WCSU student awarded Fulbright scholarship
Graduate student says Western put him on right track
DANBURY, CONN. — As soon as Kevin Gaughan graduated from high school, he headed west to start college far from his New Fairfield home. When he got to Arizona, he started hanging out with the wrong crowd, ignoring his studies and getting into trouble.
After his family stepped in, Gaughan returned home to start classes at Western Connecticut State University and said the challenging environment and supportive professors made all the difference. After graduating with a 4.0 GPA in 2009, Gaughan enrolled in Western’s graduate program where he also maintains a 4.0 GPA.
But his success story doesn’t end there. This spring Gaughan, 27, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study social entrepreneurship in the small, eastern European nation of Estonia beginning this fall. He and his new bride, Elyse Huseas, will live abroad for 18 months.
“This research will result in helping underprivileged people by using ground-breaking types of business models,” said Gaughan, who will earn his master’s degree in history from WCSU in August. “By trying to find connections between universities, communities and social entrepreneurship we can learn how a university can extend itself to the community to benefit everyone.”
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program is the largest United States international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. There were approximately 6,000 grants awarded in 2008 to U.S. students, teachers, professionals, and scholars to study, teach, lecture and conduct research in more than 155 countries and to their foreign counterparts to engage in similar academic activities in the U.S.
Gaughan, who majored in political science as an undergraduate and history in the graduate program, said that he learned more from his professors than from text books, specifically, Professor of Political Science Dr. Chris Kukk, Professor of Anthropology Dr. Robert Whittemore and Associate Professor of History & Non-Western Cultures Dr. Wynn Wilcox.
“The courses that I’ve taken have given me a wide variety of knowledge,” Gaughan said, “but the thing I take away most from my education is learning how to interact meaningfully with people. Drs. Kukk, Wilcox and Whittemore have been excellent.”
He credits Whittemore with helping him prepare his Fulbright application, Wilcox for challenging him and Kukk for taking him from a floundering teen to a successful academic.
“Dr. Kukk is genuine. I remember taking that first class with him and he told me I had potential,” Gaughan said. “He took me under his wing because he saw something in me beyond what I saw, which was a kid with no confidence who wasn’t that smart. He told me I had potential. It took me by surprise because I knew how many people respected him. For the next two years, I tried to live up to the standard he held me to and it really paid off.”
Gaughan said he’s well-prepared thanks to Western and now looks forward to seeing how another culture lives, what they value and “how that’s different than what I’m used to. I’m doing this because I’ve always felt I was missing something. By studying international politics, I’m learning about all of these places and I’ve never experienced another culture.”
Kukk said that the Fulbright is a great experience for students such as Gaughan, as it presents an opportunity to expand on what they’ve already learned.
“Fulbright and Kevin are a perfect match,” Kukk said. “In the words of St. Augustine, the world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page. Kevin realizes he only has one page of life; the Fulbright opens the rest of the book for Kevin.”
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.