Gustavus Adolphus College students Carolyn Del Vecchio, Carl Cusack, and Laura Isdahl have been named semifinalists for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program. All three have cleared a competitive first round of evaluations and their applications have been forwarded to the countries they applied to teach in for the 2017-2018 academic year, where they will undergo final review.
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.
“This is the second consecutive year Gustavus has had three Fulbright semi-finalists. It’s an honor to work with these Gusties, all of whom are eager to learn more about the world, to become ambassadors for the U.S. by working hard within communities around the world, and to impact the world by teaching and building relationships with young people in such varied locations,” Gustavus Fellowships Coordinator and Associate Professor of Chemistry Amanda Nienow said. “I am excited and proud to see Carolyn, Laura, and Carl get this far in a long and difficult process.”
Del Vecchio, a political science major from Bismarck, N.D., has applied to serve in Vietnam through the Fulbright program. Her interest in the opportunity springs from her study away experience in Tanzania last spring. “I didn’t realize what it meant to be an American until I studied abroad,” Del Vecchio said. “Basically all of my identities were challenged when I went somewhere where I looked different and was in a different environment.” She encourages other students to do the same: “Go beyond to engage in these experiences,” she said.
Del Vecchio has been involved at Gustavus as a Gustie Greeter, member of the Handbell Choir, on the Building Bridges committee, and through Gustavus Women in Leadership. Eventually, she hopes to work in foreign service or pursue a law degree.
A history major from Cottage Grove, Wis., Cusack hopes to use the Fulbright scholarship to teach in Estonia next year. 2017-2018 is the first year that the ETA program will be active in Estonia, which Cusack finds intriguing. “Estonia is a member of NATO, but it’s right on the border of Russia, so there are a lot of geopolitical factors,” he explained. “Part of the Fulbright program is cultural diplomacy, so it’s really cool to have the opportunity to be selected for the first group to teach in the country.”
Cusack, who also minors in film and media studies, is involved on campus as a member of the College Democrats and through the chaplains’ office. He studied in Penang, Malaysia, last spring and has also interned in the Minnesota office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Cusack hopes to work in international risk management or foreign service.
Isdahl, who grew up in Plymouth, Minn., and studies English, seeks to teach in Malaysia during the 2017-2018 academic year. Like the other Fulbright semifinalists, her interest was piqued during her travels abroad. Isdahl has been to South Africa and Italy during her time as a Gustavus student. “I’ve known a lot of people who have applied for the Fulbright that I’ve really admired, so I’m excited to be named a semifinalist,” she said. “It would be a really good opportunity to not only contribute to international education, but to learn more about myself.”
An editor of Firethorne and Writing Center tutor, Isdahl has also been involved as a Gustie Greeter, Gustavus Ambassador, Building Bridges committee member, and member of the Guild of St. Lucia. She hopes to work in publishing or in non-profit administration. Her interests include marketing, editing, and fundraising.
“Laura, Carolyn, and Carl have worked hard to reach this point in the evaluation process and I wish them the best of luck in the next evaluation round,” Nienow said.
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.
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