WKU student focuses on foreign service as next Fulbright Scholar

Photo of Bowling Green senior Deven Richardson.

Nicole Ziege

A WKU student who was named one of the university’s next Fulbright scholars in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is setting his sights on the United States Foreign Service after graduation.

Bowling Green senior Deven Richardson, a political science and international affairs major, applied for a research grant through the Fulbright program in order to study for 10 months in Japan, starting this September. He was accepted into the program on March 12.

The Fulbright program is the largest U.S. exchange program for students worldwide, providing them with opportunities in advanced research, international graduate study and teaching.

WKU was named one of the top-producing universities for Fulbright U.S. students by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2017-18, placing it in a tie for fourth place among master’s institutions nationally.

Five WKU students received Fulbright awards in 2017-18, and six students received the awards in 2018-19, according to WKU.

The program awards about 1,900 grants annually and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide, according to the Fulbright program.

Richardson was also named WKU’s first Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program graduate fellow this past November as one of thirty fellows selected nationwide.

The Rangel program prepares students for careers in the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service. Through the fellowship, Richardson will receive $37,500 annually for a two-year graduate degree, paid internships in the U.S. Congress and embassies abroad and opportunities for mentoring and professional development, according to WKU.

To be successful, though, Richardson said he has had to push himself throughout his life. As the eldest of three brothers and the son of a single mother, Richardson said he developed a mind focused on hard work at an early age after his father was incarcerated and removed from his life.

“I honestly think that it did teach me maturity and resiliency to get me to where I’m at today by making sure that I make the right choices in life and putting in hard work to escape the trap of poverty or the trap of not being successful,” Richardson said. “A lot of kids from my background might not have actually really been able to succeed like I have.”

When Richardson came to WKU as a freshman, he joined the Mahurin Honors College with a full tuition scholarship and was mentored by Craig Cobane, Honors College executive director.

Cobane said he would mentor a couple of students every year in the Honors College as they were recruited and continued to mentor those students as they went through their four years at WKU. Through mentoring, Cobane said students like Richardson were helped in making their own decisions and understanding themselves better.

Cobane described Richardson as gracious and always being in a positive mood. He said Richardson continues to let him know about his successes at WKU and thanks him over social media while Cobane is away from campus on a fellowship.

“He’s the most coachable young man,” Cobane said. “He realizes that people have helped him get to where he is today, which has kind of become a lost art in today’s society.”

With Cobane’s help, Richardson decided to study abroad at the Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan, through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in the summer of 2017.

When he returned, Richardson said he knew he wanted to go into international affairs and work in the Foreign Service. His interest in the Foreign Service was also solidified when he participated in the Rangel Summer Enrichment Program after he studied abroad. In this program, Richardson studied U.S. foreign policy at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Timothy Rich, one of Richardson’s political science professors, said he had Richardson in several of his classes and helped him with applying for graduate school and for the Fulbright program.

To apply for the Fulbright program, Richardson began during the summer of last year and had to create a research project and write a personal essay and a statement of purpose in Japanese.

Rich said in the classroom, Richardson is always ready to engage and collaborate and has a strong work ethic.

“He’s ready for it,” Rich said regarding Richardson’s potential to work in the Foreign Service. “He’s always wanting to learn about other places and get a feel for other places, and he’s always thinking about the bigger picture.”

In the future, Richardson said he would love to work as the U.S. ambassador to Japan or work in the Foreign Service in East Asia, because he developed a love for Japanese culture from an early age.

After graduation, Richardson will visit Japan for 10 months as part of his research through the Fulbright program starting in September. He will defer graduate school under his Rangel fellowship until after he returns from his Fulbright research around June 2020.

Starting in the fall next year, Richardson said he will attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for graduate school under his Rangel fellowship.

Edmonson County native and Richardson’s mother Christy Richardson said she has seen her son mature and develop intellectually as he has gotten older. She described him as being tenacious for continuing to push himself and continuing to work hard in life.

“He won’t stop until he gets where he wants to be,” she said. “I hope that he doesn’t settle for anything. I hope he keeps reaching for more and continues learning.”

She said the longest length of time she has been without her son at home is three months, and she is “scared to death” about him moving away to Japan for 10 months. However, she said she doesn’t want to hold him back.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.