Fulbright Selects Four K Reps for U.S. Student Program

Rebecca Chan for Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Rebecca Chan ’22 will spend a year in Taiwan
through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Four recent alumni of Kalamazoo College are receiving one of the highest honors the federal government provides in regard to scholarship and international exchange, as selectees for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Rebecca Chan ’22, Libby Burton ’22, Matthew Flotemersch ’20 and Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22 are among about 1,900 students, artists and young professionals who will represent the U.S. in about 140 countries for one academic year.

Chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, students and recent alumni participate in the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program, which places English-teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas.

Associate Professor of Biology Santiago Salinas will also represent K through Fulbright this year, as a U.S. Scholar Program selectee in Argentina.

Since its inception in 1946, Fulbright has provided more than 380,000 participants with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. The program is funded by an annual appropriation from Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and managed through the U.S. Department of State.

Libby Burton for Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Libby Burton ’22 will return to Germany
for one academic year through the
Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

K consistently has been identified in recent years as one of the country’s top-producing Fulbright small colleges. Here’s what K’s representatives plan to do abroad.

Rebecca Chan ’22

Chan, a theatre arts major at K, finished her degree requirements in winter 2022, allowing her to study abroad in Strabourg, France, this spring. As a Fulbright scholar, she will visit Taiwan.

“I was interested in Taiwan specifically because my paternal grandfather spent some years on the island as he left mainland China in the 1940s and later came to America,” Chan said. “Some of his siblings stayed in Taiwan and raised their families there, so at every family reunion, we discuss Taiwanese history, culture and politics. I’m interested in experiencing Taiwan for myself and connecting with my East Asian heritage.”

Chan will make her language skills her primary focus while she’s overseas.

“I took two years of Mandarin Chinese at K, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to use that language abroad,” she said. “I’d also like to better understand Taiwan’s complex history of colonization by various European and Asian nations. Because of my family’s history, I have received only a very one-sided account of the relationship between Taiwan and China and the debate over Taiwanese independence. Being there, talking to locals, and working in the schools will give me a much richer understanding of Taiwanese identity.”

Matthew Flotemersch ’20 has earned a Fulbright for a
second time. He will spend the upcoming academic year in Innsbruck, Austria.

Libby Burton ’22

Burton participated in study abroad as a senior in Erlangen, Germany, and will return to Germany as a Fulbright scholar, seeking an opportunity share her knowledge of philosophy and the humanities.

“The Fulbright will be a wonderful way for me to gain experience in the field and prepare me for graduate programs,” Burton said. “I also have a particular interest in German philosophy, so studying German has helped my understanding of the books I read. The program makes sense for me because I can practice German, deepen my understanding in my fields of interest, and gain experience as an educator.”

Matthew Flotemersch ’20

Flotemersch, a German major and philosophy minor at K, had a formative year of study abroad in Erlangen, Germany, in 2019 and was accepted into Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant program in Hamburg, Germany, in 2020.

Kiernan Dean Hall
Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22 will spend a year
in Germany on a Fulbright in the English
Teaching Assistantship program.

The Hamburg program was pushed back a year because of COVID-19, yet still provided a positive experience he finished this spring, leading to yet another opportunity as he will represent the U.S. this year in Innsbruck, Austria.

Flotemersch said he hopes to adjust to regional dialects, explore the country by train, ski and settle on a graduate program he will begin in 2023 while he’s in Austria.

Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22

Dean-Hall—a chemistry and German major, and physics and philosophy minor with a concentration in film and media studies—was among the K seniors who studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany, for the fall 2021 and winter 2022 terms. He will return to Germany on a Fulbright in the English Teaching Assistantship program.

“I sought a Fulbright because it sounded interesting, and like a good opportunity to broaden my horizons,” Dean-Hall said. “I expect to benefit from the lived experience of cultural exchange.”

Study Abroad Scholarships, Staff at K Spark Opportunities

Asia Bennett Enables Affordable Study Abroad
Asia Bennett, a study abroad and international
student adviser, helps students find affordable
overseas opportunities through study abroad

The number of students with limited financial means taking advantage of study abroad scholarships at Kalamazoo College will surge this fall thanks to a boost from K’s Center for International Programs (CIP) and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

Asia Bennett, a study abroad and international student adviser in the CIP, was among the first higher-education professionals in the country named a Gilman Ambassador through a new program in the 2021-22 academic year. Gilman’s goal with naming ambassadors was to empower a cohort of professionals including Bennett to share best practices in the application process with students for the purpose of increasing participation.

That goal proved to be successful nationally as 200 panelists reviewed nearly 50 applications each, and K students submitted more applications than ever before. In fact, the effort is helping the CIP push the number of Pell-grant eligible K students earning Gilman awards, worth up to $5,000 each, upward from four in the past year to 18 in the coming year. That’s at least nine more than at any other Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) school, according to yet-to-be finalized numbers.

“I think we at K typically have about six Gilman applicants per cycle and maybe two to four recipients, so 18 is definitely a record for us,” Bennett said. “For just a year, I think we’ve been very successful and I’m excited for what next year will bring.”

Eliana Orozco ’24 is among the
Kalamazoo College students receiving
study abroad scholarships this fall.
Garbriel Coleman Study Abroad Scholarships
Study abroad scholarships are helping
underrepresented students such as
Gabriel Coleman ’24 go overseas.

About 33,000 students have received funds through Gilman, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to study abroad or intern overseas since 2001. By awarding funds competitively to students with limited financial means, the Gilman assures that students from traditionally underrepresented groups, such as Gabriel Coleman ’24, will take advantage of opportunities such as K’s long-term liberal arts program in Quito, Ecuador. Students in the Ecuador program enroll in fall courses at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the first private university in that country. The program includes a homestay with a local host family, which allows students to immerse themselves in Spanish-language and Ecuadorean culture, and travel to the Galapagos Islands.

“The opportunity to try something new encouraged me to apply for the Gilman scholarship,” said Coleman, a Spanish major and art minor with a concentration in environmental studies. “I felt that doing this, plus telling others about the follow-up service project, would help me tell others about my overall experience and encourage them to study abroad.”

The students’ application process involves three essays including a personal statement about educational and career goals, a scholarship essay about what they would hope to do as an American citizen abroad, and what they plan to do as a result of their study abroad opportunity when they return. That was undaunting for Eliana Orozco ’24, an anthropology-sociology and French double major and classical civilization minor, who will pursue foreign study in Lyon, France.

“I like to think of it as being similar to the experience of applying to colleges, when we had to write about ourselves,” Orozco said. “I think writing about ourselves is actually a lot easier than we assume it to be. It really didn’t take much time, and once I just sat down and focused on what I wanted to say, it developed pretty easily.”

Should students need other opportunities, Bennett notes that the Gilman scholarship program isn’t the only one available to students looking for study abroad funding. As a result, Bennett wants students—even first-year students—to talk with the CIP early and often.

“Sometimes these opportunities are based on financial need or identity traits,” Bennett said. “Sometimes they’re based on the place where the student is going. We always recommend that students come into the CIP or send us an email, even during the summer, so we can talk about what works best for them.”

K Announces $5 Million Gift to Support Student Access

Bob Kopecky '72
Bob Kopecky ’72

Kalamazoo College has announced a $5 million gift in support of its Brighter Light Campaign from alumnus Robert J. Kopecky ’72.

The gift will establish the Ervin J. and Violet A. Kopecky Endowed Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Kopecky’s parents, and the Robert J. Kopecky ’72 Endowed Study Abroad Fund, as well as support other study abroad funding, current-use scholarships and the Kalamazoo College Fund.

The new funding will support the College’s strategic plan, Advancing Kalamazoo College: A Strategic Vision for 2023, by providing need-based scholarships and awards to expand student access to all aspects of a Kalamazoo College education. 

“Through my life after leaving Kalamazoo College, I have had an ever-increasing appreciation for the value of liberal arts education,” said Kopecky. “I wanted to help the College make that educational opportunity available to students with limited economic resources and to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate fully in the study abroad program, which is such an essential part of the K College experience.”

Kopecky graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1972 with a B.A. in physics. While at K he studied abroad for six months in Nairobi, Kenya, where he also had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa—an unforgettable experience for Kopecky. After graduating from K, Kopecky earned his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. Kopecky has spent over 40 years practicing law at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, trying cases in state and federal courts and arguing appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as numerous federal appellate courts and state supreme courts. During his years at Kirkland & Ellis, Bob represented numerous pro bono clients in both criminal and civil matters. He also served for several years on the board of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, including one year as Chair of the Board. In March 2021, he published his first book, The Season of Living Dangerously: A Fan’s Notes On Baseball’s Strangest Season.

Kopecky has been a longtime supporter of Kalamazoo College, as both a donor to the Center for International Programs and as a recent member of the Board of Trustees, where he currently serves on the Risk Review Committee. His daughter Catherine (Katie) Kopecky is a 2013 graduate of the College.

President Jorge G. Gonzalez noted that endowed funds such as these can open up transformative opportunities for students. “Our goal as an institution is for talented students to be able to choose K regardless of their financial need, and for students to be able to participate fully in all aspects of K’s experiential education,” said Gonzalez. “We could not be more grateful to Bob, whose generous gift will be opening doors for students for generations to come.”

The Brighter Light Campaign is raising $150 million to provide endowed and annual support for students, faculty and staff, curricular and co-curricular activities, athletics and campus facilities. For more information, visit the Brighter Light Campaign page: www.kzoo.edu/brighterlight 

Fulbright Again Honors K as a Top Producer

Logo Says Fulbright Student Program Top Producer 2021-22
K has six representatives from the class of 2021 in the U.S.
Student Program, placing the College among the
top-producing bachelor’s institutions.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced Monday that Kalamazoo College is among the top producers of Fulbright recipients for the 2021-22 academic year.

K has six representatives from the class of 2021 in the U.S. Student Program, leading to the honor for the fourth time in the past five years. K is the only college in Michigan to earn the distinction in the bachelor’s institution category.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships to graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists so they may teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year. Many candidates apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program as graduating seniors, though alumni may apply as well. Graduating seniors apply through their institution. Alumni can apply through their institution or as at-large candidates. K has one alumni representative this year from the class of 2013.

K’s representatives in 2021-22 and their host countries are:

  • Helen Pelak ’21, Australia
  • Katherine Miller-Purrenhage ’21, Germany
  • Sophia Goebel ’21, Spain
  • Molly Roberts ’21, France
  • Margaret Totten ’21, Thailand
  • Nina Szalkiewicz ’21, Austria
  • Evelyn Rosero ’13, South Korea
Fulbright recipient Katherine Miller-Purrenhage in Germany
Katherine Miller-Purrenhage studied abroad in Germany and
has returned there on a Fulbright award through the U.S.
Student Program.

“K’s consistent recognition through the renowned Fulbright program confirms that our students have the abilities required to earn these transformational global experiences,” Center for International Programs Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft said. “We’re proud of these students and the terrific faculty and staff who enable them to make an impact throughout the world.”

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually.

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants, chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research abroad each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries throughout the world.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education.

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas. In addition, about 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

K Staffer’s Honors Reflect Insight on More-Affordable Study Abroad

Study abroad and international student adviser Asia Bennett
is an inaugural Gilman Scholarship ambassador, showing she
can help Pell Grant-eligible students make
study abroad more affordable.

If you’re concerned that the cost of study abroad might prevent you from going overseas as an undergraduate, you have an advocate in Kalamazoo College’s Center for International Programs.

As an inaugural Gilman ambassador over the next two years, study abroad and international student adviser Asia Bennett will inform and advise colleagues at U.S. colleges and universities about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. In that role, awarded to her this month, Bennett will share her expertise and best practices across the country, while also continuing to guide students at K in the Gilman application process.

Since 2001, the Gilman scholarship has given more than 33,000 students with limited financial means up to $5,000 to study or intern abroad through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Those students include between three and five K students for each of the past eight years.

“I think serving as an ambassador can help me debunk the idea that studying abroad has to be expensive,” Bennett said. “This is part of what our office does. We can let students know about scholarship opportunities so study abroad can be more affordable.”

By awarding funds competitively to students with limited financial means, the Gilman program assures that students from traditionally underrepresented groups will participate in study abroad opportunities. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, undergraduate students in good standing at their institutions and federal Pell Grant recipients.

By going abroad, Gilman recipients develop skills critical to national security and economic prosperity.

“I think a lot of our students count themselves out,” Bennett said. “They see the Gilman Award is a big national scholarship. They might think it’s not for them because it’s too competitive. I can help students see that they too can apply. I hope to be that voice and that face of the Gilman here on campus so students are more eager to apply.”

Students interested in applying for the Gilman International Scholarship can contact Bennett for application coaching, essay tips and more information at Asia.Bennett@kzoo.edu.

Student Zeal for Study Abroad Affirms K’s Excellence

Study abroad student attending a festival in Germany
Kalamazoo College had 249 students at international sites like this one in
Germany in 2019-20, putting it 32nd overall among baccalaureate colleges
in the Open Doors Report, which ranks higher-education institutions
for study abroad participation.

An annual report released in November from the Institute of International Education (IIE) places Kalamazoo College among the top higher-education institutions in the country for study abroad opportunities based on student participation.

According to the Open Doors Report—which analyzes more than 1,800 institutions including doctoral universities, master’s colleges and universities, baccalaureate colleges, associate’s colleges and special-focus institutions—K had 249 students at international sites in 2019-20, putting it 32nd overall among baccalaureate colleges. K was the only Michigan institution to make the top-40 list in the category despite the College’s 2020 pause in study abroad with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students often cite study abroad opportunities as one of the big reasons why they attend K,” Center for International Programs (CIP) Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft said. “A distinction like this reflects that. We’re proud we give our students a chance to broaden their view of the world in an advantageous and transformative experience.”

IIE shares the Open Doors Report yearly through the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The organization, founded in 1919, is a private, not-for-profit leader in the global exchange of people and ideas as it creates programs of study and training for students, educators and professionals from all sectors in collaboration with governments, foundations and other sponsors. Those programs include the Fulbright Program and Gilman Scholarships administered for the Department of State.

Combined efforts from K’s faculty and the CIP, along with the availability of international partners, have allowed study abroad to restart this fall at K with about 50 seniors in addition to the regular batch of juniors. In a normal academic year, K students can choose from 56 study abroad programs of varying lengths and emphases in 29 countries on six continents over three, six or nine months. The ventures allow students to challenge their assumptions about themselves and other cultures in a rigorous experiential education environment.

“The pandemic, despite its challenges, has only amplified K’s commitment to global experiences,” Wiedenhoeft said. “Students have remained determined to go abroad, and faculty and staff have shown a lot of flexibility and dedication to making that happen. When new students arrive at K and visit the CIP, they should know we can do our best to help them work toward their goals of studying abroad.”

K Student’s Dedication Leads to Behind-the-Scenes Work at the Olympics

Uyen Trinh Next to the Olympics Rings
Uyen Trinh ’21 stands next to the Olympic Rings in Tokyo.

It takes dedication, perseverance and determination for the world’s best athletes to reach the Olympics, just as it did for Uyen Trinh ’21 to be a part of the behind-the-scenes efforts at the Summer Games in Tokyo. She was there to gain global career experience while working as an accountant in the Finance Department of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). 

OBS was established through the International Olympic Committee in 2001 to produce live television, radio and digital coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Organizations such as the New York Times and NBC set up, along with OBS, at Tokyo Big Sight, an international exhibition center composed of the International Broadcast Center and the Main Press Center as the Games began. 

Uyen Trinh at the Olympics
Uyen Trinh ’21 poses in front of Tokyo Big Sight, the international
exhibition center where she worked to support the Olympics behind the scenes.

Trinh, an international student from Vietnam majoring in business and psychology with a minor in Japanese at K, played important roles processing paperwork, receipts, documents and bills for the Olympic Games while stationed in the International Broadcasting Center. A typical six-day workweek involved a one-hour commute on the subway, a trip through security and working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with the Olympics, lasting about a month. 

Trinh gained the opportunity while studying abroad through K at Waseda University in Tokyo in 2019. At that time, a friend from the university’s Tae Kwon Do club told her about training for a position at the Olympics.  

“After Tae Kwon Do practice that night, I looked up OBS right away because it sounded like a fascinating opportunity,” Trinh said. “I found out the application deadline was a day or two later, so I filled out and submitted the application right away in one sitting.”

Uyen Trinh at the Finance Department for the Olympics
Uyen Trinh ’21 poses for a photo outside the Olympic Broadcasting Services
Finance Department where she worked during the Games.

Trinh then proceeded to interview for the accounting position.

“In the interviews, I told them I wanted to work for the Olympics because watching the Games has always given me unforgettable feelings,” she said. “And the Japanese people had been treating me really well. I thought Tokyo 2020 was a great opportunity to present Japan to the world. It was a chance for me to return the favor of their kindness and help deliver a positive image of Japan.” 

Her interest in accounting made the impression she left with her interviewers even more favorable. 

“I said that I wanted to do accounting because I’d been keeping track of my personal expenses and it really excited me to see numbers matching up,” Trinh said. “A week later I got a certificate saying I was qualified to work for the Olympics.” 

However, in March 2020, COVID-19 began spreading, forcing Trinh to leave Japan and putting the Games in doubt.

“I still kept a close eye on the Olympics and was disheartened when they decided to postpone the Games. I questioned my chances of coming back,” Trinh said. “September 2020 was the first time I heard back from them. They asked, ‘Are you still interested in working for the Olympics?’ I thought, ‘What do you mean? This is everything I have been waiting for.’ All the logistics afterward in preparation for my departure to Japan were completed via email and the OBS portal website. I received their welcome package in February 2021 with an accreditation card, which served as my visa to enter Japan. There were a lot of requirements regarding COVID that made the week before the flight especially stressful.” 

Upon her return to Japan, COVID-19 regulations required her to quarantine at a hotel for the first 14 days. She was restricted to commuting only between the hotel, OBS and a convenience store next to the hotel. After those weeks, a former host family from her time on study abroad welcomed her to stay with them.  

“I learned to treasure every relationship I had with people. You never know what kind of opportunity anyone could bring to you and what your relationship could grow to be. Most of my colleagues were from countries other than Japan like Spain, Bangladesh and Greece. It’s just wonderful to think that working for the Olympics has enabled people from all over the world to meet and get to know each other regardless of the pandemic. Returning to Japan this time also made me realize how many meaningful relationships I have made during only six months of study abroad. This whole adventure was terrific and I’m so glad I was able to make it. Different from the abrupt departure last time because of COVID, I left Japan this time in peace and with more confidence in myself. This valuable experience will set the stage for my career in finance after K.”

Study Abroad Restarts, Includes About 50 Seniors

Kalamazoo College Students on Study Abroad at the Universidad de Extremadura in Caceras, Spain
Kalamazoo College students on study abroad pose outside the main building at the Universidad
de Extremadura in Caceras, Spain. Photo by Resident Director Victoria Pineda.

When COVID-19 forced Kalamazoo College to pause its study abroad programs last year, many juniors feared they would lose out on a life-changing opportunity. Delaying it a year is usually not possible with academic obstacles. Plus, varied pandemic protocols continue to make it difficult for students to travel at all.

“If you think about the preparations, the considerations and the protocols that we had to implement for students to be on campus in the last year, just multiply that by 50 for study abroad,” Center for International Programs (CIP) Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft said. “It’s one thing for our international partners to have an academic plan. It’s another to think about all the components and putting them together to offer a meaningful program.”

However, students still had hope and refused to give up.

“When they realized they wouldn’t be going abroad as juniors, we had quite a few determined students who said, ‘I’m going as a senior. How do I make this work?’” Wiedenhoeft said.

Combine that desire with a flexible faculty that recognizes the importance of international immersion, plus a lot of hard work from the CIP, and K had a game plan to restart study abroad, especially for this year’s seniors. Their combined efforts and the availability of international partners are allowing about 50 seniors, in addition to the regular batch of juniors, to go abroad—about 161 students in total in study abroad and study away. That’s proving to be a point of pride at K and a significant number for any Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) school.

“When I talk to my colleagues at other colleges and I tell them how many students we have abroad, their responses are genuinely full of joy and envy for these students,” Wiedenhoeft said. “There are other schools sending students abroad right now, but we definitely have a significantly higher number of students going abroad compared to our peers.”

More than 50 study abroad programs are typically available to K students and most of them are open again by meeting local protocols and health restrictions. Programs this year include two interim opportunities in Lyon, France, and Lüneburg, Germany, which might at some point become yearly destinations. There also are more permanent options opening for the first time in London and Belfast, which are launching a year late because of the COVID-19 hiatus.

Wiedenhoeft said the united effort across campus to make these programs possible should help newer students see the importance of visiting the CIP early and often should they desire a study abroad opportunity.

“I think this underscores our willingness to be flexible and support students who want to include a study abroad component as part of their experience at K,” she said. “It may not be exactly what the student had initially planned when they first arrived. But for students who are flexible and willing to adjust some of their expectations, we can do our best to work with students and make sure that they achieve that goal of getting off campus.”

Wiedenhoeft added students largely have expressed gratitude over study abroad restarting and their experiences, especially the seniors, even when additional COVID-19 protocols are required. For example, students who are now in Thailand and South Korea had to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks for the sake of public health laws.

“That speaks to the type of students we have at K,” she said. “They’ve demonstrated a lot of adaptability and flexibility. As it got closer, they got very excited and we were giving them very specific instructions. I think those instructions made it more intimidating to think about traveling. But the students we’ve heard from, including those who had to quarantine, are just excited to be abroad.”

Gilman Scholarship Allows Four to Study Abroad

Gilman Scholar Caelan Frazier
Caelan Frazier ’24

Four Kalamazoo College students will each receive funds to study abroad in the upcoming academic year through the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Plan.

Since 2001, the Gilman scholarship has given more than 33,000 students with limited financial means up to $5,000 to study or intern abroad. By going abroad, recipients develop skills critical to national security and economic prosperity.

Angela Hernandez and Anna Canales, both ’24, are expected to study in Japan. Caelan Frazier ’24 plans to visit Northern Ireland. Natalie Barber ’23, after deferring her award as a result of the pandemic last year, will travel to Costa Rica this year.

All the opportunities hinge on the host country’s progress with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Frazier, for one, is optimistic his program will proceed as planned with arriving in Belfast, Ireland, in September.

“While I am there, I hope to increase my knowledge in STEM, specifically chemistry and computer science, in order to be more experienced for future jobs,” Frazier said. “Not only that, I want to learn a lot more about the culture and everyday life in Northern Ireland. I have not actually traveled abroad before. I feel that it is important for me to return with a better understanding of life outside of America. Since social norms and cultural conflicts will be so different, I want to be able to take in all the new information and apply it to my own life.”

By awarding the funds competitively to students with limited financial means, the program assures that students from traditionally underrepresented groups will participate. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, undergraduate students in good standing at their institutions and federal Pell Grant recipients.

“As an African-American individual, I feel that having the opportunity to travel abroad is not a common occurrence,” Frazier said. “It is only through scholarships such as the Gilman scholarship that I am able to accept the opportunity to study abroad. That is why I am incredibly grateful to be offered this opportunity and I want to make sure I make the most of my experience.”

Seven from K Earn Fulbright Scholarships

Seven Kalamazoo College representatives, including six from the Class of 2021, are receiving high honors from the federal government that will provide them with international learning opportunities in the upcoming academic year.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships to graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists so they may teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year.

In some cases, program timing remains up in the air due to lingering issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. However, recipients of Fulbright grants are selected as a result of their academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields, making the recognition an honor. Here are this year’s K-connected recipients.

Helen Pelak ’21

Only one person is chosen each year to receive a Fulbright Western Sydney University Award in the Arts, Environment and Public Health. Helen Pelak is thrilled to be that person as it will help her work toward a master’s degree in public health and develop a deeper understanding of global health care systems.

2021 Fulbright Scholar Helen Pelak
Helen Pelak ’21

Pelak double majored in biology and women, gender and sexuality studies, minored in psychology, and studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary, as a part of the College’s program in cognitive science during her years at K.

During her study abroad experience, Pelak developed an infected blister after taking a ropes course and needed to be treated at a hospital, where she was fascinated with the Hungarian health care system.

Global health care systems inspired Pelak to look for opportunities to go abroad again. While she was writing her senior integrated project (SIP) on Cesarean section rates in the United States through a feminist and intersectional lens, Pelak learned about the research of Professor Hannah Dahlen, a midwifery scholar at Western Sydney.

“As part of the application process, Professor Dahlen wrote a letter of research invitation for me,” Pelak said. “I expect to further gain a global perspective on health care and health care systems. I also expect to become a more independent and well-rounded individual who is able to incorporate the lessons and experiences from the Australia system of care and way of life to my future work as an obstetrician-gynecologist in the United States.”

Katherine Miller-Purrenhage ’21

Katherine Miller-Purrenhage, a double major in music and German with a minor in philosophy at K, will serve as an English teaching assistant in Germany at E.T.A Hoffmann-Gymnasium Bamberg and Gymnasium Höchstadt a.d. Aisch, as she splits time between the cities of Bamberg and Höchstadt.

Fulbright Scholar Katherine Miller-Purrenhage
Katherine Miller-Purrenhage ’21

Miller-Purrenhage participated in ensembles such as the Kalamazoo Philharmonia, Academy Street Winds and College Singers. She also was a member of the Delta Phi Alpha National German Honor Society, and served the German department as a teaching assistant during her time at K. Off campus, she volunteered with El Concilio, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the Latinx community in greater Kalamazoo.

Her study abroad experiences in Erlangen, Germany, piqued her interest in the Fulbright program as she interned at a German middle school where she helped teach in the German as a Second Language and English classrooms.

“I loved teaching and learning about educational spaces that ought to be uplifting, and what I as an educator could do to make them that way so every student felt included and celebrated,” Miller-Purrenhage said. “I expect this experience will be very different than when I studied abroad because I’ll be able to focus more on bonding with my community. This will benefit me as I learn to grow and better participate in cultural exchange while immersing myself in the German language again.”

Sophia Goebel ’21

Fulbright Scholar Sophia Goebel
Sophia Goebel ’21

Sophia Goebel, a critical ethnic studies and political science double major at K, will be an English teaching assistant at the University of Malaga in Spain. There, she will continue building the teaching skills she established on study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she developed and facilitated an expressive-arts workshop to explore the topic of communal territories with students from San Martín Huamelulpan, an indigenous community.

“I loved being able to connect with the participants in Oaxaca and learning alongside them,” Goebel said. “I spent some time assisting in their English lessons and it was so much fun to think about my language from the perspective of a language learner and brainstorm how best to teach them pronunciation or vocabulary. In turn, they helped teach me Spanish. That inspired me to try to spend more time in an intercultural, interlingual type of learning space through Fulbright, and I also wanted to spend more time exploring the role of teacher.

“I hope to build a lot of new relationships and figure out how to establish a life for myself without the crutch of my school community,” she added. “I’m excited to learn more about who I am outside of being a student. I aim to continue learning about pedagogy, something we explored a lot at the writing center, and developing as a teacher, facilitator and mentor. ​I’m also really trying to improve my Spanish. I’m very excited to learn more about the history and culture of Spain, especially after learning a little bit about the country’s politics this past year in a course at K. I hope to develop a more compassionate view of U.S. culture and identify elements that are meaningful and important to me, something which I anticipate will be somewhat of a challenge.”

Molly Roberts ’21

Fulbright Scholar Molly Roberts
Molly Roberts ’21

Molly Roberts, a French and psychology double major at K, had the misfortune of missing out on two opportunities to study abroad. First, she was the only applicant interested in a spring short-term experience in Strasbourg, France, during her sophomore year, forcing the trip’s cancellation. Then, COVID-19 spread across the world during her junior year.

“I still yearned to be immersed in the French language and culture,” Roberts said. “In addition, graduate school is something that I’ve been interested in pursuing for a while. When I found a master’s degree program with an adviser, Dr. Fabien D’Hondt, who shared similar passions to me and had a research project in the field of neuroscience focusing on PTSD, a Fulbright scholarship seemed like the next logical step in my career path.”

Roberts expects her education to benefit from her research opportunities in France, but she’ll also be working for the Centre Nationale de Ressources et de Résilience (CN2R), an organization that takes current PTSD-focused research and puts it into practice to hep trauma survivors.

“This groundbreaking, accessible research-to-practice approach is what I expect to bring back with me to the States,” she said.

Margaret Totten ’21

Fulbright Scholar Margaret Totten
Margaret Totten ’21

As a Fulbright honoree, Margaret Totten will serve as an English teaching assistant in Thailand, a place she knows well from her time on study abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“I had hoped to return to continue learning about Thai language, culture and the natural environment,” said Totten, who had a computer science major, a math minor and an environmental studies concentration at K. “One of my major goals is to improve my Thai speaking skills and form meaningful relationships with people in my host community.”

Nina Szalkiewicz ’21

Fulbright Scholar Nina Szalkiewicz
Nina Szalkiewicz ’21

Nina Szalkiewicz, a business major and German minor at K, will follow in the footsteps of Georgie Andrews ’20, who served this past academic year as an English teaching assistant in Austria through Fulbright.

Szalkiewicz first went abroad through K when she spent six months in Bonn, Germany, leading to what she called her wonderful and surprising experiences studying German, thereby creating her interest in Fulbright.

“By pushing my boundaries and opening myself up to new cultures and customs, I grew tremendously as an individual which has changed my perspective toward my life,” Szalkiewicz said. “I began considering Fulbright more intently after reflecting on my Intercultural Research Project (ICRP) at the Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium. Much to my surprise, teaching and mentoring at this German middle school was one of my most enjoyable endeavors and something I gained the most from.”

Evelyn Rosero ’13

Fulbright Scholar Evelyn Rosero
Evelyn Rosero ’13

Evelyn Rosero was a human development and social relations major at K, leading to two years of volunteer work in Detroit with Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that finds teachers for low-income schools. Now, she’s a teacher in East Los Angeles, California, who wants to gain a global perspective on education while serving Fulbright as an English teaching assistant in South Korea.

On a personal note, she’s happy South Korea is her assigned destination because she’s a big fan of the South Korean boy band BTS and hopes to see one of their concerts. However, her primary goals are professional and developed with a philanthropic heart. She wants to find connections between Korean students’ identities and English-language content; share her American identity to engage in dialogue; continue learning Korean to empathize better with her students; and grow beyond her personal comfort zones.

“I am really excited to partake in this experience, especially as an educator,” Rosero said. “Even though I have been teaching for eight years, there is still so much to learn. As a foreigner, I will educate myself on my students’ Korean background and the community in which they reside.”

About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants, chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research in more than 140 countries throughout the world each year. In addition, about 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit its website.