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The Scarlet & Black

Seniors Submit to Fulbright in Record numbers

Perhaps as a result of (or maybe in spite of) the recent success of the Julia Roberts’ film “Eat, Pray, Love,” Grinnell College seniors applied to post-baccalaureate programs in record numbers this year. Combined, the applicants of Watson fellowship, Fulbright scholarship and Rhodes scholarship make up about 20 percent of this year’s graduating class.

“We have 27 Watson applicants this year—that’s the most that I’ve known of,” Doug Cutchins, the director of Social Commitment Office. “As for Fulbright, we absolutely destroyed our known records for Grinnell. Our previous record was 31 applicants, and this year we have 56, which is a huge increase. I think this is the new normal for us. We will see continuing high numbers of Watson and Fulbright applications.”

According the Thomas J. Watson Foundation website, the Watson Fellowship awards graduating seniors with a grant that allows them to travel the world pursuing a project of independent study. Grant recipients receive $25,000 and cannot return to the U.S. for a year. Last year, three Grinnellians received the grant. The Fulbright Scholar Program is an international exchange program that—similar to the Watson—awards grants to graduated seniors to pursue their own research or teach English abroad.

Ben Saderholm ’12 applied to for the Fulbright in order to go to New Zealand for mathematics.

“I will be enrolled in a master’s program, working with the professor at the University of Auckland. The professor actually got a Fulbright to come to the United States in the 60s to get his Ph.D. If I get the scholarship, the Fulbright will pay for my tuition,” Saderholm said. “After one year in there, I’m planning to come back to the United States for post doctorate education.”

Many individuals who applied for the Fulbright are for social, economic or cultural reasons and are often tied to place of study, although with math, there is not really that restriction.

“You follow people who are doing what you are interested in. I’m going to New Zealand because there’s a professor there who studies nonmetricable manifolds, which is something I find very interesting,” Saderholm said.

New Zealand was just one place that Saderholm looked into. He also thought about applying for programs in Canada, Australia and Russia, because he is also a Russian major, but his experience abroad taught him a valuable lesson.

“Towards the end of my semester (abroad) in Budapest I felt homesick, and was getting tired of not being able to understand words being said around me,” Saderholm explained, “so I choose to go to an English speaking country, and it also opens up the opportunity to explore the country itself when you understand the language.”

Liz Reischmann ’12, a Physics major, is applying for Watson Fellowship to study story-telling cultures and try to understand the basis of what makes a story last, and try to apply that to teaching science.

“I would like to tell stories about science that everyone can understand,” Reischmann said.

Right now her countries are New Zealand, Canada, Cambodia and Namibia. In Namibia, Reischmann hopes to join fellow Grinnellians who are there working for the GrinnellCorps program that researches local desertification as well as brings in kindergarten children from local tribes and teaches them about the science that they are doing there.

“I would love to be there to see the interaction between the kids and the science that the researchers bring up,” Reischmann said. “I also want to know how the researchers there present [science] and its relation to the stories. What I want to do is to make science more accessible to everyone.”

Reischmann also provided advice to first- and second-year students who want to apply for the Watson Fellowship and Fulbright Scholarships.

“Everyone should apply for it because it’s such a great opportunity to explore life outside your comfort zone,” Reischmann said. “The preparation is simply thinking what you really love in your life, and how to make it something that you can keep doing, and thinking about where you really want do these things. Then just imagine having 25,000 dollars doing it. Start early, and do not be afraid of talking to people.”

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