Not since before the COVID-19 pandemic have the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University had as many Fulbright grant recipients as there will be this fall. Six recent graduates earned the opportunity, the most since 2019 – which also was the last time anyone from CSB or SJU earned a research award.
Valerie Doze ’21, who graduated in December with a double major in biochemistry and German, in September will move to Gottingen, Germany, on an open study/research award to work at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences.
Five others from CSB and SJU – all 2022 grads – have received English Teaching Assistant awards. They include Sarah Broghammer (Norway), Regan Dolezal (Czech Republic), Noah Knapp (North Macedonia), Kate Schiltz (Spain) and Brigid Smith (Colombia).
“Given the challenges of the global pandemic, I’m thrilled that interest in Fulbright remains high among our students,” said Dr. Phil Kronebusch, coordinator of competitive fellowships for CSB and SJU. “They’re well-positioned to fulfill the Fulbright mission of enhancing mutual understanding between nations. It’s very competitive, but our graduates do well because of their commitment to learning from other countries.”
Some 2020 Fulbrights – including CSB’s Amanda Bjerke – deferred participation to 2021, and the specter of the pandemic overshadowed preparations for two Bennies, Hannah Long ’21 and Mackenzie Carlson ’21, and a Johnnie, Max Ditzler ’21, to serve overseas during the past year as well.
If perhaps anyone deserves the opportunity to travel and study now, it’s Doze. She was supposed to spend the summer of 2020 as an undergraduate research intern at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Nope. She served as an intern, all right, but virtually, from her home in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
“We got sent home in March of 2020,” said Doze, who a month later became the fifth Saint Ben’s student to be named a Truman Scholar – securing at least $30,000 in funding for graduate school. “My Truman proposal was all about climate change and public health. I stressed in my Fulbright application that I want to go (to Germany) now versus after I might get a Ph.D., because the pandemic is happening. It’s an opportunity that comes once in multiple generations to work at a cutting-edge research facility at a time when we’re dealing with such a virus.”
Knapp, this year’s only Fulbright from SJU, visited Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, in December. During his four-day stay, he visited an Orthodox church during evening prayer, attended a Croatian-Catholic Mass, and was invited into a 15th-century mosque by a Muslim taxi driver.
“I witnessed first-hand such diversity as I had not experienced before, even while studying abroad in Greece,” said Knapp, an English major from Aberdeen, South Dakota. “Southeast Europe, or the Balkans, has a fascinating history made up of a diversity of ethnicities and cultures. I made friends with locals, chatted with an English couple over rice pudding, and purchased fruit from an Albanian. Looking back, it was bizarre I met such a variety of people and experienced such a diversity of spaces in just a few days. I believe understanding how all these cultures overlap and combine is what I am looking most forward to.”
Broghammer, an English and communications major from Winona, looks forward to potential Nordic skiing opportunities in Norway. Dolezal, a political science major from Woodbury, expects to be placed at a sport-centric school in the Czech Republic – which fits with her background as a member of the Saint Benedict tennis team.
Schiltz, a Hispanic studies and English major from Minnetonka, will teach in Madrid. Fittingly, among her duties will be working at a writing center. She has worked as a writing tutor since she was a sophomore in high school – including four years in the Writing Center at CSB and SJU.
“I am incredibly excited,” Schiltz said. “I couldn’t study abroad during my time at Saint Ben’s due to COVID, which was a big disappointment. I’m thrilled that I can now enhance my Spanish-speaking abilities while living in such a beautiful, historic, and culturally rich community. And I’m already looking forward to starting my eighth year as a writing tutor. Those institutions are very close to my heart.”
Kate Schiltz, Sarah Broghammer, Noah Knapp and Regan Dolezal all received news of their Fulbright grant awards before graduation from CSB and SJU.
Smith, who recently returned from a semester abroad in Seville, Spain, has spent much of her life living internationally. When she was 4, her family moved to Berlin because of an opportunity for her father to be principal of a German-American school. Two-years later, they moved to Saudi Arabia for a similar opportunity. They lived in Fargo, North Dakota, while she was in junior high, then spent a year in El Salvador and another back in Saudi Arabia before coming to Saint Ben’s.
“I was excited when I saw how many (Fulbrights) we had,” Smith said. “Once I found out I got it, it was a really cool moment realizing it had been a goal of mine since my first year (in college). I remember sitting down with my advisor, Dr. Christi Siver, and Phil Kronebusch, and they kind of laid out the steps I would need to get the Fulbright at the end of my senior year. It seemed so far away, and now it’s amazing to realize it’s here, it’s happening and it’s a steppingstone to the rest of my life.”
The Fulbright Program, considered the flagship international academic exchange sponsored by the U.S. government, has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and other countries since 1946. Each year, Congress appropriates funds to sponsor it, and many foreign governments contribute as well.
Approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals each year from the United States and 160 countries are chosen to participate. Selections are merit-based on academic prestige.
Commissions are funded jointly by the United States and respective host governments and governed by boards composed of citizens of the United States and partner nations.
Fulbright alums from the United States and around the world have gone on to achieve distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, and education. Among the ranks of Fulbright alums are 61 Nobel Prize recipients, 75 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners and 40 current or former heads of state or government.
CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2023-24 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at CSB and SJU.