Carleton College Announces Nine Fulbright Winners

Meet the Carls who will spend a year abroad on prestigious Fulbright Fellowships


31 May 2016 Posted In:
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Fulbright U.S. Student ProgramPhoto:

Eight Carleton seniors and one Carleton alumna were recently awarded prestigious Fulbright Fellowships. These students are a part of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

The nine Carleton winners went through a highly rigorous and competitive process that began right here in Northfield. Once students completed Carleton’s application process, they were screened by a national committee of experts in the field of their proposed project. If chosen from the vast array of applicants applying nationally, they were then screened by representatives of their host country. From there, the applicants recommended by the U.S. national screening committee were selected by the host countries as finalists. Carleton’s nine Fulbright winners excelled through each of these competitive stages and were awarded with year-long grants to explore and integrate themselves into the culture and community of their country of choice.

The Fulbright Fellows’ projects are profiled below:

English Teaching Assistantship Grants

The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program places Fulbright Fellows in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.

Gretchen Fernholz ’16 (Madison, Minn.)
Russian/European Studies
Fulbright Location: Russia


I will be teaching English in Russia for my Fulbright year. I am a Russian major and began studying the language as a freshman at Carleton. I traveled abroad on the Carleton Moscow study abroad program for the first time in 2014 and completely fell in love with Russia. I returned on a Carleton fellowship in August 2015 and am currently on the Moscow program for a second time. I’m utterly hooked on Russian language and culture!

I look forward to meeting lots of new people and making new friends and immersing myself in Russian life and Russian culture. I also love Russian cuisine – I always look forward to the ceremonial first bowl of borsch every time I come back. More practically, I hope to find out if teaching is a good fit for me and if it’s a profession that I’ll want to pursue seriously in the future.

Sam Hayward ’16 (Stanford, Calif.)
Psychology/Educational Studies
Fulbright Location: Colombia


I was interested in the Fulbright fellowship after my study abroad trip to San José, Costa Rica during the winter term of my junior year. After having an amazing experience abroad, I realized that I might enjoy spending more time in a different Latin American country. Once I enrolled in Yansi Pérez’s Spanish class, “The Other American Revolutions,” it felt clear to me that there was much more to learn about this region of the world.

I applied for the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant because I hope to go into the field of education. I worked with rising 9th graders at Breakthrough Silicon Valley this past summer, an organization that addresses the summer learning gap for underserved students across the nation, and enjoyed my experience working with some awesome kids. Working as a teacher again in Colombia, although in a different setting, will ideally be another rewarding opportunity to collaborate with students. 

For my Fulbright I plan to work with college students at the Universidad de Pamplona to increase their familiarity and confidence in speaking, reading and writing the English language. My community project is still evolving, but I would like to work with students on political issues that Colombia currently faces or community engagement in the local area.

I’m looking forward to a lot of things for my upcoming year. I want to start a book club, make good friends, practice my Spanish, travel within the country, and go dancing! At the end of the day though, I’m not really sure what to expect. The only thing I can control is having a positive and open mindset and hopefully the rest will follow.

Ilana Mishkin ’16 (Olympia, Wash.)
Linguistics/Cognitive Science
Fulbright Location: Mexico


I’ve known for a few years that I want to teach English in a Spanish-speaking country after graduating college, so I chose to apply for a Fulbright to work as a teaching assistant in Mexico. As a linguistics major, I’ve found learning and studying other languages to be fascinating, so I’m excited to learn more about the structures in English and how to teach them to students at whatever age/grade level I’m assigned. I’ve loved my travels in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic during Carleton, and they’ve helped me become a better Spanish speaker, so I’m very excited to put my Spanish, linguistics, and English interests together to teach in Mexico next year. I’m hoping to eventually return to the U.S. and teach Spanish or ESL (or both!).

I’m looking forward to being abroad long enough to really immerse myself in a community so I can engage with what it means to live in Mexico as a U.S. citizen on a deep level. I’m also very excited to combine my linguistics knowledge with my experience as a Spanish teaching assistant to learn how to be a successful English instructor.

Almeda Moree-Sanders ’16 (Seattle)
Fulbright Location: Russia


For my Fulbright year I will be teaching English in a smaller Russian university. I applied for an English-teaching fellowship in Russia because I wanted to live in Russia, improve my Russian and get work experience. Since I started studying Russian at Carleton, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Russia three times already, twice on the Moscow and Beyond study abroad program, and once on a Larson fellowship last summer for comps research — and I just love it. I also like teaching, and it will be fun to explore that as a career option. I’m especially looking forward to eating Russian food! Especially vareniki, which are like little dumplings with various delicious fillings. I can’t wait!

Study/Research Grants

Applicants for study/research awards design their own projects and typically work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. The study/research awards are available in approximately 140 countries.

Shweta Bhatia ’16 (Birmingham, Ala.)
Fulbright Location: India


For my Fulbright I will be working with an NGO in India to develop a more accessible and faster method of delivering diagnostic surveys that act as screening tools for neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDDs) in children. With this information, I will also identify sub-populations that are at risk of these disabilities by determining risk factors such that targeted interventions can be instituted.

My research will focus on NDDs in children. These disorders include conditions like autism, learning disabilities and ADHD. Children with NDDs, while coming more into the spotlight, are not yet thought of as a significant public health concern in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Resources for public health interventions in these countries are put toward other childhood diseases, infections, nutritional deficiencies and neonatal issues. However, it is suggested that around 85% of children with NDDs live in LMICs. My 10-year-old cousin was adopted when he was 11-months-old from an orphanage in a tribal area in northeast India and is now exhibiting cognitive impairment. Studies have shown a link between malnutrition during formative years and decreased cognitive functioning, possibly because of the negative impact malnutrition would have on the developing brain. Without any knowledge of my cousin’s first 11 months, we can only speculate the potential causes of his cognitive impairment based on his original living circumstances. However, having the proper screening tools and having a better understanding of risk factors will allow for earlier and more effective interventions and can help prevent cases such as these. Through this research, I will be able to help children like my cousin.

In addition to starting my research project, I’m also looking forward to the food during my Fulbright year, along with seeing my family – I haven’t seen them in almost ten years. I’m also excited to see where my research goes over the course of the year.

Victoria Ostenso ’15 (Lincoln, NE)
American Studies
Fulbright Location: Canada


For my Fulbright fellowship, I plan to study how immigrant and ethno-cultural communities in the Metro Vancouver area form informal food redistribution networks to combat food insecurity and the ways in which formal food access programs can best facilitate these networks. I will be enrolled in a Masters Program in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia

Throughout my time at Carleton, I was very involved in the food justice movement. My freshman year, I coordinated the Gleaning Program through the CCCE and joined a club called Food Truth. Between my freshmen and sophomore year, I managed the Carleton Student Farm for a season. My work-study was a joint position at the Sustainability Office and the CCCE as a Food and Sustainability Fellow. I also lived at Farm House. I took many relevant courses like Comparative Agroecology, Sustainability Science, and The Politics of Food. I became very connected to local producers and knowledgeable of the food shed.

I also love to cook and have a deep appreciation for the way food brings people together. I was one of the first members of a cooking club that formed on campus my freshman year called Firebellies. Through my coursework, I began to analyze the way food both brings people together and excludes people. My junior year, in a course called Global Religions in Minnesota, I conducted field research on how faith-based food access programs (pantries and free community meals) serve their community, especially focusing on the participation of Somali and Latino people in the community. I sought perspectives from food pantry staff, clients, and individuals in the community. Continuing this curiosity, I went to Tucson, Arizona the fall of my senior year and conducted research for my Comps on how changes in food culture impacts Mexican immigrant women’s’ sense of belonging and self in the United States.

As I applied for the Fulbright, I knew I wanted to continue thinking about food systems change in an interdisciplinary way. The Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems Masters Program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada will support me in doing just that.

For my Fulbright year, I am looking forward to conducting ethnographic field research again. I love talking with people about their experiences and integrating their perspectives into academic scholarship. This is something I began to do during my junior and senior years at Carleton while enrolled in ACE (Academic Civic Engagement) courses and for my Comps. I know I still have so much to learn about this research methodology and from all the people I meet through my studies. Now that’s exciting! 

Olgaby Martinez ’16 (San Jose, Calif.)
Fulbright Location: Mexico


For my Fulbright year I will conduct research in an urban area of Mexico, where residents have access to Western and traditional methods of healing. I plan to interview working-class members in Guadalajara about their medical choices. Through my research, I hope to uncover which factors influence participants’ decision-making process. I will count on the academic support of Tukari, which will provide me with the opportunity to publish my findings in their journal. I also hope to contribute these findings to a wider discussion of therapeutic choice in medical anthropology and medicine to strengthen cross-cultural health care in the U.S.

I have always been interested in health and illness. Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor, but realized that a lot of members of my community had reservations about that goal. Many felt a linguistic and/or cultural barrier with physicians, and some even claimed that physicians only wanted to make money out of you and not necessarily cure you. Therefore, I knew that to be a better physician, I needed to learn about patients’ cultures, so that I could better serve their needs. My desire to understand where people come from led me to major in Sociology/Anthropology.

In the past, my family resorted to home-based remedies or to the Mexican huesero (bone-setter) instead of the chiropractor. It wasn’t until I took the course, Anthropology of Health and Illness, that I gained the tools to understand that in my cultures, like my own Mexican one, healing is both a cultural and social process. At the time, I was learning about shamanism in northern Peru, a topic that then led me to think more generally: how do working-class members of Trujillo, Peru choose from amongst different health care options in a pluralistically medical context? My research experience was fascinating and I realized I wanted to keep conducting ethnographic research. I chose to focus my Fulbright research in Mexico, where my cultural roots lie, so that I can better comprehend the healing practices of its people.

I am considering pursuing higher education in anthropology and I hope that the Fulbright will give me a great opportunity to keep exploring the field and solidify my interest in it. I also hope the Fulbright will not only make me a better scholar, but also help me contribute to a deeper understanding of medical choices in medically diverse settings.

For my Fulbright year, I am most looking forward to further understanding how health care practices are embedded in culture and society in the heritage that I am familiar with but foreign to at the same time. I am also excited to live in Guadalajara and discover all it has to offer. It is going to be a year with a steep learning curve and I cannot wait to go on this journey!

Cameron Wright ’16 (Dallas)
Fulbright Location: Hungary


I first came up with the idea to apply for a Fulbright with the help of my former advisor from my Budapest Semesters study abroad program in mathematics, Dezso Miklos. After reaching out to him towards the end of my junior year, we had a series of discussions about the ways in which I could pursue mathematics more deeply before entering graduate school while still exploring the new world and learning things about its people and cultures. Luckily, the joint BSM/Fulbright grant provided an ideal opportunity for this. With my grant, I will be returning to Budapest and taking a year’s worth of courses and doing research at the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. Additionally while I am enrolled there I will be staying with a Hungarian family and taking additional classes centered around learning from and about Hungarian culture, so as to deepen my understanding of life in Budapest. Outside of mathematics, I have a deep passion for dance and am very excited to continue to pursue dancing in the thriving dance community of Budapest, which I believe will help me to gain new perspectives on and approaches to movement.

Andrew Yang ’16 (Placentia, Calif.)
Computer Science
Fulbright Location: China


I chose to pursue a study/research Fulbright fellowship because I’ve been interested in using my computer science background to solve biomedical problems for a large part of my time at Carleton, and have been able to cultivate that interest through summer research internships. Regarding the choice of China as the host country, I spent four months in Beijing between my sophomore and junior years doing computational biology research—I loved the experience and got to thinking about how much I’d enjoy spending a whole year there. More personally, my parents, as Chinese immigrants, have always imbued aspects of Chinese culture intertwined with American culture in my upbringing. Additionally, nearly all of my non-nuclear family lives in China, and I’ve wanted to become closer to these relatives whom I’ve grown up seeing so rarely. The Fulbright seemed like a great chance to engage more deeply with the Chinese part of my Chinese American identity—I hope to come back with an enriched understanding of my cultural heritage and stronger ties to family.

I will start my Fulbright year with a fall semester program in Harbin as part of a critical language enhancement award to supplement my Fulbright research grant. I will spend the semester focused strictly on improving my Chinese language skills, studying subjects like modern Chinese literature and classical Chinese. After I’ve (hopefully) honed my Chinese language skills up north in Harbin, I’ll head way down south to Shenzhen for research.

For my research I plan to characterize hepatitis B virus (HBV) drug-resistant mutations with Dr. Jiankui He at the South University of Science and Technology of China (SUSTC) in Shenzhen, China. I will identify HBV variants by single-molecule sequencing of patient samples obtained from a local hospital. With drug-resistance genes, HBV variants can render certain treatments useless and confer cross-resistance to other treatments. It is necessary to characterize these mutations in HBV to optimize treatment and detection in HBV patients. However, a drawback of common genome sequencing methods is the inability to detect low-frequency variants in the virus population, often limited to 20%. Consequently, an incomplete picture of a virus population’s genetic profile emerges, and missteps in treatment could arise if, for example, there were an undetectable low-frequency variant with resistances to particular drugs. 

Single-cell and single-molecule genomics are new and revolutionary technologies that will solve this low-frequency variant problem. Integral to these technologies is that they allow us to distinguish genomes in heterogeneous populations at a previously unattainable resolution by sequencing individuals in a population, rather than sequencing the average. In doing so, single- molecule sequencing can detect variants down to 1% frequency, allowing for an unprecedented degree of specificity in mutation characterization. Identifying and characterizing these minor variants will allow for more informed drug treatments for individual patients, and also aid in drug discovery for a wider range of treatment options in the future. 

That said, there are a number of challenges in this nascent technology related to sequencing error, so I will definitely be troubleshooting and exploring potential solutions in that area as well.

In addition to my research, I am so, so, so, so excited for the food I’ll be eating throughout my Fulbright year. I’ll also be really interested in student life at SUSTC, since it was just founded in 2012. I’m thinking about all these aspects of Carleton that we attribute to some kind of nebulous culture that’s developed over the 150 years of its existence, but what is campus culture at a four year-old school? I really have no idea what to expect, but am excited!


The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Student Program has been in existence since 1946 and offers U.S. citizens the opportunity to spend an academic year in a foreign country of their choice. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program’s establishment under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

Each year the Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants approximately 1,900 fellowships for work in over 150 countries worldwide. Students can apply in the academic (study/research or arts) category or the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) category. Fulbright Fellows address critical global challenges in all areas – from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security – while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world. Fulbright recipients are among over 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year.

Learn more about the Fulbright Fellowship Program.

Learn more about Carleton’s application process for the Fulbright Program.