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St. Olaf announces three Fulbright fellows

By Kari VanDerVeen
May 8, 2008

St. Olaf College will add to its long list of alumni working to foster a strong global community when three Oles who were recently named Fulbright fellows leave this fall to study and teach in countries around the world.

St. Olaf seniors (from left) Katherine Dobie, Kirsten Peterson, Lauren Kunz, Keeley MacNeill and Alexandra Sprano were recently named Fulbright fellows and alternates for 2008-09. Not pictured is Lisa Gulya.
Two St. Olaf seniors and one alumna were named Fulbright fellows for 2008-09. Lauren Kunz '08, Alexandra Sprano '08 and Lisa Gulya '07 will use the prestigious scholarship to pursue opportunities ranging from performing breast cancer research in Norway to teaching English in Turkey to studying a Russian initiative to grow its population.

Three St. Olaf seniors were also named alternates to the program, which means they would receive the opportunity to pursue their proposed projects if additional funding becomes available or if another Fulbright fellow changes his or her plans and declines the award. Alternates include Keeley MacNeill '08, Katherine (Katie) Dobie '08 and Kirsten Peterson '08.

The flagship international educational program sponsored by the United States government, the Fulbright Program is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries," according to the Fulbright website. Recipients pursue international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, or teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. Since 1995, 52 St. Olaf students have received Fulbright scholarships.

This year's winners and alternates from St. Olaf were feted at a campus reception Thursday. Solveig Zempel '69, Fulbright adviser and associate dean of Interdisciplinary and General Studies, says St. Olaf always has great applications for the Fulbright Program.

"These students applied to study in a wide range of countries in a wide range of fields. We have students who proposed studying everything from music to statistics," Zempel says.

Fulbright fellows
Kunz, of Madelia, Minn., will study in Norway. A chemistry and math major with a concentration in statistics, she will perform survival and event history analysis on longitudinal breast cancer data from the Norwegian Cancer Registry. Current statistical methods will be used to model cancer-related events based on different biomarkers and socioeconomic factors. Upon her return, Kunz plans to enroll in a dual M.D./Ph.D program in biostatistics with a focus on cancer treatment research.

Sprano, of Anchorage, Alaska, will study in Turkey. A classics major with a concentration in Middle East studies, she will work as an English teaching assistant. In addition, she will assist at a museum or cultural site to pursue the interpretation of cultural artifacts. Upon her return, she plans to attend graduate school in art history to prepare to work in the public education sector at museums and/or cultural sites.

Gulya, of Fargo, N.D., will study in Russia. An English and Russian major, Gulya plans to study how Russian undergraduate women in Novgorod perceive the president's "mother capital" initiative to grow the population, which will pay women $10,000 for their second and any subsequent children. Upon her return, Gulya plans to pursue a dual graduate degree in journalism and political science.

Fulbright alternates
Dobie is an alternate to Hong Kong. Her proposed project consists of course work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, along with independent content analysis of popular newspapers from China. The newspaper analysis will enable her to draw inferences about Chinese perspectives on current international human rights debates. Dobie's future plans include graduate study in international relations with a focus on human rights issues from a global perspective.

MacNeill is an alternate to Norway. Her proposed project is to study the stoichiometry of zooplankton and bacteria. She will also take courses in aquatic ecology and related subjects at the University of Oslo. Her future plans are to enroll in medical school with a dual degree in ecological science.

Peterson is an alternate to Peru. Her proposed project is to study the influence of folk genres on Peruvian nationalist art music during the 20th century. Her future plans include graduate study in ethnomusicology, focusing on the nature of music as grounds for cross-cultural dialogue, and the ability of music to impact social movements.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or