Seven University of Minnesota Seniors Receive Fulbright Awards

Seven seniors at the University of Minnesota have been awarded grants to study and teach abroad following graduation by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Three were awarded study grants that will allow them to conduct research with faculty at foreign universities, one will complete a Masters degree, and three will work as teaching assistants in English language classes.  The Fulbright grants cover all travel and living expenses for one academic year.

Julia Brekke, a College of Science and Engineering and University Honors Program student in biomedical engineering from Plymouth, will work in the lab of Professor Katja Schenke-Layland at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Stuttgart, Germany to develop a system to visually monitor the progression of embryonic stem cell differentiation.  A successful solution will be an important step in enabling the growth of mature cardiac tissue, which, in turn, can lead to tissue-engineered heart valves to resolve congenital heart defects.    At the University of Minnesota, Brekke has worked on cardiovascular tissue engineering with Professor Robert Tranquillo of the Biomedical Engineering department.

Julia Horn Potach, a Global Studies and Spanish major in the College of Liberal Arts and the University Honors Program, has been awarded an English teaching assistantship in Spain.  Potach, from New Hope, attended the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion Elementary School and continued her language studies through high school.  While attending the University of Minnesota she spent a semester studying abroad in Ecuador and became involved in issues of immigration and has since worked with The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis and the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.  As a volunteer at Waite House Community Center in Minneapolis she tutored immigrant youth learning English as a second language.

Erik Katovich of New Brighton, a University Honors Program Student and Economics major in the College of Liberal Arts, will collaborate with Dr. Alexandre Gori Maia at the State University of Campinas in Brazil on an econometric study of the impact of education on productivity and inequality.  Katovich has previously engaged in field research with USAID in Nepal and has worked as a refugee services intern at The Advocates for Human Rights.  An experienced saxophonist, Katovich also hopes to play with a jazz ensemble at the university in Brazil.

Tamara Marcus, a Biochemistry major in the College of Biological Sciences,  will conduct research to evaluate environmental and climatic changes in Himalayan lakes at the University of Delhi’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Mountain & Hill Environment.  Marcus, who grew up on a family farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will also work with the Delhi Rotary Club’s Himalayan Farmer Project to low-cost conservation techniques to enhance soil quality.  She previously spent a year in Delhi as a Rotary Scholar and returned to study Hindi in Jaipur with a Critical Language Scholarship.

Alicia Nelson of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, a student in the University Honors Program and Sociology major in the College of Liberal Arts, has been awarded an English teaching assistantship in Korea.  She has been studying Korean for four years, including a summer in Korea with a Critical Language Scholarship.  An English tutor for second language learners at the Franklin Learning Center and a community educator about HIV/AIDS, Nelson plans a career in Global Health issues.

Emily Parrent, a student in the University Honors Program and the College of Liberal Arts from Crystal Lake, Illinois, will complete an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York.  A major in both French/Italian and Classical Civilization, she will continue her studies of languages, paleography, and archaeology to develop skills to complete a Ph.D. and future research on the history of medieval medicine.  Parrent has already participated in an archaeological dig uncovering victims of the plague at Thornton Abbey in England and examined the archival records of contemporary hospitals in Bologna, Italy.

Rebecca Rethwisch, a University Honors Program and College of Liberal Arts student from Iowa City, Iowa, will be an English teaching assistant in Brazil.  A major in both Spanish/Portuguese and Global Studies, she has actively promoted extracurricular programs in both languages on campus and has tutored Spanish-speaking youth in the Santo Rosario After-School program.  She has served as a Portuguese translator and worked as an assistant producer for the promotion of the Brazilian documentary Elena in the United States.  A member of the University of Minnesota women’s track and cross-country teams, Rethwisch hopes to also use athletics to engage with Brazilian young people.

Two other recent graduates were awarded Fulbright grants as well:

Theresa Chresand, a 2014 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and the University Honors Program, majored in Greek and Latin and has been continuing her studies at Cambridge University.  As an undergraduate she studied papyrology and became involved in the Ancient Lives project, working with Professor Nita Krevans to crowd-source the transcription of thousands of fragmentary texts.  She will continue her research on Greek papyri in Vienna, Austria at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek and other archives.

McKenzie Stupica, a 2014 graduate from New Prague who majored in Art History and German in the College of Liberal Arts, has been awarded an English teaching assistantship in Germany.  She is currently a teaching assistant at the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul and has served as an educational intern and student guide at the Weisman Art Museum.  Stupica was excited by the variety and accessibility of art while studying for a year in Berlin and applied for a WorkART fellowship that allowed her to return to Germany as an intern at a Kunstverein. She plans to reconnect with German artists and arts organizations in the next year.

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 and contact Timothy Jones in the Office of National and International Scholarships (

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