Prestigious awards take nine Lawrentians abroad
by Rick Peterson
There was neither welcoming red carpet to walk nor sky-roaming klieg lights with their attention-grabbing beams. But when the envelopes were opened and the phrase “and the winner is” was recited this spring, Lawrence University students and faculty frequently found themselves center stage accepting congratulations. Nine Lawrentians were recognized with significant awards that will send them to destinations around the globe for teaching, learning and research opportunities courtesy of national foundations, international organizations and even the U.S. government.
He turned his passion for gaming into a project proposal that was rewarded with a $25,000 fellowship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation for a year of independent travel and exploration abroad. As one of 40 undergraduates nationally awarded a Watson Fellowship, Winter’s life-long affection for gaming will become a year-long study of the social phenomenon of the video game culture in East Asia.
Winter, Lawrence’s 67th Watson Fellow since the program’s inception in 1969, will spend a year visiting China, Japan and South Korea, where video games are as popular with residents there as sports are to Americans here.
“Video gaming is creating its own, unique traditions every day,” said Winter, a biology major from Seattle, Wash. “Chief among them is a social, cultural network that circles the globe without regard for national boundaries or languages. The interactive entertainment industry is poised to change the world as profoundly as the Internet. We’re standing on the brink of a cultural revolution and now is the perfect time to study this infant culture.”
Hong Kong, Seoul, Bejing, Tokyo and Shanghai are among the expected destinations Winter will have his passport stamped as he investigates the evolving world of interactive entertainment. The industry is moving away from the one game/one player model toward entire communities of players who are brought together through the game itself, creating an international digital community with a unique subculture.
Brian Pertl ’86, dean of the conservatory of music and Lawrence’s Watson program liaison, said Winter will break new ground with his fellowship. “His project explores areas that haven’t been tackled by any previous Watson fellows,” said Pertl, a 1986 Watson Fellow. “Alex’s passion for this topic as a scholar and as a participant in social gaming gives him the perfect background for this award.”
Winter sees his project not as a departure from his study of biology, but an extension of it. “A background in biological science is fundamentally an education in methodical parsing of cause and effect,” he said. “Human culture can be examined as a complex system with confounding factors. My background in science gives me a scaffold on which to build this study and dig into the new sociological frontier presented by East Asian gaming.”
Christina Blomberg ’10 and Sara Wallsworth ’10 added to Lawrence’s growing list of Fulbright Scholarship recipients. Blomberg, a psychology major from Fleetwood, Pa., and Wallsworth, a German and linguistics major from Waukesha, will spend 10 months of their first post-Lawrence year as English teaching assistants in Turkey and Germany, respectively.
Although their specific destinations were still to be determined at press time, Blomberg was slated to teach in a university setting and Wallsorth at either a middle or secondary school. Together they will be among more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the coming academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Since 2003, 14 Lawrence students have been awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarships by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Blomberg served as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor in Lawrence’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and held an internship last fall at Appleton’s Joh
nston Montessori School, where she worked with 4-6th graders. She was attracted to Turkey as a Fulbright destination in part because it was so different from her more familiar Western, Germanic background. “I’m looking forward to personally challenging myself by living in a culture way outside my comfort zone,” said Blomberg, who graduated with a minor in German and music. “I’d love to wind up in a bigger city, but I’m confident I’ll have a wonderful experience in a smaller town with a slower lifestyle, too.
Blomberg hopes to investigate some of the environmental challenges facing Turkish citizens on a daily basis as well as pursuing her interest in improvised music. “I’m excited about exploring Turkey’s rich music culture,” added Blomberg, who plays the tenor saxophone.
Wallsworth also served as an ESL tutor in Lawrence’s CTL and tutored in both her German and linguistics courses. It was a 2008 study abroad program in Freiburg, Germany that convinced her to apply for the Fulbright Fellowship. “I fell in love with Germany and wanted to figure out a way to go back,” she said. “I thought a Fulbright appointment would be great way to bridge my life from Lawrence to the next step in my education.”
While serving as an unofficial ambassador, Wallsworth is approaching her upcoming Fulbright appointment as a personal growth opportunity. “This is going to allow me to get a better grasp of the language, but I’m also looking forward to living independently in a different country and immersing myself in a different culture. It’s about living and traveling in Europe and experiencing that lifestyle. I certainly want to gain a more international perspective on the world while I’m there.”
Since its establishment in 1946 as a means of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries, the Fulbright Program has become the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Wallsworth and Blomberg won’t be the only Lawrentians with unofficial diplomatic duties in the coming year. Jamie Gajewski, ’09, Natalie Grattan ’10 and Sonya Weston ’07 were awarded $25,000 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year while Sarah Ehlinger ’11 received a Rotary Scholarship for 2011-12.
The Ambassadorial Scholarships provide students opportunities to study at participating universities in 200 countries and geographical areas where Rotary clubs are active. While abroad, the scholars serve as goodwill ambassadors for their home countries by participating in community service projects and speaking at local Rotary club events, civic organizations and other forums.
Gajewski, a Spanish major from Madison, will study Arabic at Egypt’s Alexandria University. Volunteer work focused on Egypt’s rural poverty or the empowerment of women are also in her plans.
A trip to Morocco in 2007 while on a study-abroad program in Granada, Spain sparked Gajewski’s initial interest in Arabic. She will make a return visit to Spain in August en route to Egypt. “While it would be much more comfortable for me to spend my Rotary year in Spain, I am prepared for the challenges, confusion, excitement and mysteries that await me in Egypt,” said Gajewski. “Most Ambassadorial Scholars who study in Egypt spend their year in Cairo, but I feel fortunate I will spend mine in the beautiful port city of Alexandria. It has so much history and a thriving arts scene.”
Grattan, a biochemistry major from Vancouver, Wash., will attend the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand to study public health as a precursor to pursuing medical school at the University of Washington. She eventually hopes to join the World Health Organization. “As a pre-medical student interested in working in international infectious disease, I hope to learn about medicine not from the perspective of a doctor, but from a systems perspective,” said Grattan, who served as president of the organization Students Working Against Hunger and Poverty (SWAHP) for two years and helped organize a three-week trip to Sierra Leone last December. “Learning how to prevent disease is just as important as learning to treat it, and understanding the health care system of a country is critical to solving many of the underlying problems associated with health.”
Weston, who graduated with a major in government, will attend Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, pursuing coursework in Indian politics, history and society, focusing on the social and political implications of India’s burgeoning economic transformation. She also will undertake intensive Hindi language study. “India finds itself competing with the United States and other highly industrialized countries in many high-tech industries, but the country has yet to undergo the kind of broad-based industrialization that can deliver jobs to most of its people,” said Weston. “How India copes with the demands and expectations of diverse constituencies present both challenges and opportunities.” Weston, from Macomb, Ill., is working as a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Ehlinger, a geology major from Wauwatosa, Wis., will have to wait a year before embarking on her Rotary adventure, which she hopes leads to the University of Ghana to pursue her interests in environmental hazards and human health. “Ghana is a developing country and it is doing a good job with its development. It’s a model of sorts for West Africa,” she explained. “Developing countries have great environmental issues, but the least amount of resources and protections to mitigate those problems. That paradox is what interests me. I’ll learn the scientific aspect of these problems, but working with and learning from people who actually live there will provide valuable context in which these problems exist.”
Nancy Wall, associate dean of the faculty and Lawrence’s liaison for the Rotary Scholarship, hailed the program as much
more than just a chance to study abroad. “This prestigious award brings great responsibility with the privilege,” said Wall. “In addition to excellent academic promise, scholars also must demonstrate honorable character and a sincere desire to act as an ambassador for the United States. Although Lawrence provides many opportunities for individualized learning, we remind students they are part of a learning community not only on but also beyond our campus,” Wall added. “Today’s students are part of a global community and the Ambassadorial Scholarship is a wonderful opportunity for our students to
learn in that larger community.”
Focused on humanitarian service, personal diplomacy and academic excellence, the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships program is one of the world’s largest privately sponsored international scholarship programs. It counts among its distinguished alumni former U.S. Ambassador to India and 1959 Lawrence graduate David Mulford.
CRITICAL LANGUAGE SCHOLAR
Mere hours from receiving a congratulatory handshake from President Beck on the commencement stage, Megan Brown ’10 was bound for Amman, Jordan. A linguistics major from Saginaw, Mich., Brown was awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Arabic at the American Center for Oriental Research in the Middle East country. One of 575 students selected from among nearly 5,300 applicants, Brown will be part of a 10-week, personalized, intensive language program and participate in various cultural activities while in Jordan. The CLS covers all expenses and includes a $1,000 stipend.
“Accurate communication is more essential than ever before due to the growing globalization of the world and the growth of the information industry,” said Brown, who studied Arabic for a year at Lawrence and has had Chinese and French language instruction as well.
Her career aspirations include a foreign service officer position with the U.S. Department of State to work “for more
integrated international relations.”
The CLS program was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas and expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages, among them Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani.