Jenné Vanessa Nurse of Richmond, who graduated in 2017 with an undergraduate degree in psychology from the College of Arts & Sciences and a graduate degree in elementary education from the Curry School of Education, is one of 16 University of Virginia scholars who will pursue their work on foreign shores with the help of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year – a record number for UVA, which recently was cited among the top producers of Fulbright recipients in the nation. She will be an English teaching assistant in South Africa.
She said her interest in South Africa blossomed when she was in elementary school.
“Growing up, my world view was limited to the corner store bodegas and backyard barbeques typical of Queens, New York,” she said. “But my perspective drastically changed when I met my childhood best friend. Originally from South Africa, she tapped into my imagination with stories of her home country.
“My fixation continued during my time at UVA, when I independently studied South African arts and took courses in African and African-American studies. I look forward to using the skills I’ve gained through my critical exploration, analysis and interpretation of the experiences and traditions of people across the African Diaspora to inform my English teaching assistantship.”
One of Nurse’s priorities is to share her travel experiences, through anecdotes and instruction, with her students.
“Most students I’ve taught, and those I wish to teach once back stateside, have rarely traveled outside of their neighborhoods,” she said. “Venturing abroad seems out of reach – or sometimes worse, never crosses their minds. When I traveled to Ghana, I sent a postcard to the children I student-taught at the time; the excitement that was displayed by a roar of gasps and 17 third-graders jumping up and down was priceless. But, more importantly, it sparked a conversation that encouraged global-mindedness and acceptance.
“Children are the carriers of truth and legacy; by exposing them to such diplomacy through one-on-one interactions, we ensure that the premise of the Fulbright program lives on, outside of the traditional sense, for generations to come.”
At UVA, Nurse received the Image Awards Outstanding Mentor Award, the Curry School’s Caitlin R. Folan Graduate Fellowship, the Ladies in Leadership Award, the Community Foundation of Central Virginia Scholarship, the UVA Harambee Academic Award and the University of Richmond National Pan-Hellenic Council Alumnae Book Award. She was president of the UVA chapter of the NAACP, a Class of 2016 trustee, a senior peer adviser for the Office of African American Affairs Peer Advising Program and a member of SABLE, a secret society on Grounds.
A graduate of Henrico High School, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in education.
Patrice Grimes, associate dean in the Office of African-American Affairs and an associate professor in the Curry School, was Nurse’s academic adviser and foresees great things in her future.
“As a student, Jenné was focused, thoughtful and understood how effective teaching can make a positive difference for all students,” Grimes said. “She has an insatiable curiosity and shares her enthusiasm for learning easily with others. She has a gift for relating to others well – she knows no strangers.”
UVA Sets Record with 16 Fulbright Recipients
UVA scholars and alumni will pursue research and teach English in 13 different countries this year with the support of the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board