Maki Receives Fulbright Grant, Teaches English in Spain

By Jamie Timbrell '06, MBA '08 and
Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- As a student-athlete at Willamette University the past four years, Ali Maki '09 participated in cross country for four seasons and track and field for three. She competed at the NCAA Division III national championships in cross country three times.

In addition to athletics, she excelled in the classroom. After receiving a prestigious Fulbright grant this spring, she is teaching English at a high school in Madrid, Spain.

Maki also has earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. When she returns to the United States, she will receive the $7,500 scholarship to apply toward a master's degree.

The Willamette cross country and track and field programs have a tremendous history regarding NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, with Maki becoming the sixth Bearcat to be selected for the award since 2004-05. Three WU athletes, Scott Overby, Shannon McGrane and Alicia Andrews were chosen as postgraduate scholars in 2004-05. Natalie Muren earned the award in 2005-06 and Sarah Zerzan received the honor in 2007-08.

Each academic year, a total of 174 student-athletes are granted NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. The total includes 29 male athletes and 29 female athletes from each segment of the athletic calendar (fall, winter, spring).

Maki's enthusiasm for Spain budded in the seventh grade when her sister studied abroad in the city of Granada. It snowballed into a full force passion when she got the chance to follow in her sister’s footsteps and spent the spring of her junior year abroad in the same city.

“When I was in Granada I did a lot of tutoring and I really enjoyed that,” Maki said. “When I came back, I found a non-profit and started teaching English to refugees. I talked to Monique Bourque in Career Services and found out you don’t need to do research for a Fulbright. You can teach also.”

Excited about the prospect of returning to Spain, Maki filled out the on-line Fulbright application, gathered three letters of recommendation, passed a language proficiency exam and wrote a purpose essay.

The people at the Fulbright Foundation loved what they saw and now Maki has returned to Spain yet again, this time for nine months.

As a Spanish and Art History double major, Maki is employing her education to start an after-school program about the history of art. As a former varsity athlete, Maki is staying active in a local soccer league �" a sport she played from kindergarten to her freshman year of high school.

When she returns to the United States, Maki plans to enroll in an art history graduate program with the goal of eventually teaching the subject as a college professor.

“I’d like to look at how art has been used as a cultural tool and combine that with international relations to show how art can bridge relations and cultural gaps,” Maki said.

Maki originally planned to pursue a career as a civil engineer when she entered Willamette, but fate had other plans.

“I took a Japanese art history class taught by Professor Kevin Greenwood my freshman year and loved it. I kept taking art history classes and loved them all and eventually jumped course,” Maki said.

Now, through the help of the Fulbright grant, Maki can combine her interests: art and international education.

Fulbright grants send recent college graduates throughout the world to conduct research, work on creative projects, take classes, pursue an advanced degree or teach English. The Fulbright program coordinates the efforts of its recipients in approximately 150 countries.

For information about the Fulbright and other scholarships, contact Bourque in the Student Academic Grants and Awards Office on the second floor of the Putnam University Center at Willamette.

Story written by Jamie Timbrell '06, MBA '08; NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship information added by Robert McKinney

Fulbright recipient Ali Maki competed at the NCAA national championships in cross country three times.

Fulbright recipient Ali Maki competed at the NCAA national championships in cross country three times.