Inspired by Polish-born scientist, Allison Grodnick hopes to follow in those footsteps

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July 16, 2020

By Mike Killeen

Allison Grodnick

Editor’s note: This feature story on Allison Grodnick is the third of five stories that will appear this summer on the CSB/SJU website featuring graduates who received awards from either the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or the Fulbright Austria-United States Teaching Assistant program.

Marie Curie, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, was a woman of “firsts.”

The Polish-born physicist and chemist was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields. She was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes, and was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.

Curie’s legacy and impact is something 2020 College of Saint Benedict graduate Allison Grodnick is inspired by.

Grodnick, from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, graduated with a degree in biochemistry from CSB. She was named a Fulbright ETA, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She will teach at the Medical University of Łódź, Poland beginning Jan. 8, 2021.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as ETAs in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international 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.

Since 2013, 39 students or graduates from CSB and Saint John’s University have earned U.S. Fulbright ETA awards.

“Poland was home to the impactful scientist Marie Curie,” Grodnick said. “As a woman in science, I look up to Curie. She is an inspiration to me and to the progression of gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

Like Curie, it turns out Grodnick has her own “first.” She is believed to be the first CSB or SJU ETA to teach in Poland.

Grodnick hopes to bring some of the skills she learned at CSB and SJU to her Fulbright work in Poland.

“CSB and SJU have both prepared me for this ETA award as well as made this opportunity possible,” Grodnick said. “I had the invaluable opportunity to work as a teaching assistant (TA) and tutor for the chemistry department for three years at CSB and SJU. This experience was what first inspired me to want to pursue teaching as well as pushed me to grow as a teacher.

“One impactful professor that I worked with through the TA/tutor experience was Dr. Alicia Peterson (assistant professor of chemistry),” Grodnick said. “She encouraged me to become involved with the Chemistry Club on campus as well as with events in the community, too.

“I hope to bring what I learned from her with me to Poland. The skills and experiences that I had through being a TA/tutor will be very helpful during my time in Poland.”

Grodnick was also inspired by Dave Mitchell, professor of biology at CSB and SJU.

“He is a great example of how to connect with students and make class exciting each day,” Grodnick said. “His passion for teaching and science is inspiring. I hope to be able to inspire and be a mentor to my students, too.”

Although she has never been to Poland before, Grodnick studied abroad during spring semester 2019 in South Africa. With the help of Matt Lindstrom, professor of political science at CSB and SJU and her study abroad director, she learned “firsthand how exciting and valuable it is to learn about new cultures.

“He (Lindstrom) did a phenomenal job at encouraging my classmates and I to immerse ourselves in South African culture, connect with people and to learn through our experiences both inside and outside of the classroom,” Grodnick said.

“I hope to be able to connect with my students, as well and make them excited to learn. Through my experience at CSB and SJU, I have learned first-hand how impactful a mentor can be. I hope to inspire students like my professors have inspired me.”

Grodnick eventually hopes to become a college professor following graduate school at the University of Minnesota.

“I think the ETA program in Poland will greatly influence my future aspirations as it is a stepping stone toward my dream job,” Grodnick said. “Additionally, it will push me to learn about more than science.

“I was drawn to this program specifically for its emphasis on science as well as by the rich history and culture of Poland,” Grodnick said. “After learning more, I found that this is a great opportunity to immerse myself into a new culture, connect with new people and to start to develop teaching skills. While I have never been to Poland before, I am excited to explore its historic cities, beautiful national parks and experience Polish culture.

“I will have the opportunity to learn about a new culture, and I hope to be able to implement what I learn through my Fulbright experience in my future career as well as remain connected to Poland,” she said.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2021-22 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of Competitive Fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gutsch, assistant director of the Academic Center for Excellence and Success at CSB and SJU.