CofC Honors Students Return from Prestigious Fulbright Summer Institute Trips to the UK

College of Charleston Honors College students Catie Hutchison and Jasmine Shabazz have returned from prestigious Fulbright Summer Institute trips to the UK

Catie Hutchison and Jasmine Shabazz received places on a Fulbright Summer Institute to study at the University of Dundee and SOAS, University of London, respectively, on one of the most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programs operating world-wide. The US-UK Fulbright Commission is the only bi-lateral, transatlantic scholarship program, offering awards and summer program for study or research in any field, at any accredited US or UK university. The Commission is part of the Fulbright program conceived by Senator J William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. Award recipients and summer program participants will be the future leaders for tomorrow and support the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. Catie Hutchison and Jasmine Shabazz were among approximately 50 students nationally selected from a strong applicant pool to experience the UK on a 3 week summer program.

The theme of the University of Dundee program was Scotland: Identity, Society, and the New Enlightenment. Through lectures on history, literature, and culture as well as trips to the sites of significant events in the country’s history, the program sought to introduce students to what it means to be Scottish. Through the lens of both Scottish history and the current political atmosphere in the wake of Brexit, the program sought to provide insight on what the future of Dundee and Scotland might be, as well as what being Scottish means, in the 21st century.

“It was such an honor to receive the scholarship to the summer institute,” Catie shared. “I was beyond excited to get to visit such a beautiful country and get to see the impacts of the recent political decisions, like the 2014 independence referendum and the Brexit decision, firsthand. More than that though, the program was an amazing opportunity to study Scotland beyond just its politics and to learn about the culture and history in which the country is so rich.”

The SOAS, University of London program covered a theme of Development Studies and Politics. Jasmine took a Feminist Political Economy and Development course through the School of Oriental and African Studies. SOAS is the only higher education institution in Europe specializing in the study of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and contains one of the five National Research libraries in the UK.

Speaking to her summer experience, Jasmine notes that “SOAS is a center for international engagement; all of my classmates and professors came from different countries and shared their experiences with working in non-governmental organizations and even working in sectors of the United Nations. We used feminist economic theories to show how policies often create a bigger burden for women, especially for those of color and those residing in low-income households. Learning about the domestic and international policies that harm women, particularly in the Global South, made me realize just how much public health policies play a role in encouraging more women to participate in the labor force. These policies focus on lessening the time spent on reproductive care and economic disadvantages such as walking several miles to obtain water daily.”

On Saturdays, Jasmine’s host institution organized day trips for the Fulbright Summer Institute participants to Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Oxford, and Cambridge with their peer mentors. Each city that they visited targeted cultural and historical backgrounds especially in relevance to the monarchy. Throughout the weeks, SOAS also organized daily excursions to the British Museum, the British Library, the London Eye, a Thames River Cruise, and a few other trips that were associated with the summer classes. “Although the trips organized by SOAS kept us busy,” Jasmine explained, “we still found plenty of time to go to Brighton for a beach day, watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, attend a poetry slam in East London, and see plenty of museums including the Tate Modern Museum.”

Catie and Jasmine learned about this opportunity through the College’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. Dr. Vander  Zee, who heads the office, helped Catie and Jasmine navigate the intensive application process, working through multiple drafts of their personal statements and staging a series of mock interviews once the two were identified as finalists. “It’s so gratifying to have not just one but two students selected this year,” Vander Zee said, noting that the College has had five recipients in the past five years, a consistent record of success that is all the more impressive given how competitive these awards are, with roughly 50 awarded per year to freshmen and sophomores across the country. “This is a perfect gateway award for the kinds of ambitious and brilliant students that choose the Honors College as their academic home,” Vander Zee added.

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission said: “In the 70th year of the Special Relationship, we can celebrate American students seeking study abroad opportunities through our Summer Institute program. This is a unique opportunity to get a taste of British higher education while interacting with students from across the globe. As part of a diverse and high-achieving cohort, these students will gain immensely from the experience.”

The Commission selects participants through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards the Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Program and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Fulbright Summer Institutes cover all participant costs. In addition, Fulbright summer participants receive a distinctive support and cultural education program including visa processing, a comprehensive pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and opportunity to join our alumni networks.

About the US-UK Fulbright Commission:

The US-UK Fulbright Commission was created by treaty on 22 September 1948. The Fulbright Program aims to foster mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between the US and the UK. This it achieves through its Awards program for US and UK citizens and through its EducationUSA Advisory Service. The Fulbright Commission offers grants at postgraduate and postdoctoral level for study in any discipline and at any accredited institution in the US and UK, as well as a number of special exchange programs for shorter projects or for younger scholars. It is funded by a range of partners including leading US and UK universities, charities and both governments. For more information visit

About the Summer Institutes:

Each year, the Commission supports around 60 UK and US undergraduate students to undertake a demanding academic and cultural summer programs at leading institutions in the US and UK respectively. This year we hosted the following nine Summer Institute programs at host institutions across the UK: AIFS Summer Institute at Shakespeare’s Globe; University of Bristol Summer Institute; Durham University Summer Institute; University of Exeter Summer Institute; King’s College London Summer Institute; Queen’s University Belfast Summer Institute; SOAS, University of London Summer Institute; Scotland Summer Institute (at the University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde); and the Wales Summer Institute (at Cardiff University, Bangor University and Aberystwyth University). For more information visit


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