Volume XVIII | Issue 2 | Fall 2018
Joseph Foley and his wife, Billie, live in Charlottesville, Virginia, with their dog, Luka. Photo: Courtesy of Joseph Foley

Two Scholars excel after graduation

Ford ReStart Scholar, once homeless, now working on his doctoral degree

Ford ReStart Scholar Joseph Foley is in his first year in a demanding doctoral program in Virginia. Eleven years ago, he was in a very different place. 

“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” 35-year-old Foley says freely. “In my early 20s, I was homeless and going in and out of rehab. When I was 24, before I won the scholarship, I got into recovery and got healthy.”

After a few successful years in the corporate world, Foley decided to go back to school at age 31. “I was in love with history and I knew that teaching was going to be the calling for me,” he says. 

“I was going to give it my very best attempt, but everything, especially books, was so incredibly expensive. If I was really going to pursue becoming an academic, I needed to focus on school. Working full time was not a possibility.”

That became possible after the spring of his first year at Lane Community College, when he won a Ford ReStart scholarship. He went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in history from University of Oregon in 2017.

The Ford ReStart Scholarship Program is need-based and is for adults no more than halfway through their degree program who are seeking an associate or bachelor’s degree.

“My vision for my future really opened up after I won the scholarship,” Foley says. “It’s not just the confidence the Ford group had in me but with the financial support, my goals could change.”

Today, Foley is a doctoral fellow in history at the University of Virginia and is deep into research on the prison-industrial complex. He and his wife of three years, Billie, live in downtown Charlottesville, a town he describes as very similar to Eugene. And, as he did when he lived in Oregon, Foley quickly plugged into community service work. 

“Service work has been a big part of my life since getting healthy,” Foley says. “I did a lot of outreach to the unhoused in Eugene, and I picked that up again in Charlottesville.”

Foley’s ultimate goal is to teach American history at the university level, where he is confident he can connect with students. 

“Over 11 years ago, I was homeless,” he says. “Coming back as a nontraditional student, I share a lot of those same fears as other students, about life and returning to college. The most important thing is just the fact that if you believe in yourself and have good support, anything is possible, no matter what the situation you’re in.

“The Ph.D. program here is incredibly challenging,” he says. “But I’m just kind of shocked that people will pay you to learn. I just have to pinch myself every day. I can’t believe that this is my life.” 

Ford Scholar chosen for prestigious Fulbright award

Hunter Briggs, a Ford Scholar, has been selected for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program. A 2018 graduate of Oregon State University, Briggs will study at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, during the 2018-2019 academic year.

The Eugene native majored in Ethnic Studies at OSU. For his Fulbright year, Briggs will pursue a master’s degree in Criminology in Practice at the University of Leicester. After he returns to the United States, Briggs intends to pursue a joint law and Ph.D. program in preparation for nonprofit and advocacy work. He plans to incorporate arts-based programming into prison reform. 

“We are all incredibly excited for Hunter and this amazing opportunity,” says Denise Callahan, the Foundation’s director of  Postsecondary Success. “He earned this honor through hard work and dedication to his academic path. His future is bright, and we look forward to seeing where his path takes him.”

 Briggs is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research and teach abroad for the 2018-2019 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. 

“Although I am still spinning from the news of the Fulbright, I find great comfort, humility, and happiness thinking of the community of people behind this achievement; this was no individual feat, by any stretch of the word,” Briggs says. “My family and friends, the Fulbright Commission, and all of the amazing supports at The Ford Family Foundation are to thank for this award, for I would not be where I am today without any of them. Thank you for everything, from the bottom of my heart.”

 Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

Return to Issue Index
Share this: