WKU education professor selected to participate in a prestigious international program


Jack Dobbs

Beckie Stobaugh, an associate professor in the School of Teacher Education, has been named as a Fulbright Scholar, and will go to Colombia this summer to coach instructors on formative assessment. “I think the purpose of Fulbright us that our countries can support the exchange of information and ideas,” Stobaugh said. “That’s what I look forward to doing as I travel and learn.”

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

Beckie Stobaugh has been teaching throughout her life, even when she didn’t realize she was. As a young woman, Stobaugh fell into a teaching opportunity and has loved it ever since. In just a few short weeks Stobaugh will take her love of teaching to Cartagena, Columbia as a Fulbright Specialist to help other academics evaluate and improve the learning experience of their own students.

In August 1946, Congress created the Fulbright Program, which is named after Senator J. William Fulbright. It has since become the largest foreign exchange program in history.  The goal of the program is to improve international relations, and cultural diplomacy between citizens of the U.S and people throughout the world.

The Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries around the globe. The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S Department of State sponsors the Fulbright Program and receives funding from Congress via annual appropriation bills.

The Fulbright Specialist Program was an expansion created in 2001 by the U.S Department of State and the ECA. The program pairs U.S. academics with an institution in a foreign country that needs help within the academic’s expertise. 

Stobaugh, an associate professor in the School of Teacher Education, was selected for the Fulbright Specialist Program after originally applying three years ago. Stobaugh will coach instructors at the University of Cartagena in Colombia as they are working to improve their use of formative assessment, a teaching strategy where instructors check the student’s progress learning in the class, during her 15 day trip to Columbia. 

Because of COVID-19, Stobaugh has been in contact with officials at the university in Colombia to prepare for her trip and learn about their guidelines.

“There’s a lot of excitement, but of course with COVID I’m a little nervous,” Stobaugh said. “I just wanted to make sure that was all going to be good, and to make sure that I had the skill set that they really wanted.”

From teaching at her church as a high school student to teaching several grade levels from middle school to high school students, Stobaugh has developed a passion for teaching and for helping other teachers. “My earliest experience was when we had a church music director leave,” Stobaugh said. “We had a children’s program that I loved that nobody wanted to continue. Nobody told me ‘No,’ I was a freshman in high school, and I said ‘Well I’ll be the director.” 

Prior to working at WKU, Stobaugh received a lot of training in the classroom teaching at several different levels, from middle school to high school. Stobaugh later served as principal of Barren County High School and Drakes Creek Middle School. 

“At an early age, I was working with kids early on, and I enjoyed that immensely,” Stobaugh said. “I think over the years, I just really enjoy it and then I also but equally love helping teachers get better at their craft.”

Her love of international travel grew when Stobaugh was a foreign exchange student in Japan during her freshman year of high school.

Stobaugh has traveled to several different countries, including China and parts of Africa to help with teaching strategies, and she has helped ROTC teachers at WKU learn better teaching styles. 

“It’s so inspiring to give some strategies to help another faculty,” Stobaugh said. “Then see them go into their classrooms and come back and say, ‘Oh, it, you know, my students really love that.’ There’s nothing like it.”

Stobaugh is planning on applying to the Fulbright Specialist program again after her trip is over.

“I’m looking forward to learning about the culture there and differences between their educational experience and our educational experience,” Stobaugh said. “There’s always things you can learn from them, about what they do differently, so I’m looking forward to learning.”

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy