May 9, 2007
By Melissa Evans
Winning a Fulbright award takes a special kind of student, says Annette Steigerwald, assistant professor of German. She should know. Steigerwald mentored two Ohio University students and one alumnus who have received Fulbright English teaching assistantships to Germany for next year.
"They show interest," she said. "And not just an interest in getting an 'A.' They come up to you and ask you questions. They're always well-prepared."
Thanks in part to support from Steigerwald and other faculty members, senior mathematics and German major Helen Hauser and senior German, Spanish and French major Brenton Withers as well as Daniel Utrata, who graduated after fall quarter with a bachelor's degree in German and political science prelaw, each will spend nine months developing English skills in children from fifth to 12th grades while improving their own proficiency in German.
Four other Ohio University students and one alumnus already have been named Fulbright Scholars this year. Other finalists are still awaiting their results, which could arrive any time between now and the end of June.
Withers, a triple major in German, Spanish and French with a minor in Japanese, will be teaching at a liberal arts high school in Coesfeld, on the border of Holland. He has studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, and Pamplona, Spain, and lived in Paris, and said that his diverse language skills helped him win the award.
"The big stereotype is that American's don't really learn foreign languages," he said. "I think I kind of break down that stereotype."
Nikhil Sathe, an assistant professor of German, emphasized Withers' language skills and research prospects.
"Brent is a truly gifted language student," he said. "I have known him since I started at OU, and he has been one of my favorite students on campus and in my classroom."
Hauser, a senior German and mathematics major, is currently in Salzburg, Austria, as a teaching assistant for Ohio University's study abroad program there. Her parents read her award letter to her over Internet phone software.
"I literally squealed with delight," she said. "It was an awesome feeling."
Hauser has traveled in southern Germany and is looking forward to teaching in the northern tip of the country. She plans to be a professor and says the award will help her get classroom experience.
"She really has what it takes to make it," Steigerwald said, noting that Hauser knew no German before coming to college.
Utrata, a political science and German major who graduated after fall quarter, spent a year and a quarter in Leipzig, Germany, and was a teaching assistant in the Salzburg program. He says the Fulbright award will help him reach his goal of working in diplomacy.
"I know so much about German culture, and I spent so much time there I think I can offer a lot of insight into the differences in our cultures," he said. "Fulbright creates a network of people. It's something you can be proud of."
Sathe taught one of Utrata's German classes and mentored him throughout the applications process.
"Dan already has very good German skills," Sathe said. "(He) has had a lot of intercultural experience, and this will make him a valuable instructor helping German high school English teachers."
Winning such competitive and prestigious awards is the academic equivalent of making the Olympic team. Ohio University students compete for some of the most sought-after awards in the country -- such as the Truman and the Marshall. In 2005-06 they won 45 nationally competitive honors, including 13 U.S. Student Fulbright grants. The university led the state for the fourth straight year for its number of Fulbright grantees and is ranked nationally among institutions such as Princeton University and Boston College.