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Dominican Alumni Receive Fulbrights to Teach English Overseas

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Two recent Dominican University graduates, Phillip Yang and Jeffrey Tarrasch, have been granted the opportunity to teach overseas through the Fulbright Program. The two will be travelling to Taiwan (Phillip) and Spain (Jeffrey), where they will serve as educators to fulfill the Fulbright mission of developing international understanding between the United States and other nations. Prior to commencing their work under the Fulbright Award, Phillip and Jeffrey will embark on a month-long adventure travelling through various countries in Asia.

Both Phillip and Jeffrey have had fascinating journeys which ultimately guided them to the Fulbright Award. Phillip graduated from high school in Texas in 2010 and went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin. Much like many other college students, it took Phillip some time to figure out his graduating major. He started out in mathematics and moved on to psychology one year later. Ultimately, as much as he enjoyed studying psychology, he felt that he wanted to pursue something more defined. Thus, he pursued and graduated with a B.S. in Neurobiology in 2014.

The summer after graduation, Phillip went on to work at the Stanford University School of Medicine/Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research as a research student/assistant under Dr. Richard W. Aldrich, whom Philip considers to be a wonderful mentor in the field of life science.

After his first year at Stanford, he felt burned out by the immense number of hours he was spending on research in the lab. Although he published a peer-reviewed paper, he felt that he needed to do more to help the world and he started looking at medical schools.

Concurrently, Philip started looking into Teach for America (TFA). He had heard about TFA from a former high school classmate who was involved with the program. The two went to a low-income high school, from which only about 10% of students ultimately pursued higher education. Like his friend, Philip decided to join TFA in order to make a difference in the lives of kids in low-income schools much like his own.

Through TFA, Phillip was assigned to teach at the Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School and began working on his M.A. in Teaching at Dominican.

"The thing that I am most thankful for from Dominican, is the mentors. Greg [Harman] and Susan [McDonough] have been absolutely phenomenal in showing a different perspective on what social justice teaching looks like," Phillip reflected.

In the meantime, he also applied for and received the Fulbright award. He will be working in the English department of a junior high school in Taiwan in various capacities for the next academic year. Per the requirements of the Fulbright Award, Phillip will also pursue a community service project in which he will get involved in the mental health community.

"I would love to learn more about Asian mental health. There is a huge stigma on mental health – not just in Asia, but in America as well – and I'd like to learn more about the background, what are some of the treatments and their community there and see if I can get involved in maybe giving some education or providing a different perspective from an American standpoint," he explained.

Phillip also hopes to bring a new understanding of cultural identity to the Taiwanese community with which he will work. Being Asian American himself, he wants to explain and explore with his students and the local community what it means to be Asian in America or what it means to be Asian-American. 

"I think that in Asia – in China, and probably in Taiwan too – when they think of Americans, they think of blonde hair and blue eyes. And that's not the case because, America is a cultural melting pot."

After returning from Taiwan, Phillip will pursue medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Like Phillip, Jeffrey made his way to Chicago from California, where he grew up, through TFA. He graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2014. Following graduation, Jeffrey became a research assistant at the University of Michigan.

After his work at the University of Michigan, Jeffrey joined TFA and was assigned to teach earth sciences and chemistry at the CICS ChicagoQuest charter school. He also pursued his M.A. in Secondary Education at Dominican University and graduated just last semester.

Jeffrey reflected on his time at Dominican fondly, stating that his professors had been incredibly supportive and helpful, providing him with a substantial amount of one-on-one time, support and insights into the struggles of the education field. Furthermore, he was able to implement what he was learning into his work at CICS ChicagoQuest.

This coming academic year, the Fulbright Award is sending Jeffrey to teach in a private Catholic school in Madrid, Spain. He will serve as a teaching assistant and meet with small groups of students to teach them English. He will also tutor students privately.

For his community service component, Jeffrey plans to start a book club through the school or a local community center. He would like local residents to explore the American identity with him through literature, as he is an American who does not necessarily fit into the mold of what a stereotypical American should be. Thus, he wants to broadcast the diversity in America and our ability and willingness to live together as one.

Jeffrey will attend medical school at Washington University in St. Louis' School of Medicine upon his return from Spain.

Prior to heading off to their career adventures in Taiwan and Spain, Phillip and Jeffrey will take a tour around Asia. They plan to visit Tokyo, Japan, where they hope to catch a sumo wrestling match, as well as Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Shanghai and Hong Kong, China, staying in each country for three to five days. The two plan to document their travels by running a blog, which will be posted on DU Connect in August.