The University of Southern Mississippi’s popular rallying cry: “To the Top!” represents a fitting description for the escalating academic career of recent University graduate Katherine “Kati” Perry.
Perry, a Moss Point, Miss., native, has notched her name in the Southern Miss history books as the University’s first Fulbright U.S. Student since 1986. The 2015 Honors College graduate has been selected for an English Teaching Assistantship in Spain for the 2016-17 year.
“I burst into tears before I could read the entire e-mail (announcing her selection), and promptly called my parents to share the news,” said Perry. Though I knew USM had not had recent recipients, I did not realize so much time had passed. It is a true honor to represent the university as a Fulbright U.S. Student. My love for Southern Miss runs deep.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Perry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Southern Miss. She spent a portion of her junior year in Granada, Spain to conduct thesis research on recipe ingredients, examining what they say about historical travel patterns in Spain. The research also helped Perry strengthen her skills in Spanish.
Dr. David Cochran, associate professor of Geography at Southern Miss, helped guide Perry through the exhaustive thesis process. He says that Perry’s work ethic and laser-like focus enabled her to stand out among his many students.
“I consider Kati to be the most gifted undergraduate student I have ever taught at Southern Miss,” said Cochran. “She is incredibly diligent and consistently performs far beyond her undergraduate peers, not to mention many graduate students. Although quite humble in her demeanor, she has a great deal of self-confidence and seems to always be trying to better herself through learning and experience.”
Cochran notes that Fulbright awards are extremely competitive with the vast majority of applicants forced to apply several consecutive years before earning one.
“The fact that Kati got one from her first application is very noteworthy,” said Cochran. “Not only does it say a lot about her, but it also reflects very positively on Southern Miss.”
Perry is currently serving as Content Coordinator at Graphiq, a tech start-up company headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif, that specializes in data aggregation and data visualization. As Content Coordinator, she has created, refined, and now manages the editing and feedback loop with the firm’s team of freelance writers.
As a 2016-17 Fulbright teaching assistant, Perry will work in high school classrooms in Madrid, Spain, helping to build lesson plans for classes taught in English and preparing students for the Model United Nations Conference in spring, 2017. She also plans to use valuable time there on a community engagement project which focuses on the role of food in communities as means for connection.
“I will be working in food kitchens in Madrid studying how people in need sustain themselves physically and emotionally, and how that differs from the traditional understanding of the Spanish kitchen,” said Perry.
Last summer she worked as a White House intern and reverently recalls the experience as a privilege that is almost impossible to adequately articulate.
“I met some of the most brilliant and dedicated people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know,” said Perry. “Perhaps more importantly, I realized that I can truly do anything I set my mind to. I was surrounded by such accomplished and inspiring individuals, all of whom served as walking, breathing reminders that really nothing is out of reach.”
Robyn Curtis, director of Nationally Competitive Awards at Southern Miss, points out that Perry epitomizes the true essence of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
“Kati is a promising young scholar and a very fitting representative of Southern Miss, the state of Mississippi, and the United States. I am confident that she will do us proud,” said Curtis.
Perry is the daughter of Carl and Paula Perry of Moss Point, Miss.
For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit: www.us.fulbrightonline.org/. For information about national scholarship and awards at Southern Miss, contact the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards at 601.266.4533 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/honors/office-nationally-competitive-awards