Fulbright Takes Mason Alumna to South Korea

By Sudha Kamath

Poet Moriah Jones loves language, especially the English language. The recent George Mason University graduate sees teaching as another way to share that love.

Moriah Jones

Moriah Jones

“Teaching is a wonderful way to keep new and fresh what can be taken for granted,” she says.

Thanks to a prestigious Fulbright grant, Jones will be sharing her appreciation of the language with students in Korea for the upcoming academic year. She is one of approximately 800 students and early career professionals across the United States who was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant this year.

The Fulbright grant will provide Jones with a stipend and a homestay experience with a family in Korea, where she will teach conversational English. On July 4, Jones, who earned an MFA in creative writing this spring and a bachelor’s degree in English in 2010, begins a six-week orientation at Jungwon University in Goesan, South Korea, to prepare for the year-long stint.

This isn’t Jones’s first trip to Asia. Born in California, she traveled with her U.S. Navy family to Japan as a child. They lived there for five years, then returned to the United States to live in Virginia. But wherever she went, George Mason was always on her mind.

“My older sister went to Mason, and I often visited her on campus. I was comfortable at Mason and knew that my sister was getting a wonderful education. It was an easy choice for me,” explains Jones.

She stayed busy during her undergraduate years at Mason, working on a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in African American Studies. “I was able to get an abundance of leadership experience,” says Jones. She worked as a Patriot Leader, an office assistant, and an orientation assistant for the Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services. She became a peer supervisor, managing a team of 20 Patriot Leaders and helping organize and execute key orientation programs.

Jones also was an active member of Anointed Voices of Unity Gospel Choir and the campus chapter of NAACP. She held several leadership positions, including vice president and treasurer of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. “All of this leadership experience equipped me to enter the work field as soon as I graduated,” she says.

Jones became a property insurance agent. Two years later, while still managing that full-time job, she returned to Mason to work on an MFA and eventually tutor in Mason’s Writing Center and teach English 101. She also found the support she needed to follow her dream.

“Mason has wonderful faculty,” she says. “Working with them definitely has helped equip me for the Fulbright experience.”

Jones has also garnered honors as an Outstanding Graduate Student in Poetry, an honorable mention for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and a winner of Mason’s Live and Act With Integrity Award and Foster Student Success Award.

“I’ve always been an avid reader,” says Jones. “For a long time that is how I thought of myself. It was a central part of my self-identity. When literature becomes a part of you to the point where it feeds something in you, I think you can’t help but want to give back in some way.”

She adds, “I began to conceive of myself as a writer. Someone who needs to filter the world around them through writing. My writing helps me explore the angles of identity.”

What made her choose Korea? Her interest in that country was sparked by a Korean television program she had watched. “I was particularly impressed with the values central to the narrative, such as the importance of family, earnest endeavor and persistent hard work,” she says. “I sought out both historical and modern takes on Korean culture…. I found myself researching issues of class, poverty and gender in Korea.”

“The Fulbright program is one of the most prestigious, nationally competitive awards open to U.S. graduate students desiring international experience,” says Kay Ágoston, director of Mason’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Fulbright program advisor. “Having advised Moriah during the application process, I believe she will be an outstanding representative of Mason and the United States abroad, and that this will be a transformative experience for her both professionally and personally.”

After a year of immersing herself in South Korean life, Jones will continue her education back here at home. She plans to apply to doctoral programs in literature and continue writing poetry and teaching composition or creative writing.