Two Gusties Named Fulbright Scholars

Posted on April 30th, 2012 by

Claire Sagstuen '11

Gustavus Adolphus College alumna Claire Sagstuen ’11 and current senior Jean-Paul Noel ’12 have both been named Fulbright Scholars for 2012. The Fulbright Scholar Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Sagstuen, a native of Eagan, Minn., graduated in 2011 with a history honors major and minors in religion and Russian area studies. She is currently studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, working toward her master’s degree in nationalism studies. She has been selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship at the Ekzarh Yosif I Foreign Language School in Lovech, Bulgaria.

“Bulgaria became a special interest of mine while conducting research for an undergraduate course on Nationalism in the Balkans,” Sagstuen said. “After attending the Fulbright International Summer Institute in Bulgaria, I decided to take my passion for Balkan history and culture a step further and apply for a Fulbright to Bulgaria. This unique opportunity will allow me to explore the country, its people, and truly engage in the classroom.”

Sagstuen had several important mentors during her four years at Gustavus including history professor Tom Emmert, religion professor Casey Elledge, Russian studies professor Denis Crnkovic and forensics coach Kristofer Kracht.

“I know that Gustavus is the reason I made it to graduate school and the Fulbright Program,” Sagstuen said. “The liberal arts curriculum gave me the tools I needed to find my desire for learning as I explored many different disciplines including European history, communications, and the Russian language.”

“Casey Elledge first introduced me to the Fulbright International Summer Institute last year and without his help I would never have thought about applying for a Fulbright to Bulgaria,” Sagstuen continued. “Tom Emmert and Denis Crnkovic both opened my eyes to Russian and Eastern European studies, while Kris Kracht helped me master my craft in public speaking and writing during my time with the forensics team. I know that they helped me get to graduate school and now have the honor of being a Fulbright scholar.”

Noel Headed to Switzerland

Jean-Paul Noel ’12, originally from Barcelona, Spain, is on schedule to graduate this spring with a psychology honors major and a neuroscience minor. He plans to use his Fulbright award to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland to work with Dr. Olaf Blanke, the director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale of Lausanne (EPFL). The EPFL is also home to the Brain Mind Institute, which is one of the largest institutes in the world studying brain sciences.

Jean-Paul Noel '12

“My work will concern questions relating to how we come to form a mental representation of our bodily self, and how can this mechanism be disrupted in the case of out-of-body experiences,” Noel said. “This lab uses some of the most sophisticated techniques allowed by today’s technology, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroencephalography, and the use of virtual reality.”

Like Sagstuen, Noel credits the academic opportunities that Gustavus allowed him along with the leadership and guidance from several of his professors, for giving him the opportunity to become a Fulbright scholar.

“Through help and mentoring from people like Tim Robinson, Lauren Hecht, and Jan Wotton, I was not only able to do research here at my home institutions, but also at larger institutions with additional technical equipment,” Noel said. “The great strength of Gustavus lies in the people that form the community, and if you realize that, and then are able to form strong connections with those with whom you share an interest, you are really going to enhance your educational possibilities here.”

Both Sagstuen and Noel credit Gustavus Fellowships Coordinator Alisa Rosenthal with assisting them with their Fulbright application.

“Alisa helped me significantly with my application through the Gustavus Fellowships Office, and her patience with all of my questions didn’t go unnoticed by me,” Sagstuen said.

“Alisa has been of vital importance not only because she kept me on track with deadlines, but she also brings great insight about the whole process,” Noel said. “Alisa understood from the very first moment that she and I had to embark together on a learning process. She was definitely ready to go through that process with me and I think we both know that that was reflected in the final draft of the proposal.”

The Fulbright Scholar Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The program has provided almost 300,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The program awards approximately 7,500 new grants annually and currently operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

If you are a Gustavus student interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholarship in the future, contact Rosenthal at 507-933-7437 or


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


Comments are closed.