Three Gustavus Adolphus College seniors have been named semifinalists for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program. Ben Dipple (Dell Rapids, S.D.), Travis Sigafoos (Champlin, Minn.), and Joey Wiley (St. Paul, Minn.) have cleared a competitive first round of evaluations and their applications are now being considered by the countries that they applied to teach in during the 2016-2017 academic year.
Fulbright’s ETA program places recent college graduates and young professionals as English teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas. These ETA participants improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while increasing the U.S. students’ own language skills and knowledge of the host country.
Ben Dipple, a history major, hopes to use the Fulbright to teach in Turkey next fall. “Language acquisition is one of the most crucial ways to establish cross-cultural empathy,” Dipple wrote in his Fulbright application. He is particularly interested in Turkey because it sits at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. “As a secular republic with a large and diverse Muslim-majority population it is in a unique position to create strong and respectful relations between the West and the Middle East,” he said.
During his time at Gustavus, Dipple has been involved as a tutor in the Writing Center and as a peer advisor in the Center for International and Cultural Education. He studied abroad in Turkey as a junior, which piqued his interest in the country and his desire to return as a Fulbright ETA. Dipple hopes to continue his Turkish and Middle Eastern studies in graduate school and pursue a career in academia or diplomatic services.
Travis Sigafoos, a psychological science and Spanish double major with a neuroscience minor, applied to serve as a Fulbright ETA in Mexico. When he studied abroad in Toledo, Spain, Sigafoos was able to serve as an English teaching assistant. “After being introduced to several classrooms, I soon found myself warming up my dormant vocal cords while doing my best Gene Kelly impression and leading the children in song and dance to ‘Singing in the Rain,’” he wrote in his application. When he returned to campus, he became even more active in the Gustavus Spanish department, facilitating a weekly dinner and conversation session for new Spanish students. “These experiences abroad and at home have provided challenges that I would expect and value as an ETA in Mexico,” Sigafoos continued.
Sigafoos is the president of the Gustavus chapter of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, serves as a Spanish tutor, and is a member of the language buddies club. He has also been an active researcher, assisting on experiments and analysis in two neuroscience labs and working as a student assistant in the psychological sciences department.
Like his classmates, Joey Wiley became interested in the Fulbright ETA program after studying abroad. “I believe that understanding and utilizing language is key to successfully engaging with the community abroad,” he said. Wiley recalled a moment during his first trip to Malaysia when, as a struggling Malay learner, he was supported by students who shouted “Malaysia boleh! (Malaysia Can!)” to encourage him. “I hope to show my appreciation by returning to Malaysia to give back to a community that has taught me to open myself to unique cultural experiences through education,” he said.
Wiley is the principal tubist for the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra and Gustavus Wind Orchestra, a member of the Chapel Brass, and vice president of the Omega Kappa fraternity. A political science major, he hopes to use his global experiences to inform a future career in government or politics.
“Ben, Travis, and Joey are very different individuals applying to different countries, but they are all so eager to learn more about the world, give themselves to a new community, and to work with young people to learn English,” Gustavus fellowships coordinator and chemistry professor Amanda Nienow said. “I am very excited to see them get this far in the process and wish them the best in the next evaluation round!”
The Gustavus Fellowships Office works with students and alumni to identify and to apply for appropriate nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships. Each year, Gustavus students apply for and receive these prestigious awards, enabling them to engage in a variety of activities including spending time overseas, conducting independent research, earning money toward their undergraduate tuition, and attending graduate school. Along with a team of faculty and administrators, Nienow supports students from all majors in applying for and securing fellowships both domestically and abroad. She encourages students to contact her directly to learn more about the Fulbright and other programs.
For more information about the Gustavus Fellowships Office and the support it gives to students, please visit the fellowship website.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin