Fulbright Program Recognizes Three GustiesThe College placed two English Teaching Assistants and one Research Alternate in this year's class.
Posted on May 2nd, 2024 by

(L-R): Kade Copple '24, Alexis Lin '24, and Olivia Falk '24

Three Gustavus students have been recognized in 2024 by the Fulbright Program, one of the most prestigious academic exchange programs in the world, whose mission is “to increase mutual understanding and support friendly and peaceful relations” between people in the United States and others across the globe.

This year’s awardees are Olivia Falk ’24 and Alexis Lin ’24, who received English Teaching Assistant awards for South Korea and Taiwan, respectively; and Kade Copple ’24, who was named an alternate for the Israel Research Award. Gustavus was recognized by the U.S. Department of State as a Fulbright Top Producing Institution earlier this year.

Here’s what each student has planned for their overseas adventures. Each assignment runs about 11 months and includes a stipend that covers housing costs. Upon completing their work, Fulbright awardees must complete a report on their experiences, and they’ll all make invaluable personal and professional connections throughout the experience.

Olivia Falk — English Teaching Assistant, South Korea — Biology Education major — Hometown: Foley, MN

After completing her ninth semester this coming fall as a biology teaching assistant in Spain, Falk will head to Asia in January 2025.

Why did you choose this option?  I’ve always been interested in travel in general and have never been to Asia, so that really interested me because the culture is so different. I’ve heard great things about the school systems in South Korea, and as I did more research on each of the countries that I could potentially apply to, South Korea just stood out to me, as being really interesting and a good learning experience.

What kind of help in the Fulbright application process did you receive? I started working on my application last August, just to get a head start, because I knew I was going to be so busy in the fall. There are two different essays you have to write, but they have to be only a page each, so you have to fit everything you want to say in a small space. [Fellowships Office Director] Pam [Kittelson] really did a lot with looking over my drafts and giving me suggestions, and I also worked with the Writing Center to have the writing tutors to read our stuff. It was a long process.

What are your career goals at this point? I’m planning to teach high school biology at first, but the last couple years I’ve been thinking more about pursuing a PhD and going the college teaching route.

Alexis Lin — English Teaching Assistant, Taiwan — Psychology major and Public Health minor — Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Lin took a short break from studying for the MCAT exams—the test is in early June—to discuss her Fulbright plans. She will be using her post-graduation gap year before medical school to explore Taiwan and other parts of Asia.

What are your current career plans? I’d like to work as a physician with infants in a NICU (Natal Intensive Care) setting.

What made you decide to apply for this Fulbright? I really didn’t know what it was at first, but after talking to Pamela and having her encourage me to apply I was still a bit nervous, because I wasn’t [Fulbright’s] typical education or English major. But I thought it would be a great experience, because in the past I’ve been a TA and a camp counselor for elementary school kids, as well as an English, math, and reading tutor for kids from African refugee camps, English math and reading. So before I devote my whole life to medicine, I thought this would be a good way to fill a gap year or two.

Do you have a personal connection to Taiwan? I visited when I was seven years old, and then my grandpa went to college there and speaks Mandarin. My family’s originally from Hong Kong, and we all speak Cantonese, but I thought it would be really interesting to learn Mandarin to connect more with my grandpa, and to visit my aunt over there.

How was the application process for you? You can’t just tell them you want to travel for a year. Pamela really helped me dig deep and present why Taiwan is the best fit for me. I’d write something [for the essay] and she was tearing it apart, which is good. She would help me focus on my impact in Taiwan and being an American ambassador. She helped me create something unique and strong that showed how I could apply my science background and create a nurturing environment for students, and how this Fulbright experience will inform my medical school plans.

How has Gustavus in general prepared you for this next chapter? It’s showed me a bit about being from different cultural backgrounds. Even though we’re still in the U.S, this area is very different from New Mexico—my first roommate here had never met an Asian person before me. But I’ve been able to share with the people around me how I’ve grown up, and I’ve learned about everything they’ve been able to share with me. The one thing I’ve really enjoyed is how much I’ve learned from a lot of people here in the Midwest and how strong their ties are with their family. They’re genuine, down-to-earth people, which I’ve really enjoyed being around.

Kade Copple — Israel Research Award (Alternate) — Biology major with Honors — Hometown: Waukee, IA

As a Fulbright alternate, Copple will be granted full admission should another awardee decline their offer, which could happen any time in the next few months. He’s already lined up a job at a Mayo Clinic immunology lab in Arizona, just in case, and he said that the events of October 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza have not affected the Fulbright program’s operations to date.

What was your Fulbright proposal? I want to work with a specific immunologist in Israel who specializes in genomic technologies. His lab develops technologies to take a new perspective on understanding how the immune system works in different disease contexts. My grant proposal was to utilize a new technology that the lab built to track immune cells over time and understand how they’re signaling to one another within a tumor. This immunologist has always been on my radar since I first started studying the immune system. He’s a leader in that field and has published some really cool work. I knew I wanted to study in Israel, so it was kind of a perfect match. If I’m going there, I might as well study with the best person.

What’s your interest in Israel? I grew up Jewish but not in an area that has a lot of Jewish people and synagogues. I want to reconnect with that and see what Jewish culture looks like in Israel. Also, Israel is very technology driven and entrepreneurial, and they put a lot of resources into research and do a really good job of fostering the scientific community on an international level.

Are you planning to go to medical school eventually? That’s one idea. I was going to apply this cycle, but I didn’t have the time I needed to study for the MCAT this semester. Now I’m planning to take two-year gap, figure that out, and make sure that medicine is really what I want to do. I’ve really enjoyed research and working in the lab because of how that work affects working with human tissue and diseases. But I also like the thought of seeing patients.


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


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