St. Paul, Minn. – Seven Macalester seniors from the Class of 2020 and two recent alumni have accepted Fulbright scholarships. Jessi-Alex Brandon ’20 received a Combined Grant to Austria, Gianna Brassil ’20 received an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant to Azerbaijan, Theo Caskey ’20 received an ETA to Germany, Bethany Catlin ’19 received an ETA to Brazil, Kata Hahn ’20 received an ETA to Serbia, Katie Hunter ’20 received an ETA to Spain, Caroline Norfleet ’20 received an ETA to Taiwan, Jordana Palmer ’18 received a Research/Study Grant to China, and Sam Ryckaert ’20 received an ETA to Nepal. Due to coronavirus concerns, the awards have been postponed until January except in extenuating circumstances.

Jessi-Alex Brandon ’20 received a Combined Grant to Austria. A German studies and international studies double major, Brandon will be both working as an English teacher and pursuing research in their field. “My main commitment will be teaching English,” Brandon says. “But I’ll also be pursuing ethnography-based research on the cultural identity of black Austrians and Austrians of African descent.” Brandon, who studied abroad in Vienna their junior year, is looking forward to exploring the country further and getting more involved with the local poetry scene. Brandon’s teaching grant is sponsored independently by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, so they will be able to start their position in September as planned.

Gianna Brassil ’20 received an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant to Azerbaijan. An anthropology and religious studies double major, Brassil’s Fulbright experience will mark her third trip to the country since high school. “I have a pretty long history studying Azerbaijani, and have gained so much from the relationships with my teachers and host families. I saw the Fulbright as a way to engage in reciprocity, to come back with my language skills and contribute something to the community,” Brassil says. After her time abroad, Brassil hopes to spend some time working before going back to school to pursue a PhD in either anthropology or religious studies.

Theo Caskey ’20 received an ETA to Germany. A German studies major, Caskey credits his accomplishment to the German studies department at Macalester. “I can’t say enough good things,” Caskey says, “The professors were so helpful throughout the application process. Three of the four of us in the German capstone are either doing Fulbright or Fulbright-adjacent things next year—if that doesn’t say good things about the department, I don’t know what could.” When he’s not teaching English, Caskey will be working to engage with the community he’s assigned to. “That may mean volunteering with recent immigrants in Germany to help with language training and accessing resources, which is similar to volunteer work that I’ve done here in the U.S.,” he says. “I’d also like to visit more countries throughout Europe.”

Bethany Catlin ’19 received an ETA to Brazil. At Macalester, she was an English major with a creative writing concentration. After a year speaking Spanish every day in her work for an immigration law firm, Catlin felt ready to pursue a new language, and is looking forward to improving her Portuguese abroad. “I’m looking forward to experiencing Brazilian university culture,” Catlin says. “When I found out I got the grant, it gave me a huge burst of energy—I’m thankful I’m able to think about the future past the virus.” Catlin is scheduled to take the GRE this August and hopes to pursue an MFA in creative writing after her Fulbright is complete.

Kata Hahn ’20 received an ETA to Serbia. A biology major with a concentration in community and global health, Hahn is interested in exploring the differences between the American and Serbian public health systems. She hopes to use her time abroad to develop her understanding of Balkan history and her own cultural heritage. “My mother’s family is from Serbia, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know the region better. I’ve mostly heard stories from my family, but I want to develop a more nuanced perspective on what it means to be Serbian and learn more about Serbian history,” she says. “My mom is going to help me learn some of the language before I go…she’s really excited, too.”

Katie Hunter ’20 received an ETA to Spain. An educational studies and Spanish double major, Hunter will be teaching English in La Rioja, in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. She’s interested in studying the ways in which the Spanish education system works to create a bilingual identity among students. “There are lots of bilingual programs already implemented in Spain—between, for example, Spanish and Catalan. I’m curious if there’s anything used in that programming that could be used in the U.S. to better support Spanish-speaking students.” In addition to her Fulbright work, Hunter hopes to start a dance program for underprivileged students in her community abroad. “Dancing was my first teaching job,” Hunter says. “I’d love to do something with it next year.”

Caroline Norfleet ’20 received an ETA to Taiwan. A linguistics and Chinese double major, Norfleet is excited to improve her skills in Mandarin and to learn more about Taiwanese indigenous and minority languages. “I was especially interested in going to Taiwan because of the linguistic diversity,” Norfleet says. “Teaching English is a really good way to take the linguistic skills that I have been acquiring over my years in Macalester and put it towards something that really has an impact on people’s lives.” She is considering a PhD in linguistics after her time overseas.

Jordana Palmer ’18 received a Research/Study Grant to China. At Macalester, she was a political science and sociology double major. For the past two years, she’s worked with different energy and utility companies. “While I was working with one organization, I had the opportunity to manage a program where I worked with very small businesses and their energy efficient development,” Palmer says. “My project abroad is based on that. I’ll be looking at the trends of sustainable energy practices in medium-sized businesses around China, and analyzing the data.” After her time abroad, she plans to pursue a Public Policy master’s degree in Energy Development that would also allow her to maintain her Chinese language skills.

Sam Ryckaert ’20 received an ETA to Nepal. A religious studies and international studies double major, he’s hoping to continue to pursue research he began his junior year while on study away in addition to his required teaching. “I’m hoping to do some research on the side on religious syncretism and health and healing practices in the Himalayas,” Ryckeart says. “It’ll be interesting to see how Nepal is doing in general in the aftermath of COVID-19, and what health practices look like in rural areas right now.” Ryckeart is looking forward to continuing to build connections in the country and expanding his teaching skills.

June 23 2020

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