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Two Mount Students Named Fulbright Scholars

Fulbrights feature

Mount St. Mary’s University seniors Kaitlyn Heintzelman and Elizabeth O’Hare have earned prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) awards to teach in Luxembourg and Poland respectively, in 2019-20.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to provide research, study and teaching opportunities through grants in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students. The ETA programs enable award winners to join local English teachers in their respective countries to provide assistance through teaching the English language as well as communicating and representing American culture.

“I am excited that Kaitlyn and Liz have earned the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and learn more about themselves as individuals before going on to graduate school or their career,” said Assistant Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., who directs the Office of Competitive Fellowships.

Six Mount students have been awarded Fulbright ETA grants since 2015, according to Gianoutsos. Alyse Sphiehler, C’17, taught English on her Fulbright fellowship in Altacomulco, Mexico, last year. Two other 2017 graduates were awarded ETA grants to Kazakhstan and Argentina but declined them to pursue other studies. Brigid Flay is pursuing an MA at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, where she is studying international trade and economic diplomacy, and Samantha Solis is earning a Ph.D. in English at UCLA, with a focus on contemporary American literature and Latin literature. John-Paul Heil, C’15, a finalist for the Fulbright ETA to Italy in 2015, declined the award to pursue his doctorate in history at the University of Chicago.

heintzelman-small.jpgKaitlyn Heintzelman, C'19, a triple major in English, French and theology, will spend the next year in Luxembourg. The Luxembourg ETA appealed to Heintzelman because of the country’s diverse community and generosity in accepting Syrian refugees. “By witnessing a society that treats foreigners as neighbors, I desire to understand Luxembourg, its struggles and successes, and to better understand my own country—and why we follow admirable ideals, but have trouble executing those ideals,” said Heintzelman. “I want to volunteer with the CCPL, Confédération de la Communauté Portugaise au Luxembourg, a foundation through which I could tutor Syrian refugees in French.”

Heintzelman, who is the editor of the Mount’s literary journal Moorings, also hopes to join an English fiction and poetry club. “It's an ideal way for students to experience U.S. culture outside the classroom and I want to use one of my own passions to promote intercultural exchange,” she explained.

Serving as an ETA will help Heintzelman develop her teaching and language skills before she pursues graduate studies in French literature and becomes a French professor. She has tutored peers in French for two years at the Mount and possesses TEFL certification through CIEE. She spent a semester studying in Dublin, Ireland, and more than a month studying in France in the summer before her sophomore year.

In addition to teaching her how to be flexible with her ideas, the Fulbright application process helped Heintzelman identify the topic for her French senior seminar paper. When Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures Chair Marco Roman learned that Heintzelman was applying for a grant in Luxembourg, he suggested that she would enjoy reading French writing by Luxembourg poet Anise Koltz. “I fell in love with her poetry and wrote my French Senior Seminar paper on how she expressed emotion at life, death and God,” she exclaimed.

Heintzelman expressed gratitude for the professors who wrote her recommendations: Ed Egan, Ph.D., Sean Lewis, Ph.D., and Marco Roman, Ph.D., as well as to Gianoutsos and Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish and associate director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships. “I'm very grateful to Dr. Blackshaw and Dr. Gianoutsos because they followed along through every stage of the writing process, and as a result, they read many, many versions of my application,” Heintzelman said.

ohare-small.jpgElizabeth O’Hare, a biology and biochemistry major, decided to turn down the Fulbright award in favor of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program through Notre Dame University. The program places recent college graduates at Catholic schools throughout the country while they earn their Master of Education. O’Hare will teach biology and anatomy and physiology at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello, CA for two years while taking M.Ed. classes at Notre Dame in the summers.

“This program will allow me to explore my interest in teaching, provide me a degree to continue teaching after if I decide that is what I am called to, and give me the opportunity both to be formed and to help form future leaders (and saints),” O’Hare said. “It was certainly a difficult decision to give up the Fulbright, but my heart was with ACE.” 

O’Hare credits the Fulbright application process with giving her “the opportunity to understand what I want to do, why, and how to articulate my aspirations and interests to others. Every draft of my Personal Statement and Grant Purpose strengthened my writing and taught me how to eloquently share myself with others.” She expressed her gratitude to  Blackshaw and Gianoutsos as well as Competitive Fellowships Committee members Thane Naberhaus, Ph.D., and Garth Patterson, Ph.D. for encouraging and guiding her throughout this process. O’Hare is grateful for Katie Dye, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Kristin Sites, assistant director of learning services, and Eric Jelin, MD, of Johns Hopkins University for writing recommendation letters.

"The Mount has truly provided a home for me to grow in knowledge, professionalism, and, most importantly, faith," said O'Hare who thanked Blackshaw, Gianoutsos, Naberhaus and Patterson for "challenging me to apply my experiences on campus, in the hospital and lab, and abroad to my post-graduate work."