Fulbright Spotlight: Rose Sybrant

Rose Sybrant, Augsburg Masters of Education student served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ecuador from 2012-2013.  She is now using her Spanish skills to teach 5th grade at at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School. Fulbright does not require teaching experience, but for those majoring in education, it is a great way to get experience abroad!

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?
I was interested in an opportunity to travel and teach abroad. I had heard of the Fulbright program and knew that my participation in the program would help me in my future career. Having studied abroad as a high school student, I also knew that living in another culture provides experiences that cannot be matched here at home!

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter?
I learned to be flexible, take things as they come and be open to new experiences. While my time in Ecuador certainly had its ups and downs, I wasn’t afraid to try new things and that made my time richer and much more beneficial. I met lots of different people, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day.

How did you change or grow from the experience?
I learned a lot about Ecuador, the culture, its education system and had the chance to improve my Spanish. I now teach in a Spanish immersion school – I would not be here if not for the Fulbright program!

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?
During my first several months in Cuenca, Ecuador, I lived in a boarding house for college students. I got to know a lot about student life there. I think it can be easy to live with other Americans, but you don’t learn as fast as if you live with a family or in a boarding house like I did. I worked with the Foreign Languages department at the University of Cuenca where I taught English classes and became acquainted with the faculty there.

I learned about Ecuador and its culture simply by participating it. I attended holiday parties and other celebrations at the boarding house. I went to festivals with friends, I tried everything (except for guinea pig, I admit it).

I am a big knitter and I also joined a cross-cultural knitting group. I just found people knitting in a cafe one day and asked if I could join! There were Canadian, American, and Ecuadorian knitters in the group. It was a lot of fun.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I am known as Sra. Sybrant at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School. I teach fifth grade and my plan is to keep doing so for as long as they will let me! I am a graduate student at Augsburg, I obtained my teaching license in Elementary Education and Middle School Math in January 2014. I plan on finishing my master’s degree during the next school year.

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?
My advice is to go for it! The application process is long, but for such a life-changing opportunity, it was totally worth it! I learned a lot about myself while applying and even more during my amazing experience.


To learn more about Fulbright, join us at our Information lunch today, March 27th at 12:30 in Lindell 301!


Fulbright Spotlight: Katie Edelen

Bangladesh_boatsKatie Edelen graduated from Augsburg in 2011 with a triple major in environmental studies, biology, and chemistry. She won a Fulbright to do research at the Oslo Peace Research Institute. Since then she has also won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to earn her masters in water science at University of Oxford (England) and, been  named a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow, and is currently working as Legislative Associate for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C..

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?
Get paid to go abroad, explore, meet amazing people from all around the world, do research. Um, yes, yes, yes, and yes!

But in all seriousness, I was looking for a unique opportunity that would let me address the chasm between science and policy in the global community. Fulbright not only offered the opportunity to fund my research at a top-tier research institute that boasted international scholars that focused on environmental factors of conflict, but also the opportunity to explore the world, engage in the local community work, and expose me to new ideas and perspectives.

I got all of this! I made amazing, life-long friends in Norway that were both from Norwegian and from around the globe. In fact, a German friend that I met in Norway has been staying with me in DC during her Ph.D. exchange.

While in Norway I traveled extensively in the country and across Europe and was able to travel to Bangladesh to do field research as a result of an additional Fulbright grant.

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter (or the application process)?
1. Patience
When you’re abroad not everything works the way you expect and when you are in a country that seems at least on the superficial level very similar to the US, this reality can sometimes be even more challenging as you don’t anticipate it.

2. Go with the flow/Being able to adapt
This kind of relates to the first, but it so important I repeated it. Whether it’s cultural or related to your Fulbright, patience and a go with the flow attitude helps. Coming into the experience, I had certain expectations, despite not all of those expectations being met, others were met if not hugely exceeded. Be willing and open to adapting will not only bring you experiences and lessons learned that you would never expect, it is a lifelong skill that few people have, but is so crucial for many jobs.

3. You only get as good as you give
You will only get out of the experience what you put into it. If you push yourself to put yourself out there you will be surprised about the outcomes and the amazing experiences you will have. This, of course, is hard even when you are in familiar circumstances and that much more daunting when in an unfamiliar environment, but trust me it is so worth it.
Some of the Fulbrights during my year had a difficult time with the cultural differences and really retreated into their work or their friends that shared cultural similarities. We had very different experiences and they really didn’t enjoy their experience.

How did you change or grow from the experience?
I really found myself in unexpected ways. Fulbright set me on a path that I could not imagine otherwise. With every new amazing opportunity I experience, I still think about where I came from, this young girl from Wisconsin that otherwise would not have such an opportunity. I want others to know that this is possible for them too. It opened my world to a whole new and other set of possibilities and challenged me to work across areas and disciplines that are so often siloed and made me think about things more holistically, and while this is still challenging in my professional career in a world made up of silos, I could never imagine not pushing those boundaries. I met people that awakened me to areas of myself, my interests, and my life path that I would have otherwise not known were even there or possible. I cannot emphasize more how life changing this experience was, beyond this it provided me with a network of people that make me feel like I am home every time I get to see or talk to them. It gave me a sense of purpose and belonging in my journey.

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?
First, I would be wary of assuming a “single” homogeneous culture within any country. The longer you are there, the more you realize the slight differences or heterogeneous sub-cultures that exist in a single country and how these differences can complement each other, but also challenge held perceptions and norms, which can lead to conflict (but as we know conflict is a reality of a free and open democracy). During my time, I had a foot in two very different Norwegian worlds, one an ethnically-Norwegian academic world (apart from the visiting scholars and those that were there because their partner was Norwegian), and the other a first-generation, recent immigrant community in Norway. If you make an effort to learn more about the cultures and experiences of people outside the dominant narrative it will help you have a much more complete understanding of the country and its current challenges and opportunities.

I said yes to everything……literally everything. Whenever I was invited to do anything I did it. For every cringe-worthy embarrassing or self-doubting moment I experienced I had seven amazing stories. And honestly, if nothing else, it teaches you to take yourself less seriously, which is such an important lesson. Also, as a foreigner, people let you get away with a lot of stuff……as long as you are humble and willing to learn and admit your ignorance all while doing it with a smile.

Apart from the Norway I experienced with my co-workers and fellow international friends, I volunteered with an NGO that worked on issues related to diversity and inclusion and a Somali-Norwegian youth group. This gave me an entire different understanding of Norway and exposed me to a different dimension of the Norwegian culture and experience.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I am working for the oldest and largest peace lobby in the United States based in the D.C. I work on issues at the nexus of environmental peacebuilding and diplomacy, natural resource governance, and counterterrorism efforts. My job includes writing and advocating for U.S. policies that promote conflict-sensitive, climate-resilient development strategies in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Plans for the future: get back abroad and back to the field. Continue to address entrenched cycle of poverty, violence, and environmental crisis by promoting the importance of inclusive and sustainable management of natural resources for the promotion of peace within and across communities, institutions, and governments.

Side note: I just finished moderating a briefing at the U.S. Senate on the role of natural resources in the CAR crisis and opportunities for these same resources to assist in promoting peace. One of the fellow panelists was a fellow Fulbright Scholar (Professor) also based at PRIO (the research institute I was based at for my Fulbright).

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?
Do it, but only if you are willing to push yourself, are not easily daunted (I’m pretty sure I wrote 20-30 drafts of my statement/research plan) and know exactly how this experience will lend itself to your personal and professional growth. We as an Augsburg Community are so blessed with an embarrassing abundance of faculty/staff members that are not only talented, but also extremely generous and kind with their time. If you are willing to put yourself in the sometimes uncomfortable position of having your work critiqued, you will learn so much about writing and general good etiquette for drafting applications that can last you a lifetime. Please remember that your first go at your application will be nowhere where it needs to be and if you are open to the constructive advice of faculty and put in the work yourself, you will come out with an amazing application. And whether you are or are not ultimately selected, you will learn so much about yourself in the process. The process can be daunting at times and know that you are not alone in writing what will feel like 1500 drafts. One more note on that, for Fulbright selection committees, personality and passion often play a far greater hand in their selection than grades alone. Let yourself come out in the application and you won’t be disappointed!

Fulbright Spotlight: Katie MacAulay

macaulay_fulbrightKatie MacAulay graduated from Augsburg in 2009 with a degree in International Relations She is currently working in Uganda with as a Research Associate with Innovations for Poverty Action doing research in food security. Katie did her Fulbright work teaching English in Malaysia. Here she talks about her experience with Fulbright.

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?

I studied International Relations, so the opportunity to live abroad for a year and participate in a fully-funded and prestigious fellowship was enough intrigue for me to apply!

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter?

The world is big and the human condition is similar everywhere you go.

How did you change or grow from the experience?

I would like to think I became a more patient, thoughtful and empathetic person and that I have more permanently embodied these traits. Being the de facto expert on all-things-English-related certainly challenged me to take on roles and responsibilities I would not naturally feel qualified for. My year in Malaysia cultivated a deeper sense of self-reliance and confidence that has permeated all areas of my life. Further, my Fulbright experience has informed all career decisions I have made since, drawing me towards international development issues, ultimately leading me back abroad.

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?

Smiling. It’s the international language. I spent the year incredibly conscious of my outward attitude and expressions. Just appearing warm and inviting goes a long way in making people feel comfortable enough to approach you. I very much felt like my year there was ‘fake it ‘til you believe it’ – that I could teach over 1,000 students English, that I could give an impromptu speech in front of 3,000 community members and dignitaries, that I could advise the State Government and U.S. Embassy in educational areas. Despite what I was feeling internally, smiling and being warm led to the most welcoming invitations from my host-culture, resulting in some of my most memorable moments—sitting cross-legged on the ground, breaking fast during Ramadan with a teacher from my local school; driving along the Terengganu coast and pitching a tent on the beach with one of my students’ families; discussing US pop-culture trends with my students and encouraging debates. Smiling, being curious and asking lots of questions undoubtedly helped me assimilate into my host-culture.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?

I am currently living and working in Kampala, Uganda as a Research Associate with Innovations for Poverty Action, evaluating the impact of an agricultural project. After Fulbright I lived in Washington D.C. for three years working in microfinance, before moving to Uganda, and now intend to pursue an MBA with a concentration in Social Enterprise.

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?

Do it! Give yourself as many options and opportunities as possible, post-graduation. At the very least, the application process is incredibly reflective and will prepare you for all of the cover letters and applications you’ll likely be writing in the near future anyway. At the very best, Augsburg is a top producer of Fulbright fellows, which speaks volumes about the amount of thoughtful and constructive attention and support you will receive from the URGO office staff, throughout the process. Give yourself enough time to put forth your best effort, research countries you would like to live/study and/or teach in, do your research, ask lots of questions and start drafting your essays.

Fulbright Spotlight: Emily Jensen

Emily JensenEmily Jensen graduated from Augsburg in 2008 with degrees in International Relations and History. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in the Cezch Republic in 2013.

“The main reason for my interest in the Fulbright program, was my passion for travel and cross-cultural learning. I had been working in the political sphere for a couple years and was looking for opportunities where I could spend a significant amount of time living abroad while pursuing personal aspirations. I applied for an ETA because I had volunteered teaching English in Peru for three months the previous year and I knew I wanted to teach English again. The English Teaching Assistant grant, which places Fulbrighters in schools, is a great opportunity for Americans to teach abroad and really become part of the academic structure of the school and part of the school community.

The Fulbright program is very [sic] much oriented towards inter-cultural exchange. I was placed as a teacher in a secondary school in Kostelec and Orlici, a town of 4,000 in the Czech Republic. As the only American to ever teach at the school, and to ever live in this town, I had the opportunity to become part of the community while changing often skewed perceptions about Americans. In addition to teaching at the school, I volunteered teaching two English courses at the University of Hradec Kralove, which was a university in a city about a half hour from where I was living.

While living in the Czech Republic, I took advantage of all the opportunities presented to me. The teachers at the school often invited me to events in their communities and to spend time with their families. The school invited me to everything; I went class parties, school concerts and was a chaperone for a week long ski trip in the mountains. The highlights of my entire year abroad was at the Maturita balls, which are school formals that are basically a combination of graduation and prom for each of the senior classes. In addition to these experiences with my school, I was able to travel extensively in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe, including trips to Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland and Hungary. I also learned Czech and read over 20 books.

I’m currently a grad student, working towards a Masters’ in International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. I’m graduating in January of 2016 and will then go on to work in an educational capacity for an NGO, government or higher education institution.

Advice I would give a current student applying- spend time reading about what each country is looking for in their Fulbright applicants and read about the actual country you are applying to. I met people in other European countries who were having completely different experiences than we were in the Czech Republic. Also try and contact people who are currently doing a Fulbright in the country you want to apply to, they can be quite helpful. Some of them even stay in the country after their grant and can be a contact for you while your abroad.”

Fulbright Spotlight: Jens Olsen

Jens-OlsonJens Olsen ’10 is an Auggie grad, a Fulbright scholar, and soon will be graduating from the U of M Medical School. Jens did URGO research with Dr. Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright in the biology department, was a member of the honors program, worked at the library, and volunteered at a variety of different places. He was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Vietnam in 2010.

How did you decide to apply for a Fulbright? What interested you about the program?
I had a family member do a Fulbright and saw it’s value. I’ve always been interested in travel, adventures, and trying new experiences, so being able to do this while doing something positive for those allowing me to see their part of the world was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I had also studied abroad in Vietnam and fallen in love with the nation and its people.

What are some of the most meaningful lessons you learned from your year as a Fulbrighter?
That there are beautiful people everywhere in the world, and that our differences truly are minuscule when compared to that which we share.

How did you change or grow from the experience?
I became a far more independent, confident, thoughtful person. Surviving living alone in a place where the closest known native English speaker was 4 hours away made me grow and mature, and thriving in that environment gave me the confidence to attempt bigger challenges; like becoming a physician.

The Fulbright program is designed to be an inter-cultural exchange. How did you get to know those in your community? How did you learn about your host country and its culture?
Immersion, immersion, immersion.

What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I am graduating with an MD from the University of Minnesota’s School of Medicine and will start my Residency in Emergency Medicine this summer.

What advice would you give to a current Augsburg student who is considering applying to Fulbright?
Go for it. Know that it is a challenging gig. Every Fulbright scholar I know says that they struggled. They had a blast, saw things they never thought they’s see and grew in ways that they never thought they would, but they did struggle. Still I have yet to meet a Fulbright scholar who is not happy to that they went for it.

If you are interested in learning more about the Fulbright Program, URGO will be hosting two information lunches this week:
Thursday, March 26th @ 11:30 in Sverdrup 102
Friday, March 27th @ 12:30 in Lindell 301

If you are unable to attend either lunch, contact urgo@augsburg.edu or stop in at Science 152 for more information.

Summer Research at Mayo – Auggie Experiences

This summer Michelle Grafelman ’15 spent her summer learning and researching at Mayo Clinic.  Below she talks about her summer working at Mayo.

Michelle Grafelman

“This summer, I participated in a research internship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where I studied biomedical ethics. My primary mentor was the coordinator of the hospital’s Ethics Consult Service. I was tasked with redesigning and reorganizing the database in which all of the ethics consultations within the two Rochester Mayo hospitals are recorded. Specifically, I researched the categories used to define the reason for the consult or the ethical concern or question, in order to make the categories used in Mayo’s database defendable and evidence-based. The ultimate goal of this project was to create a database that could be usable by others, including those at the other Mayo sites.

I had a few projects I worked on in addition to the database project. These projects included a descriptive study of pediatric ethics consultations, a case study regarding organ donation after cardiac death, and the formulation of a study about patients declared brain dead at Mayo Clinic. However, though projects and papers occupied some of my time, much of my work at Mayo was actually just following and learning. In order to do my first and main project, to improve the ethics consultation database, I needed to learn what ethics consultations are all about. I followed my mentor to many consults, meetings, and care conferences. I met and talked with countless nurses, physicians, social workers, and others involved in patient care. I spent the majority of my summer in the hospital, learning about how healthcare is carried out and how ethical problems or concerns arise and are resolved.

From my summer at Mayo, I will have my name on at least one paper, hopefully two. I was able to give several presentations of my work to a variety of audiences, including groups of well-known and highly respected physicians. However, while publications and presentations will be excellent for my resume, the experience I gained is much more valuable than any paper or talk could be. I loved spending my time in the midst of patient care. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to work in a hospital, caring for people and their families. I also gained some excellent contacts. I met, worked with, and shadowed several physicians, all of who provided me with new insights into their lives and work. My experiences affirmed my love of medicine and strengthened my desire to go to medical school.”

We have some smart Auggies…

Hilena Frew

Hilena Frew ’17 is a chemistry and mathematics major at Augsburg. This summer she received funding through the Lindstrom Scholars program to work with Dr. Vivian Feng on the toxicity of gold nanoparticles on bacteria. She has written a blog post for Sustainable Nano about the use of gold nanoparticles in liposuction and why this technology is safer than traditional methods. Read her post here.

Summer Researchers Highlighted in Augsburg Now

Each year almost 80 Augsburg students participate in research and graduate opportunities through the URGO office. This year summer research was featured in Augsburg NowTake a look and see what six of these amazing students were working on this year.


Augsburg is a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Students in 2013-2014

Fulbright_StudentProd_200x239The U.S. Department of State recently announced the complete list of colleges and universities that produced the most 2013-2014 Fulbright U.S. Students. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government’s flagship international educational exchange program. The success of the top-producing institutions is highlighted in the October 28 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Three of the four student applicants from Augsburg won Fulbright awards for 2013-2014. This is the 4th time that Augsburg is named Top Producer with 17 awardees since 2006.  Dixie Shafer, Director of URGO, said “the goal next year is to double the number of applicants.”

Congratulations Augsburg for being named as a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Students!

The Fulbright Competition is administered at Augsburg through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity. For a complete list of Fulbright recipients, please visit www.fulbrightonline.org/us.

Scripps Research Institute Visits Augsburg College

Scripps-Photo-300x227Dr. Dawn Eastmond, Director of Education and Recruitment from the Scipps Research Institute with Augsburg College Students Kirubel Gezehegn (Senior) and Promise Okeke (Junior)

Dr. Eastmond visited Augsburg College on Thursday, October 10, 2013 to recruit students for summer research and graduate school at Scripps Research Institute. Scripps has established a lengthy track record of major contributions to the betterment of health and the human condition. The institute has become internationally recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, virology, and synthetic vaccine development. It’s an impressive place and the fact that Dr. Eastmond flew in just to spend the day at Augsburg is remarkable.  Dr. Dawn Eastmond met with about 20 students for lunch, visited Dr. Rebekah Dupont’s Calculus Workshop, and met with TRIO/Student Support Services, Directors of Ethnic Student Services, STEM Programs, McNair, URGO and professors in biology (Dr. Matt Beckman), chemistry (Dr. Vivien Feng) and physics (Dr. David Murr and Dr. Ben Stottrup). Dr. Eastmond gave an evening presentation to around 40 students, all wide-eyed with excitement.

Kirubel Gezehegn applied and was accepted to the Scripps Summer Undergraduate Research Program for summer of 2013. He ended up doing research at Hopkins and MIT for the summer instead. Then, Promise Okeke was at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin last April and visited Dr. Dawn Eastmond’s table and invited her to Augsburg College.