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3/1/2007 Inauguration: Linfield graduates share Fulbright experiences

Their experiences proved as varied as the countries to which they have traveled, but a common thread of global citizenship ran through the conversation of five Linfield College graduates, all former Fulbright scholars, during a panel discussion on March 1.

The event, "Celebrating Excellence in International Education at Linfield College," was part of a weeklong celebration in honor of the inauguration of Thomas L. Hellie as 19th president of Linfield.

Staci Bryson '01, Lynsey Farrel '01, Angie Jamison '99, Alexis Lien '05 and Seth Otto '00 took part in the panel. The five are among 13 Linfield students who have been awarded Fulbright grants since 1999, according to Deborah Olsen, competitive scholarships advisor, who moderated the discussion along with Debbie Harmon '90, director of alumni relations.

Melding travel tales with advice for students in the audience, the scholars reflected on their time abroad and the growth it inspired. All agreed Linfield prepared them well for their Fulbright experiences. Academic training, personal relationships with professors, opportunities to undertake collaborative research and study abroad experiences proved fundamental in preparing students for their travel, but other aspects of a liberal arts education equipped them as well.

"I learned in theatre how to think on my feet and that was crucial to being a teacher in a foreign country," said Bryson, who taught in a secondary school in Halbertadt, Germany. "In the January Term class, Outdoor Environmental Studies, I learned how to rely on myself and when you are alone in a foreign country, that's important."

Being inquisitive of people who are different is something Farrell learned at Linfield after sharing a room with a Japanese exchange student.

"I learned how to ask questions and challenge the assumptions I had just from that experience," said Farrell, who studied in Zimbabwe as a Linfield student before applying for a Fulbright in Kenya. "It's important to put students in situations of being uncomfortable. That's when I learned the most. You learn to ask the right question about why it's uncomfortable."

For Lien, who researched the political and social position of Turkish women in Vienna, Austria, the experience changed her view of the world.

"It made me realize how big the world is," Lien said. "It made me more aware of the differences of societies and made me want to learn more about them. It committed me to a more global view."

Otto saw change as well, though from an international perspective as an American abroad during Sept. 11, 2001. He spent a year in Bolivia taking courses at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in La Paz.

"I returned to a very different country when I returned home," he said. "The world changed while I was having the Fulbright experience."

All agreed independent study skills and curiosity, nurtured at Linfield, were important as they settled into their respective foreign communities. Jamison, who spent a year in Nicaragua studying the relationship between Nicaraguan newspapers and politics, said a study abroad trip to Costa Rica as a Linfield sophomore taught her empathy.

"I did not show up with the ability to imagine myself into a coffee-harvester's sandals," she said. "I learned to empathize in this way because my teachers suggested it to me and gave me the experiential resources to inform that inquiry. Study abroad gives us a glimpse of how specific and sometimes narrow our lives can become, and can equip us with curiosity that, in turn, fortifies and deepens independent study."

Panelists said the Fulbright experience boosted their self-confidence as well. Now in graduate studies in anthropology at Boston University, Farrell has the confidence to apply for grants her peers sometimes shy away from.

Lien agreed.

"It's helped me realize I can reach for the highest goals and Linfield has prepared me well," Lien said.

Panelist biographies:

Bryson graduated in 2000 from Linfield with an English major and minors in German and European studies. During the academic year 2000-2001, she lived in Halberstadt, Germany, where she served as a Fulbright teaching assistant in a secondary school. Bryson earned an M.Div. degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in May 2006 and is currently living outside of Philadelphia, working as a hospital chaplain for a year to complete her clinical residency.

Farrell, a 2001 Linfield graduate, majored in anthropology and minored in art. She was awarded a Fulbright grant to examine “Harambee” schools in post-colonial Kenya. She is currently in her fourth year of graduate studies in anthropology at Boston University, focusing on East Africa, urban studies and youth. As her dissertation topic, Farrell plans to examine the role that cultural production, in the form of community theatre, plays in mediating ethnic conflict among the youth of Nairobi, Kenya.

Jamison completed majors in philosophy and communication as well as a minor in history at Linfield. After graduating in 1999, she spent a year in Nicaragua on a Fulbright grant, studying the relationship between Nicaraguan newspapers and politics during the period of the 1930s-1980s. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCLA. Her dissertation focuses on workers’ rights, and recent efforts to reframe these as human rights in garment factories in San Salvador and Los Angeles.

Lien, a 2005 Linfield graduate, completed a Fulbright grant in Austria in June. A political science and German major with a minor in European Studies, she researched the political and social position of Turkish women in Vienna. She also served part time as a teaching assistant in two Austrian secondary schools. Lien now works for a non-profit organization supporting an orphanage in southern Mexico, and has been accepted into Harvard Law School.

Otto, a 2000 Linfield graduate, spent the academic year 2001-2002 in Bolivia, studying indigenous social movements and taking courses at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in La Paz. At Linfield he completed sociology and Spanish majors as well as a minor in Latin American studies. After completing a master’s degree in community and regional planning at The University of Texas in 2005, Otto works at WRG Design, a multi-disciplinary development consulting firm in Portland.