Four University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alums and two current students expected to graduate this spring have received 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards. The total of six Fulbright awards is a record number awarded to UW-Eau Claire students and/or graduates in a single year.
Laura Atchley, Allyson Breyer, Courtney Brost, Annisa Luginbill, Hannah Schneeman and Kanu Shenoi have received Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships and will teach abroad during the 2019-20 academic year. The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Cheyenne Bonincontri, a current biology and Spanish education double major from Fond du Lac who plans to graduate in August, was selected as an alternate for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantships in Ecuador. Alternates can receive Fulbright Teaching Assistantships if additional funding becomes available.
“This has been an incredible Fulbright year for UW-Eau Claire,” said Cheryl Lochner-Wright, a study abroad coordinator in UW-Eau Claire’s Center for International Education and the campus advisor for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. “Of nine applicants, all were named semi-finalists, seven were offered awards (although one decided to pursue other opportunities) and one was named an alternate. That is an amazing result for the university community to celebrate. Our graduates continue to significantly contribute to the important cultural exchange that is facilitated through this prestigious program.”
This year’s UW-Eau Claire Fulbright honorees are among a total of 25 graduates of the university who received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards over the past 10 years. That is more than double the number from any other master's-level public university in Wisconsin or Minnesota.
More about UW-Eau Claire’s 2019-20 Fulbright recipients
Laura Atchley, a 2014 UW-Eau Claire organizational communication graduate, will teach English to students in secondary grades in Malaysia.
Since her UW-Eau Claire graduation, Atchley has worked as a project coordinator and research support administrator with a medical research firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She also had volunteered teaching English as a second language in that city, which led to an interest in teaching abroad. Soon she learned about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program through an acquaintance who had completed an English Teaching Assistantship in Tawain.
"After talking with her, I was really intrigued," Atchley said. "She had only positive things to say about her experience and Fulbright was not only a supportive, reputable program, but also focused on cultural diplomacy, which I really liked. I ended up contacting UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education shortly after to start the application process."
Atchley has visited Malaysia several times, but mostly in urban areas so she looks forward to learning more about Malaysian culture in rural regions.
"I'm excited to learn the language, get to know my students and community, and eat all the Malaysian food. It is truly the best!"
Building confidence among her students in their English-speaking abilities and sharing with them about American culture beyond what is seen in the mainstream media are what Atchley looks forward to most about her Fulbright experience.
"I’m hoping to gain more self-confidence as an educator and a deeper understanding of Malaysian languages and culture," Atchley said. "I truly believe education and cross-cultural exchange can break down barriers and foster mutual understanding."
Allyson Breyer, a 2018 UW-Eau Claire special education graduate from Minnetrista, Minnesota, will teach English in the Netherlands.
Breyer studied abroad in Italy during UW-Eau Claire's Winterim session before her final semester of college, and that sparked an interest in more travel. After her return to the U.S., she saw a story on the UW-Eau Claire website about a previous Fulbright student.
"I was very interested in how this student was able to combine my two passions for traveling and teaching, so I looked further into the Fulbright Scholarship," Breyer said. "When I saw that it was a free application, and that I was eligible, I thought 'Why not!' and I began my application."
Breyer has been working as a long-term substitute special education teacher at a middle school in Chaska, Minnesota, since her UW-Eau Claire graduation last December. Starting this fall, she'll teach in a primary school outside of Amsterdam.
"I am very excited to be a part of one of the most successful education programs in the world," Breyer says when asked what she most looks forward to about her Fulbright experience. "I am excited to learn about the Dutch culture, while sharing about the American and Minnesota cultures."
Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant recipients promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and their host countries through living, working and otherwise engaging in their host communities, and Breyer says she looks forward to that role.
"I am hoping to share as much as I can about the American culture," Breyer says. "I am hoping to share about our education system, school traditions, major sporting events and major landmarks in the U.S. in a fun and engaging way. My goal is to make an impact and create a mutual understanding between the two cultures."
Courtney Brost, a 2015 UW-Eau Claire Latin American studies and English graduate from Wisconsin Rapids, will teach English in Brazil to university students who themselves are studying to become English teachers.
Brost learned about the Fulbright opportunity when she was still a student at UW-Eau Claire, working in the Center for International Education as a peer advisor for students considering study abroad. She has continued working in the CIE since graduation and applied twice previously for Fulbright awards but was not selected. She credits encouragement from Lochner-Wright for the fact that she applied a third time and was selected for the teaching assistantship in Brazil.
“I’m really looking forward to learning Portuguese and experiencing Brazilian cultures,” Brost says, noting that Brazil was not among the Spanish-speaking countries she learned about in her college Latin American studies classes. “I think this will be the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge of this region by getting involved in the community where I'll be living and teaching.”
Brost, who plans to pursue a master’s degree and continue working in international education following her Fulbright experience, said she also looks forward to improving her intercultural communication skills and getting involved in the Brazilian community where she’ll be living.
“I'm hoping to share different perspectives of U.S. culture beyond what people might hear from stereotypes or see on TV,” Brost says. “Being a cultural ambassador also involves learning from my students about their culture, engaging in conversations with an open mind and being willing to have my own perspectives challenged. That really is what cultural exchange is all about.”
Annisa Luginbill, a current UW-Eau Claire student from Eau Claire who will graduate this spring with a degree in elementary and German education, will teach English in Germany. She has been chosen for the Fulbright Diversity Program in Germany, through which she will be placed in a school with a high population of students with immigrant or minority backgrounds.
It was as a UW-Eau Claire student completing a semester studying abroad in Marburg, Germany, that Luginbill learned about the Fulbright opportunity, and she looks forward to returning to that country.
“I completely fell in love with the country and culture while I was there and I truly never wanted to leave,” Luginbill says. “The Fulbright seemed like a perfect fit for me, and a great way to combine my interests in travel, teaching and German.”
Thinking ahead to her time as a Fulbright, Luginbill says she most looks forward to being immersed in the German language and culture, going to parts of Europe that she didn't get to explore previously and getting to know her students.
“I’m also hoping to gain more self-confidence and experience as an educator,” Luginbill says. “This will follow me back to the states as I begin my teaching career.”
In her role as a U.S. cultural ambassador, Luginbill said she hopes to share the history and impact of America’s music culture with her students, leading them “to use American musical genres to make cross-cultural connections and to deepen their knowledge of American culture and the English language.”
Hannah Schneeman, a 2018 UW-Eau Claire German education graduate from Streator, Illinois, will teach English in the state of Saxony in eastern Germany. Schneeman has known since she was a high school senior that she would apply for a Fulbright English teaching assistantship following college.
“I loved German class and was desperate to go abroad,” Schneeman says. “I also wanted to be an English teacher at the time, so it sounded like a dream.”
So her Fulbright dream has come true, but this won’t be her first time abroad. She also was able to study abroad for a semester in Marburg, Germany, as a UW-Eau Claire student. Since her college graduation, she has been teaching middle- and high-school German in Portage, Wisconsin.
Asked what she most looks forward to about her Fulbright experience, Schneeman responds, “Everything! But mostly being immersed in the language again; exploring Saxony, which I've never visited; visiting Marburg, where I studied abroad; and, of course, the food.”
Schneeman also looks forward to what she’ll learn during her time in Germany: “I'm always trying to improve my German. I also hope to gain a deeper understanding of the German school system and set-up a pen-pal exchange between my current Portage students and my future German students.”
A fan of American young adult literature, Schneeman also plans to share that part of U.S. culture during her Fulbright experience. “As part of my application I proposed a book club in which I will read and discuss YA books with German students,” she says.
Kanu Shenoi, a current UW-Eau Claire student from Verona who will graduate this spring with a degree in German and political science, will teach English in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany.
Shenoi, who learned about the Fulbright opportunity through UW-Eau Claire faculty members, said he hopes his time teaching abroad will be a stepping stone to his future career, possibly in teaching or in the U.S. Foreign Service.
It will be Shenoi’s fourth time in Germany, but this time will stand out due to his selection for Germany’s Diversity Program for Fulbright recipients.
“This means that I’ll be placed in a school with a higher-than-average population of students from minority backgrounds,” Shenoi says. “This is a great opportunity for me to branch out and experience a different aspect of modern German life. I also think that it’s important for students to see a brown skinned person such as myself in a position of authority.”
Shenoi hopes his Fulbright experience will help him become more globally minded while also allowing him to “cut through the stereotypical portrayal of Americans abroad.”
“While I’m in Germany, I want to counter this negative perception of the United States by showing what Americans are really like,” Shenoi says. “For me, that means being kind, hardworking, and always willing to help.”