Eight receive Fulbright grants

Five CSB and SJU seniors and three graduates selected

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May 15, 2014

By Mike Killeen

(From Left) Alex Van Loh, Dan Schmit, Rachel Mullin, Melissa DeOrio, Heather Beckius.

Lizzy Baden '12

Joe Berns '13

Sarah Reisdorf '13

Five seniors and three graduates of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University have received awards from the Fulbright Program.

It is the most Fulbright awards CSB and SJU have received in a given year.

SJU senior Dan Schmit has received a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Austria.

Four other seniors have received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) awards - CSB's Heather Beckius (Brazil), Melissa DeOrio (Turkey) and Rachel Mullin (Malaysia), and SJU's Alex Van Loh (Germany).

Three CSB and SJU graduates have also received Fulbright ETA awards - Lizzy Baden (2012 CSB graduate, Indonesia), Joe Berns (December 2013 SJU graduate, Germany) and Sarah Reisdorf (2013 CSB graduate, Brazil).

The Fulbright ETAs place U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools and universities overseas. They improve foreign students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

Schmit, an applied physics and German double-major from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, plans to study mechatronics - a design process that includes a combination of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, telecommunications engineering, control engineering and computer engineering - at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. Schmit also studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, in the fall of 2012, and knew that "Austria was a place where I would like to study again if I had a chance."

Beckius, an English major from Avon, Minnesota, has always had an eye on receiving a Fulbright award since learning about the award as a first-year student. "I chose Brazil because of its fascinating status as an emerging superpower as well as its ethnic and environmental diversity. From what I've read of Brazil, few countries can match its robust, intoxicating sense and style of life." She hopes the Fulbright will help her plans to obtain a graduate degree in speech pathology as a bilingual provider.

DeOrio, a political science major from Verona, Wisconsin, wants to use her Fulbright to gain more international experience. "Personally, I felt like it would be a perfect way for me to find out whether or not I would be interested in working in other countries in the future," she said. DeOrio previously worked for the SETA Foundation, a Turkish think tank, during an internship in 2013 in Washington, D.C. "The Fulbright seemed like the perfect way to experience living in the country," DeOrio said.

Mullin, a history and political science double-major from Humboldt, South Dakota, made a study abroad trip to China, where her research project on the Chinese education system fueled her passion for the topic. Mullin considered applying for a number of post-graduate programs, including the Peace Corps. But she settled on the Fulbright because it made the most sense to her. "I realized Malaysia was a country that I knew nothing about, but had a lot of interesting things to explore. As a result, I thought, 'Why not?' "

Van Loh, a biology major from Duluth, Minnesota, has always enjoyed learning foreign languages, so he "wanted the opportunity to pass on the pleasure of learning by teaching English to German students." He knows this experience will be different from his study abroad trip to Austria. "I know there will be times that will be difficult and uncomfortable, but I'm kind of looking forward to them," he said. "I'm excited to push my limits again. I think that's when learning happens the most."

Baden, who received degrees in French and peace studies from CSB, currently teaches English as a second language at the Adult Learning Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. "Teaching a language is inevitably fused with teaching a culture," Baden said. "Language shapes the way we see the world, and learning a new language opens your eyes to seeing the world around you in a whole new way." She hopes someday to encourage language learning as a way to create peace and understanding.

Berns, who received a degree in K-12 instrumental music education from SJU, plans to teach music when he returns from the German state of Baden-Württemberg. "It is imperative that teachers not only be open to and accepting of new ideas, but also that they persuade others to do likewise," Berns said. "Every unique bit of life experience prepares me for this job." He also plans to play with a community orchestra, take music lessons and collect and transcribe as much local folk music as he can.

Reisdorf, who received a degree in Hispanic studies from CSB, took an English as a second language class her last semester, sparking her interest in pursuing work with English language learners. "As Brazil draws the attention of the world while readying to host the World Cup this year and the Summer Olympics in 2016, I am eager to see the dynamics of the country playing host to the world and the possibilities that exist for multinational engagement and cooperation," she said. Reisdorf's program begins in March 2015.     

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, is the flagship international educational program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries.

The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the U.S. also provide direct and indirect support.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 155 countries.

College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2015-16 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU.