Graduate student awarded Fulbright

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

John HouaWa Thao (BS '09) is pursuing a master’s degree in education at TU.

Fullbright Scholar John HouaWa ThaoJohn HouaWa Thao, who is pursuing a master’s degree in education at The University of Tulsa, has received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and says he will use the prestigious award to become a “global citizen diplomat” in Laos.

“I will not only be teaching English, but I want to build understanding – a bridge – between Americans and Laotians. I want to be a global citizen diplomat to learn and understand other people’s lives so peace can be accomplished through means of friendship,” he said.

Thao (BS ’09) traveled to Thailand with the Council for International Educational Exchange three years ago, and this fall will be teaching English at the National University of Laos in the capital city of Vientiane.

Thao’s parents, Chue Blong and Choua C. Thao, are Hmong refugees born in Laos who escaped to the United States during the Vietnam War. John Thao was born in the United States and raised in Tulsa. He is eager with this award to share the western culture that he grew up in with the Laotian people and to have the opportunity discover more about his family’s cultural roots. “It’s like a dream come true because I get the chance to enlighten the Laotian people through educational meanings as well learn the cultural values and way of life that my parents grew up with. I am excited and grateful for this award, and I cannot wait to embark on this journey,” Thao said.

Being at the National University of Laos presents a unique opportunity in the form of professional training, but also being able to build relationships and cultural understanding by living with different people in a different country. Thao wants to earn a doctorate in education and go on to serve as a dean of students and a university president with the lofty goal of someday becoming the first Asian-American U.S. president.

The Fulbright grant will cover Thao’s round-trip airfare, living expenses, medical insurance, language programs and other related costs for one year.

Since 1995, TU students have received 48 Goldwater, nine Truman, four Marshall, and eight Udall scholarships, as well as 33 National Science Foundation, seven Department of Defense, eight Fulbright and nine Phi Kappa Phi fellowships.


Mona Chamberlin