St. Olaf College | News

Seven Oles win Fulbright fellowships

Seven St. Olaf College seniors and recent graduates have been awarded Fulbright fellowships for 2020–21.

In addition to the four members of this year’s graduating class who received the Fulbright fellowship, three recent St. Olaf graduates who applied through the college received the prestigious award as well.

Four received the prestigious award to conduct research, and the other three for English teaching assistantships.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is sponsored by the Department of State and awards more than 1,500 grants to U.S. students every year. The program operates in more than 140 countries, seeking to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries” and “contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.” Program participants are chosen based on many factors, including leadership potential and academic merit.

As with many international travel and fellowship programs, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the timeline for this year’s Fulbright recipients. Current Fulbright programs are suspended, and most 2020–21 Fulbright fellowships won’t begin until January 2021 at the earliest (compared to a typical fall start date for most programs). 

In addition to the seven Oles awarded Fulbright fellowships, four St. Olaf seniors — Hannah Chapman-Dutton ’20, Noah Foster ’20, Neetij Krishnan ’20, and Vanessa Miller ’20 — have been named alternates and could receive a Fulbright if a spot becomes available due to the changing plans of this year’s recipients. 

“All Fulbright applicants worked diligently on the application process with support from St. Olaf faculty and staff members. While it is unknown what will happen for the recipients of the 2020-21 Fulbright awards, their accomplishments should be celebrated,” says Associate Professor of Education Heather Campbell, who serves as the co-director of external fellowships and scholarships.

The St. Olaf Fulbright recipients and their projects:

Alden Bostwick ’20 was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position in the Czech Republic. A music major at St. Olaf, she has taught English as a second language within the United States and thrives on building meaningful connections with students. She’s hoping her time in the Czech Republic will increase her understanding of how to break down barriers between cultures and promote peace and positivity. While there, she hopes to immerse herself in Czech music culture, join a choir, and compose as much as possible. She also hopes to continue her work with immigrants like she has done within the United States.

Kristina Butler ’17 received a Fulbright to conduct research in Ecuador. A music and Spanish major at St. Olaf, she plans to create a holistic musical anthology of Ecuadorian folk music. She will join a research team at La Universidad de las Artes in Guayaquil on a separate but related project titled “Archivística y patrimonio musical.” Her role in this project will be to assist with finding and transcribing music, as well as performing and recording these works to create the “Fondo Virtual.” To further ground her research, she will take quena and zampoña (instruments indigenous to the Andes region) lessons through the folkloric ensemble Chumichasqui, participate in university musical ensembles, and conduct interviews with musicians and music appreciators. She will also audit graduate classes in the ‘Musical Composition and Sound Arts’ and in the ‘Politics, Culture, and Arts Development’ master’s degree programs at La Universidad de las Artes.

Jose Gomez-Romero ’20 was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position in Thailand. A studio art major at St. Olaf who will graduate with a teaching license in visual arts, he aims to use this Fulbright experience to build a deeper understanding of the various cultures found in Thailand and use this understanding to create connections with Thai students in the United States. Having spent his summers working for the TRIO Upward Bound college readiness program, he realized how prominent the presence of families from Southeast Asia is in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Knowing his future work as a teacher will involve supporting these students as they learn English as a second language, he hopes to gain valuable experience in Thailand.

Henry Henson ’20 received a Fulbright to conduct research in Denmark and Greenland. A biology and environmental studies major at St. Olaf, he will spend the fall semester at the Arctic Research Centre at Aarhus University in Denmark studying how element cycling and population ecology will be affected by a changing climate. In the spring, he will build upon this experience by studying at the Greenland Climate Research Centre in Nuuk, Greenland. While there, he will perform field work evaluating the status of biological resources critical to life in Nuuk. Additionally, he will have the opportunity to collaborate with local Kalaallit community members to learn about these changes from both traditional and western perspectives. This holistic education will prepare him to collaborate with other indigenous groups, who are often the first to face direct consequences of climate change yet are often left out when discussing solutions. Upon returning to the U.S., he will complete his Ph.D. in Polar Earth Science and work to bridge the gap between climate scientists and the communities that are most affected. 

Jenna Richter ’20 received a Fulbright to conduct research in India. A biology major at St. Olaf, she will work with Dr. Madhusmita Das at the Schieffelin Institute of Health Research and Leprosy Centre in Karigiri, Tamil Nadu, India to determine whether patients who complete multidrug therapy (MDT) to treat leprosy may still be infectious. She will analyze samples from leprosy patients during and after MDT treatment to detect the presence and viability of Mycobacterium leprae bacteria. If bacteria from these patients retain the ability to infect new hosts, researchers and physicians may need to alter the dosage or use of MDT in the future to help prevent the spread of leprosy.

Melanie Thompson ’19 received a Fulbright to conduct research in China. While at St. Olaf, she majored in Asian studies and created an individual major in Visual Storytelling. As a Fulbright fellow, she will work directly with Sustainable Natural Resource Management for Adequate and Safe Food Production (SURE+) researchers on a yearlong study of environmental governance evolution in rural Chinese villages. She will do ethnographic research in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, conducting interviews with local stakeholders and collecting other qualitative data by attending community meetings and participating in development projects. In addition to producing a scholarly report of their findings, she will help create a documentary to explain the “Chinese story” of rural sustainable development.

Jame See Yang ’19 was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position in Indonesia. The program in Indonesia has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she will be an alternate for another Fulbright position. A theater major at St. Olaf with a theater teaching license, she has spent time teaching English to Hmong youth in Thailand.