Four Gustavus Students Win Fulbright AwardsRepresenting the largest group of Gusties ever named Fulbright finalists, two seniors and two recent alumnae have won grants to teach English abroad.
Posted on May 9th, 2018 by

Two Gustavus Adolphus College students and two recent alumnae have been named finalists for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant. Megan Johnson ‘18, Liza Long ‘18, Julia Rydberg ‘17, and Emma Schmidtke ‘17 represent the largest group of Gustavus students ever named Fulbright ETA recipients.

“Our Gusties are so successful with the teaching program because of their involvement on campus in their leadership positions, in the classroom, and in study abroad experiences,” said Gustavus Fellowships Coordinator and Associate Professor of Chemistry Amanda Nienow. “We have never had four finalists before. Their success places Gustavus with the top producing schools in the state.”

Fulbright’s ETA program places recent college graduates and young professionals as English teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas. 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.

In addition to the group of four Fulbright finalists, two Gustavus students were named alternates and may be awarded a Fulbright position in the coming months. Bella Robertson ‘18 is an alternate finalist for the Fulbright ETA grant to Malaysia and Amanda Landaverde ‘18 is an alternate finalist for the Fulbright research grant in El Salvador.

Liza Long ’18

Majoring in political science and gender, women, and sexuality studies (GWSS), Long’s semester studying sustainable development in India sparked an interest in international work and led her to the Fulbright grant. Originally from Appleton, Wis., Long will be located in a rural community in Nepal next year.

“To me, earning the Fulbright symbolizes a responsibility to represent the United States honestly, which means acknowledging both its strengths and flaws as a country. The grant represents an obligation to act as a conscientious global citizen,” said Long. “I hope that I am able to increase my students’ English speaking skills and prepare them for future years of education.”

During her time at Gustavus, Long served as the co-chair of the Building Bridges Conference and as the co-president of the Womyn’s Awareness Center (WAC) in 2017. She was also a four year member of the WAC and an academic assistant to the GWSS program. When she returns to the United States, she hopes to move to Washington D.C. to pursue her passion in a career in politics and work to better housing and economic policy.

Emma Schmidtke ’17

A native of Plymouth, Schmidtke pursued the Fulbright opportunity to expand her international studies, which includes a semester-long experience in Malaysia during her time at Gustavus. Next year, she will be using the grant to teach in Taiwan.

“I discovered that living in another country provides a rewarding cultural experience unlike any other,” Schmidtke said. “When I returned to the U.S., I began to research programs that would allow me to live abroad again. I chose the Fulbright because the grant offers a unique opportunity for community engagement and cultural exchange. My hope is to best serve my students and the local teachers.”

After her time away, the English major plans to enter a masters program for creative writing and use her writing and communication skills to serve others. During her time on the Hill, Schmidtke was involved as a member of Lucia Singers, Firethorne Literary Magazine, and the Sunday Morning Worshiping Community.

Julia Rydberg ’17

Embracing the liberal arts experience and taking courses across multiple departments during her time at Gustavus, Rydberg graduated with a degree in communication studies and minors in art and history. The River Falls, Wisc. native also served as the president of her sorority, student adviser for Summer Institute for Academic Success, and the founder of the Academic Peer Coaching program.

“The Fulbright grant means discovery. I applied to serve in Taiwan after taking Professor David Obermiller’s course on U.S. and East Asian relations and being drawn to the dynamic political culture of Taiwan. It was just one way in which being a part of the history department challenged me to grow in my perspective and thinking skills,” said Rydberg.

Instead of teaching in Taiwan, Rydberg decided to pursue her passion for education in a different way. Hoping to teach social studies to high school and middle school students, she is attending graduate school next year to earn a masters in education.

Megan Johnson ’18

Johnson’s majors in English and history and minors in Japanese studies and comparative literature have allowed her to explore her interests with a multifaceted approach. Expanding her studies to an international experience, Johnson spent a month in both the U.K. and Japan through January Interim Experience courses. She has also served as an E.L.L. tutor for many years, both in schools in her hometown of Coon Rapids and in the Saint Peter Community Center. This combined passion for teaching and travel led Johnson to apply for the Fulbright grant in Taiwan.  

“After the challenging year long process, I could not be more excited to go. I’m looking forward to hearing my future student’s stories and perspectives and learning from them as I help them succeed,” Johnson said. “This will be an incredible opportunity of growth and I’m ready to undergoing those changes with new understandings about myself and the world.”

On campus, Johnson has been involved as a Gustie Greeter, Gustavus Ambassador, member of the Speech Team, academic assistant in the history department, and a co-editor for the Fourth Crown. After the completion of her time in Vietnam, she hopes to return to her English thesis research into the pop culture surrounding events of 9/11 and is also considering applying to law school.

“These students work hard, are passionate about the programs they are applying for, and have big goals for their futures. The process had a lot of ups and downs, and months of honing their applications — including several rounds of essay edits. It takes courage, effort, patience, and grace to apply for and program as detailed and competitive as the Fulbright,” said Nienow. “I hope that they find their experiences fulfilling, find ways to weather the challenges, and learn more about themselves and the world.”

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 Luc Hatlestad



  1. Ursula Lindqvist says:

    Wow, this is amazing!! Congratulations to a fantastic group of women!

  2. Paschal Kyoore says:

    Big congrats to all of you!