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Isabel Russell Named James Madison Fellow

Isabel Russell feature

Isabel Russell (née Ross) has been awarded the highly competitive James Madison Graduate Fellowship that funds graduate school for individuals who desire to become outstanding teachers of the American Constitution at the secondary school level. Russell, a senior history major with minors in education and political science, will earn a master’s degree in early American studies at the University of West Florida, a program she chose in part because of its proximity to where her husband Tyler is stationed for his continued training in the Marine Corps.

Russell, a graduate of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, seeks to emulate her high school and Mount instructors by teaching students how to think critically. “It is vital for the future of American democracy that the public know how to think critically about government and politics,” Russell said. “My primary goal is to impart these skills on my future students.”

Assistant Professor of History Jamie A. Gianoutsos, Ph.D., director of the Mount’s Office of Competitive Fellowships, assisted Russell with the application process and also taught her in two upper-level history classes. She noticed Russell’s keen intellect, interest in the American Constitution and service orientation. Russell went beyond her university courses this year, taking online seminars through the Teaching American History organization on the political thought of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson and on strategies for teaching significant documents in American history.

“Within my classes, Isabel has shown a deep interest in studying politics and political thought while also concentrating on how political culture and events impact the lives of marginalized populations,” wrote Gianoutsos in her letter of recommendation. “Isabel’s own service work and student activities demonstrate that her concern for the marginalized extends far beyond the classroom. She served for four years as a sexual assault victim advocacy volunteer, completed mission work in Togo, Africa, and has volunteered for the past four years with the Special Olympics. Her passion for service will aid her work as an educator.”

In addition to Gianoutsos, Drs. Michelle M.Z. Ohanian, assistant professor in the Division of Education, and Timothy Fritz, associate professor of history, wrote letters of recommendation for Russell. Ohanian praised Russell for promoting “critical thinking among her classmates to explore difficult issues such as the persistence of racial segregation in schools today.”

“I owe a lot to the fellowships programs and the professors who helped me,” said Russell, noting that her Mount experience has exceeded her expectations.

Russell is more than prepared to handle the demands of graduate school. A captain on the Mount’s Division I track & field team, Russell last year not only competed in long jump and high jump in the winter and spring seasons but also planned her wedding, completed student teaching and excelled in her classes. She has passed the PRAXIS tests and hopes to begin teaching once she is certified, likely while she is in graduate school.