Photo caption: Kaitlyn Zenner will be an English teaching assistant in Spain through the Fulbright Program. She will graduate in May with majors in Spanish and psychology and a minor in neuroscience.
Three Blugolds credit a variety of high-impact experiences they had at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for helping them earn 2022-23 Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards. Two recent graduates also have been named English teaching assistantship alternates.
Calling it “another incredible Fulbright year,” Cheryl Lochner-Wright, UW-Eau Claire’s study abroad programs manager and Fulbright Program advisor, says it’s impressive that all six Blugold Fulbright applicants were named semifinalists, with five being named finalists or alternates.
Lochner-Wright says the current group “brings a unique combination of personal and academic strengths to their awards.” For example, four of the five Blugolds were studying abroad during spring 2020, when COVID-19 created chaos worldwide and cut their international experiences short.
“Their resilience in learning from and building on that experience is inspiring,” Lochner-Wright says.
In addition, four of the five Blugold finalists and alternates double-majored in a language and another discipline, “a clear indication of the value of mastering another language,” Lochner-Wright says.
Lochner-Wright also notes that while all the selected Blugolds will be English teaching assistants, four of the five are not education majors.
“Yet they gained enough teaching experience through a variety of classroom and extracurricular activities to demonstrate to both the U.S. and host country screening committees that they will be effective in an English classroom abroad,” Lochner-Wright says.
The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Natalie Lasinski, Greta Wiederhold and Kaitlyn Zenner will teach abroad during the 2022-23 academic year after receiving Fulbright English Teaching assistantships.
Alyssa Huelsbeck, who graduated in May 2021 with majors in Spanish and biochemistry/molecular biology, and Emma Koehn, who graduated in May 2019 with a major in integrated strategic communication and a minor in political science, were selected as alternates for Fulbright Teaching assistantships in Spain and Thailand, respectively. Alternates can receive Fulbright Teaching assistantships if additional funding becomes available.
Lasinksi graduated in December 2021 with majors in psychology-behavior analysis and Spanish liberal arts and a certificate in Latin American studies, completing her undergraduate programs in just 3½ years. During her Fulbright year, she will be an English teaching assistant in the Canary Islands, Spain, working with children ages 3-5 or 6-12.
“I am most excited for the Spanish language and cultural immersion and to be a resource for foreign language education,” says Lasinski, a native of Hortonville. “I am also very excited to travel and make cultural connections.”
An Honors student, Lasinski studied in UW-Eau Claire’s Valladolid, Spain, program in spring 2020. As a Blugold, she also completed internships, volunteer work and research, all experiences that she says prepared her well for her Fulbright Program and her future career.
The Fulbright Program is “an opportunity to combine my passions and areas of study as an English teaching assistant,” Lasinski says. She wants to spend her Fulbright year in Spain because of the “amazing experience I had when I studied abroad there.”
Lasinski plans to apply to graduate school after completing her Fulbright year. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in behavior analysis and become a board-certified behavior analyst.
Wiederhold will graduate in May with a German education major, a teaching of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) minor and an interdisciplinary linguistics certificate. During her Fulbright year, she will be an English teaching assistant in Germany.
“I can't wait to learn the dialect from where I am placed and get to know the people in my community,” says Wiederhold, a native of Andover, Minnesota. “I am also looking forward to being able to experience a different education system than what I am used to here.”
At UW-Eau Claire, Wiederhold was a German and Spanish tutor with the Academic Skills Center and a tutor for the Intensive English Program, experiences she says helped prepare her to work with students learning a language and assist them in their language studies. She also did research with UW-Eau Claire’s languages department on creating curriculum for a German oral proficiency class. After researching and designing class modules, she was an in-class mentor who served as additional support for the students, giving her an opportunity to be an assistant in a language classroom, which is similar to what she will do in Germany.
A student in the University Honors Program, Wiederhold was part of UW-Eau Claire’s Graz, Austria, exchange program during the 2019-20 academic year.
Wiederhold plans to teach in the future, so her time teaching in Germany will be “a great start to this career.” Eventually, she plans to earn a master’s degree.
“While I am doing the Fulbright, I will have time to think about what program best fits my future goals, as well as explore some areas of study that I haven't had time to look into yet,” Wiederhold says.
Zenner, who will graduate in May with majors in Spanish and psychology and a minor in neuroscience, will teach in Spain. During her Fulbright year, she will be an English teaching assistant in La Rioja, Spain, most likely working with children who are early childhood or elementary aged.
“I am excited about the chance to spend an extended period of time engaging with people from a culture that is different from my own and exploring La Rioja,” says Zenner, a native of Eagan, Minnesota.
As a Blugold, Zenner developed her Spanish language skills by taking Spanish classes all four years and studying abroad in Valladolid, Spain.
Outside-the-classroom experiences also have prepared her for the English teaching assistant position, Zenner says. Through a UW-Eau Claire Human Development Center summer reading program, she worked one-on-one with elementary and middle school-aged children to build their literacy skills. She “hopes to carry over into my work in Spain” the teaching strategies she learned through the program.
Zenner now is working for the Early Childhood Literacy program (ECLIPSE) through AmeriCorps at UW-Eau Claire. In that role, she helps to foster literacy development and social/emotional skills in preschool-aged children. She currently is paired with a four-year-old who primarily speaks Spanish. Zenner supports the child in her classroom with reading activities and games to encourage language development.
After completing her Fulbright year, Zenner plans to earn a master's degree in school psychology and then work in a Spanish-English dual-immersion program in Minnesota.
“As a future school psychologist hoping to fight biases within the mental health field, initiating change in the community depends on my ability to communicate with people of different backgrounds,” Zenner says. “I want future students to feel they are understood and empowered by increasing their mental health literacy in an environment that embraces diverse heritages.”