WOOSTER, Ohio – Kirstin Holm, Brenda Khor, Angelo Melari, and Adrienne Reding – four soon-to-be College of Wooster graduates – will be taking their passion for education overseas shortly after commencement, each the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright award.
The four Fulbright winners equals the most Wooster has produced in one year and ups its total to 31 such honorees since 2000.
The Fulbright Program is the nation’s premiere international educational exchange operation. Sponsored by the U.S. Government, the program was established in 1946 in an effort to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and citizens of other countries. Students are chosen on the basis of academic merit and leadership potential. They are then given the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, share ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Holm, a chemistry major from Stow, Ohio, will be utilizing her Fulbright to do environmental chemistry research in Norway at the University of Oslo. Specifically, she will be studying dissolved organic matter, which is increasing in the Nordic’s high altitude waters. This topic is of great importance to Norwegians, who consume that lake surface water for drinking and other daily uses, and she ultimately hopes to help “better predict climate change” and “develop alternatives” for the people there.
For Holm, who enjoys learning about the world from a fundamental, molecular level via her love of chemistry, the Fulbright “was a major goal” and she is “really grateful for the opportunity to do research in Norway.” In addition to learning about a different way of life (she’s never been to Norway), Holm is excited to explore different career options in environmental chemistry research – much of her previous research was related to organic chemistry – with a professor there. Also notable, Holm is following in her family’s footsteps, as her father, Daniel, the chair of geology at Kent State University, is a two-time Fulbright Scholar.
Khor, who was born in Canada to Cambodian immigrants, grew up in Atlanta, and majored in communication studies at Wooster, will continue her unique path to Galicia, Spain, where she’ll be an English teaching assistant. Fluent in Spanish as well as Khmer, Khor is excited to help children there learn the world’s second-most spoken language, which will lead to “better opportunities and better jobs, if they’re bilingual in English and Spanish.”
Inspired by her own diverse, low-income upbringing, the effervescent Khor hopes to motivate the students in Galicia by showing them “you don’t need the world to make a difference … (but you) really have to fight for what you want,” while adding another interesting chapter to her life. “I’m really excited … to experience some culture shock,” said Khor, who expects to return to the U.S. upon completion of the Fulbright and go to graduate school for a discipline that will pair her passions of teaching and underrepresented youth, possibly broadcast journalism.
Melari, a native of Sagamore Hills, Ohio, and chemistry major, is headed to Styria, Austria, located southeast of Vienna, after earning an English teaching assistantship. While fluent in German and fascinated by the culture for as long as he can remember, he is particularly interested in adjusting to Austrians’ dialect, which “is very different” and to “step out of a comfort zone,” only having briefly traveled to Europe once before.
Melari believes the Fulbright award will serve as the ideal preparation for his next step – likely graduate school for inorganic chemistry – in a number of ways. “In grad school, you do a lot of teaching, so it will help in that way … regardless of what the future holds, you’re learning valuable communication and teaching skills,” he said.
Reding, who came to Wooster from St. Louis and was a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and German studies, will also be an English teaching assistant, with her Fulbright taking her to North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It marks a return to the country where she studied abroad during her junior year, and the continuation of learning a culture and language that she first fell in love with in seventh grade because “she wanted to learn a less conventional language.”
For Reding, who plans on coming back to the U.S. for graduate school, Germany is the perfect place to pursue her career goals. “I want to do something related to environmental engineering. Germany is a leader in policy and practices in that area,” she explained. “I love the German language, culture, and history. I love all of it.”
All four of Wooster’s Fulbright winners are very grateful for the opportunity that lies ahead, being able to immerse themselves in a new culture and explore Europe, while gaining practical professional skills. Khor may have summed it up best, “It’s going to be exciting, there are going to be hard obstacles that come with it. Teaching is not easy to begin with, then add the language and cultural barrier, but Wooster has prepared me for all of it.”