Nine University of Minnesota students receive Fulbright Awards

Students studying

Nine students and alumni of the University of Minnesota have been awarded grants to study and teach abroad during the 2016-17 academic year by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Five who have recently completed Bachelor’s degrees will work as teaching assistants in English language classes, and four Ph.D. candidates will conduct research in literature, education, music, and anthropology.  The Fulbright grants cover all travel and living expenses for one academic year.

Kyle Armstrong
 of Neenah, Wisconsin graduated this spring with a BFA and will travel to Turkey to spend 2016-17 as an English Teaching Assistant.  As a Graphic Design major, Armstrong spent a semester in Istanbul studying the Turkish language and Islamic Art and Architecture, but he also volunteered as a tutor in an English language class.  At the University, he has done design work for the College of Science and Engineering and Center for Spirituality and Healing, and he expects to find further design inspiration in the traditions of Turkish culture.

Christal Clemens of Farmington graduated with a BS in Biology in 2014.  A cancer survivor, Clemens has worked as a medical scribe and as a photojournalist with Open Arms Minnesota.  At the University she was a Health Advocate and actively involved with the Community Engagement Scholar Program and the Dean’s Scholars Leadership Program, and she has been a long-term mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters Minnesota.  After spending a year in Indonesia as an English Teaching Assistant, Clemens plans to complete a degree in Public Health.

Joseph Krenz, a 2015 graduate from Minneapolis with a major in Genetics/Cell Biology, will travel to Malaysia as an English Teaching Assistant.  A Spanish minor, he has spent a semester studying abroad in Argentina and summers backpacking in Chile and Columbia, and he looks forward to learning Malay.  Krenz also minored in Art and hopes to use his skills in painting, sculpture and playing the guitar to help teach English.  When he returns he plans to do graduate study in Biology.

Joseph Schiltz, a 2015 graduate with majors in English and Cinema and Media Studies, will spend the 2016-17 academic year as an English Teaching Assistant in Germany.  Schiltz, who plans to become an English teacher, spent a semester studying abroad in Berlin, worked in the University Writing Center, and interned with Coffee House Press.  He currently works for College Possible in St. Paul and plans to complete a Master’s degree in teaching when he returns from Germany.

Regina Stroncek of St. Louis, a 2015 graduate with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and a BA in Spanish and Portuguese, will spend a year in Brazil as an English Teaching Assistant.  As a student, she studied abroad in Berlin and Toledo, where she volunteered to work on English language skills with both elementary and college students.  A soprano with interests in both opera and jazz, Stroncek sang in performances of Don Giovanni and Le Nozze de Figaro at the University and created/performed an Honors thesis juxtaposing the works of composer Enrique Granados and artist Francisco Goya.

Two additional students have been named as alternates:
John Loftus, a 2016 graduate in Microbiology to do research in Uganda
Garrett Tusler, a 2015 graduate in Spanish to teach English in Brazil

Graduate Students
Elisheva Cohen
, Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Development Education, received a Fulbright Grant to study Syrian refugee youth in Jordan. Proficient in Arabic, she will examine the international aid policies and programs that affect schooling for refugee youth. Cohen received a B.A. in Middle East Studies from Columbia University in 2005 and an M.A. in International Development and Education from Columbia University in 2011.

Solveig Mebust, Ph.D. candidate in Musicology, will research the role of women in music activism and patronage in Norway, looking specifically to the work of Nina Hagerup Grieg and Theodora Cormontan. She will conduct archival research at the Universitet i Bergen, the Universitet i Oslo and at regional historical archives such as the Aust-Agder Kulturhistoriske Senter. Mebust received a B.M. in Music Education from Augsburg College in 2009 and an M.A. in Musicology from the University of Minnesota in 2013.

Aleksander Sedzielarz, Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature, received a Fulbright Grant to China to research how locally-produced sound cinema in the 1930s generated new modernist literary forms. He will work with local experts at Fudan University in Shanghai utilizing archives to examine the intersection of cinema and literature and its effects on society in general. Sedzielarz received a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Occidental College in 2006 and studied Mandarin Chinese in the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University the following year.

Britt Van Paepeghem, Ph.D. student in Anthropology, will travel to Istanbul to research the recent explosion of cultural heritage in Turkey. Employing ethnographic research methods with visitors and employees in Turkey’s new museums, she will examine how changing policies and attitudes towards museums and heritage relate to Turkey’s contemporary cultural narratives and its changing role on the international stage. Van Paepeghem received a B.A. in Political Science and Art History from Vassar College in 2009 and an M.A. in Cultural Studies from Sabanci University in 2012.

The Fulbright Program was created and funded by Congress in 1946 to promote international good will through the exchange of students and scholars in all areas of education, culture, and science. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Students at the University of Minnesota and recent graduates who are interested in the Fulbright Student Program should see the web-site at  Undergraduates and alumni should contact Timothy Jones in the Office of National and International Scholarships (  Graduate students should contact Alison Skoberg in the Graduate School Fellowship Office (

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