ivy League schools and research institutions.”

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 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