Baylor Senior International Studies Major Selected for Fulbright ETA to Germany

John Ryan Isaacson
John Ryan Isaacson
April 19, 2018

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WACO, Texas (April 19, 2018) – John Ryan Isaacson, a senior international studies major from Muleshoe, Texas, has been selected to receive a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Germany.

Isaacson is among three Fulbright recipients this spring and Baylor’s 53rd Fulbright recipient since 2001. A 2013 graduate of Farwell High School, he is the son of Dieter and Kristine Isaacson of Muleshoe.

As the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright ETAs are placed in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers while also serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States. Beginning this fall, Isaacson will serve as a Fulbright ETA in Germany.

“I first heard about the Fulbright ETA at an Ampersand meeting with Dr. Kirsten Escobar and Dean Betsy Vardaman. It was during my freshman year at Baylor, and I was fresh off my gap-year as a Rotary exchange student in Hannover, Germany,” Isaacson said. “I really loved my time in Germany, so I thought the Fulbright was a fantastic way to help me get back there. Germany is an epicenter of food, culture, history and beautiful cities and towns and country. After four years at Baylor, I think I can better appreciate both the time I had there and the many things I want to do when I return. I also have more German under my belt, so hopefully I can really improve my language skills.”

Following his Fulbright year in Germany, Isaacson plans to attend law school and eventually work for the U.S. State Department.

Many Baylor students choose the University for its top-tier academics, its smaller classes and student-to-faculty ratio of 15 to 1 and its vision and history Christian mission. It was no different for Isaacson.

“I had a good feeling about Baylor after touring,” he said. “The fact that it was a smaller school compared to some of the state schools in Texas was also a big draw. However, Baylor really has surpassed all of my expectations. Truly, I have enjoyed my time here so much. I really believe that had I gone to another university, I would not have received the Fulbright or had as many great college experiences.”

Isaacson will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, an interdisciplinary major in the department of political science. Students have the opportunity to learn about regions of the world as well as social, political and economic issues confronting actors in the international environment. The interdisciplinary curriculum, combined with foreign language study, offers students flexibility in planning their course of study in consultation with a faculty adviser.

After learning of his Fulbright selection, Isaacson was thankful for many of the Baylor faculty members who “have helped me along the way.”

“Dr. Kirsten Escobar has gone through so many of my law school and Fulbright application drafts. If there is no Dr. Escobar, there is no John Ryan getting the Fulbright,” he said. “Then there are the professors who wrote my recommendation letters: Dr. Ivy Hamerly, Dr. Peter Campbell and Dr. Justin King. Dr. Hamerly in particular is my thesis adviser, and she has been so helpful in helping me complete this big thesis project while also helping me think about what I want to do after Baylor. There is also the entire German department, particularly Dr. Jennifer Good, who did my language evaluation for the Fulbright. Lest I forget Dean Vardaman, Dr. Richard Jordan and many other professors who have helped me along the way.”

Hamerly, senior lecturer in political science and director of the International Studies Program, said she has been privileged to teach and advise Isaacson.

“A challenge like writing an honors thesis can reveal a lot about a person’s character. John Ryan is a remarkably patient, kind and honorable person,” Hamerly said. “As I advised him on his honors thesis, I saw his careful, deliberate process as he reads challenging texts and thinks hard about hypotheses to test and interpretations of the evidence. He also is committed to public service. It is not clear yet where this commitment will take him, but I can see him formulating policy on the legislative side or implementing policy in a federal agency. With his imagination, intelligence, self-discipline and virtuousness, I know he will make a constructive contribution to the world.”

Other Baylor professors in political science, German, religion and the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) were thrilled to hear about Isaacson’s Fulbright ETA.

Campbell described the senior as “one of the most intelligent, articulate and hardworking students I have ever worked with.” Isaacson assisted the political science professor on a research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In addition, under Campbell’s guidance, Isaacson’s paper on Bismark and German foreign policy for a course on international politics was published by the National Honor Society for International Relations in its undergraduate Journal of International Relations.

“I constantly tell my students that all good writing is really revising. John Ryan took that to heart and produced a really first-rate piece of academic writing,” Campbell said. “He is a young man of integrity and character, and I am very pleased that he will be representing Baylor internationally. A university dedicated to academic excellence and Christian virtue could not ask for a better ambassador.”

As a Fulbright ETA, Isaacson will be immersed in the culture, which will provide him with profound insight into the German people and a chance to learn about himself as he steps out of the university life at Baylor where he has thrived, said Good, director of the University Scholars Program and associate professor of German. His language study will be accelerated, she said, and he will have the opportunity to talk with Germans about what matters to them and learn more about the relationship of Germany and the United States, as well as Germany’s position in the world.

“I am thrilled that John Ryan has been selected for the Fulbright ETA to Germany both because of the wonderful example of a serious and intellectually curious individual that he is, and because he has both the knowledge and the wisdom to excel in Germany and this position,” Good said. “Working with John Ryan as a professor and mentor has been so positive because he listens well, works very hard and is always interested in knowing more. I hope that John Ryan knows how proud we are of the work that he has done at Baylor, in German and International Studies, and in his thesis. I have no doubt that he will be a favorite teacher next year, sharing his curiosity about the world and its people with his students. And I know that he’ll find new and exciting ways to learn even more as he embraces this important role that he’ll play in students’ lives.”

Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists and teachers. They include 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 71 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients and thousands of leaders across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Since its inception in 1946, more than 380,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the Program.

“John Ryan’s hopes for public service reflect a strong moral compass,” said Jordan, assistant professor of political science. “He seems to care much more about the character of those who hold high office than their ideology or political views. He wants to bring a renewed moral clarity to American politics. I hope he succeeds.”

“John Ryan is the student every Baylor professor wants,” said King, part-time lecturer in religion and the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC). “He’s intelligent, and he works hard, beyond hard. He is exactly what Baylor needs, and he is exactly what can move Baylor to the next level. If every student was willing to think – critically – about the questions John Ryan is willing to think about, the world would be a much different place... a much more socially just place. I’m grateful to have had John Ryan in class. He made me a better teacher, and I hope – somehow – I helped him become a better student.”


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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