Nine Gusties Named Fulbright SemifinalistsThe 2018 group of nine students is the largest number of Gustavus applicants to be named Fulbright U.S. Student Program semifinalists to date.
Posted on February 14th, 2018 by

From left to right: Megan Kallestad, Isabella Roberston, Ally Xiong, Ellen Kneeskern, Megan Johnson and Amanda Landaverde (Not pictured: Liza Long, Julia Rydberg, and Emma Schmidtke)

The evaluations in a competitive first round of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program 2018-2019 are complete and a record number of Gustavus Adolphus College students were named semifinalists for the prestigious grant program. Their applications have been forwarded to their respective countries for final review.

“This is the largest number of semifinalists Gustavus has ever had, so it is a very exciting time for these students as they work through this challenging process together,” said Gustavus Fellowships Coordinator and Associate Professor of Chemistry Amanda Nienow. “Through Fulbright, students are able to immerse themselves in a different culture and learn more about themselves as individuals. It is an important opportunity for students to explore themselves and the world before the next step after graduation.”

Six Gustavus seniors, Megan Johnson (Vietnam), Megan Kallestad (Peru), Ellen Kneeskern (Norway), Liza Long (Nepal), Isabella Robertson (Malaysia), Ally Xiong (South Korea), and two Gustavus graduates, Julia Rydberg ‘17 (Taiwan) and Emma Schmidtke ‘17 (Taiwan), represent the College as English Teaching Assistant program semifinalists. Through the Fulbright ETA program, recent U.S. college graduates and young professionals serve as teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas to improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States. At the same time, the U.S. students are able to expand their own language skills and knowledge of the host country.

“I first came to Gustavus from out of state, and then I interned abroad in Sweden. I want to continue to break out of my comfort zone and keep growing an expanding network,” said Isabella Robertson, a communications studies major who applied to teach in Malaysia. “This opportunity would allow me to immerse myself in a different culture, represent the United States in a positive way, and incorporate the two cultures for the better.”

Gustavus senior Amanda Landaverde, a psychological science, Spanish, and Latin American, Latino & Caribbean studies triple major and the ninth Fulbright semifinalist, is seeking a Fulbright Research/Study Grant to conduct research in El Salvador. Also funded by the U.S. Fulbright Student Program, the Research/Study Grant allows recent college graduates and young professionals to develop and execute a unique research project for a specific country. If accepted, Landaverde will return to her father’s home country to complete her proposal, an investigation of generational trauma and its impact on anxiety and stress. 

“Most of the existing research on generational trauma is completed in European countries, so I am very interested in using my LALACS studies to investigate the impact of the civil war and violence that occurred during the 1980s in El Salvador and how it affects young people today. The entire research project would be in Spanish, which adds another element,” said Landaverde. 

“As coordinator, I have loved meeting the best and brightest students from all departments to help them find unique opportunities abroad,” said Nienow. “Our applicants and finalists in this world renowned program bring an element of prestige that we are proud of here. Having past finalists return and help read the applications and guide the process for current Gusties makes it even more special.”

Working with both students and alumni, the Gustavus Fellowships Office assists applicants in identifying and applying for appropriate nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships. The various programs provide Gusties with the opportunity to spend time overseas, conduct independent research, earn money toward undergraduate tuition, or attend graduate school. Nienow and a team of faculty and administrators support students from all majors as they strive to secure fellowships both domestically and abroad. In order to learn more about the Fulbright and other programs, she encourages students to contact her directly.

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 Luc Hatlestad



  1. Carmen Barker Lemay says:

    Congratulations All! As an ’86 grad, and Fulbright Research Scholar to Malaysia 1986-87, I know the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point, and the exciting days and challenges ahead. Persevere, accept the guidance of your mentors and collaborators, and keep engaged with the rest of the world. We need your global perspective. My heartfelt thanks to my faculty coordinator, the very able Tom Emmert, and Steve and Shirley Mellema who assisted in my transition to Malaysia. #Fulbrightisforever @FulbrightAssoc

  2. Wendy Bachman says:

    So proud of our Admission Office Tour Guides and family!! Megan, Liza, Bella, Ally and Amanda!! The best of the BEST! Congratulations!