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Two Carthage seniors win Fulbright Scholarships

  • Carthage President Gregory S. Woodward congratulates Katie Niemeyer '13 after she won the College Leadership Award at Hono...
    Carthage President Gregory S. Woodward congratulates Katie Niemeyer '13 after she won the College Leadership Award at Honors Convocation. Shortly afterward, Katie was notified she had won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Mongolia.
    Carthage College
May 10, 2013

Katie Niemeyer earns Teaching Assistantship
to Mongolia, joining Nick Tackes as recipient

For someone who never had traveled abroad before coming to Carthage, Katie Niemeyer ’13 keeps demonstrating the ability to adapt in unfamiliar surroundings.

She’ll get another chance after earning a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Mongolia for the 2013-14 academic year. Katie became the second Carthage senior this year to receive a Fulbright award. Earlier this spring, Nick Tackes ’13 was approved for a Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Assistantship in India (read more).

English Teaching Assistantships allow students and young professionals to assist local teachers of non-native English speakers and to serve as American cultural ambassadors. While Katie will be new to Mongolia, faculty members have little doubt she’ll fit in.

“What is most evident about Katie is her resourcefulness,” said Professor Edward Montanaro, who is her senior thesis advisor. “That, ultimately, is what’s going to make her successful in her career.”

One of the multiple examples he provided stems from an internship she had with a nonprofit organization in Tanzania over the summer of 2012. When expected funding didn’t materialize, Katie shaped the opportunity largely on her own.

“She didn’t have footprints painted on the sidewalk to guide her,” said Prof. Montanaro.

After a “nerve-wracking” few months waiting for final word, she’s excited about the scholarship. According to preliminary figures, only 5 of 35 applicants in the United States have been selected for the Mongolia program in 2013-14.

The Fulbright Scholarship will add another stamp to Katie’s passport, which was empty until she went to Turkey and Greece for a J-Term study tour in June 2011. The opportunity delays by a year her plan to pursue graduate studies in international development.

An International Political Economy andeconomics major from Chatfield, Minn., Katie said Mongolia interested her because it sits at a crossroads. A nation that traditionally relied on a pastoral economy, it in recent years has benefited from a mining boom.

“I really wanted to go to a country that’s in that middle area, with an emerging economy on a global scale,” she said.

For her efforts during her time on campus, Katie received the College Leadership Award at Honors Convocation on Friday, April 26. She said the liberal arts education from Carthage helps her understand the overlap of politics, economics, and other factors that affect societies. Katie also credits her professors for boosting her confidence, noting that four years ago she couldn’t imagine such a prestigious scholarship was within her reach.

“I owe a lot to the faculty for pushing me and, at the same time, supporting me along the way,” she said. “They empowered me to do these things.”

In her Fulbright essay, Katie identified a possible icebreaker in Mongolian classes: horses. Drawing on her own experience with showing and judging horses, she sees an opportunity to connect the country’s equine culture to the American West.

This year’s Carthage recipients share a valuable trait in the classroom, said ProfessorJohn Isham, Carthage’s Fulbright Program advisor.

“Not only do they possess a lot of knowledge, they can also share it with others,” he said of Katie and Nick. “They’re very expressive individuals.”

Established in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. Eight Carthage students have received Fulbright Scholarships since 2008.

Prof. Isham, who teaches in the Great Ideas program, said the awards reinforce the College’s interdisciplinary approach to education.

“Carthage is developing students who are able to go anywhere in the world,” he said. “Those students can communicate and improve relations between cultures.”

• • •

Nick Tackes wins Fulbright Scholarship to India

After reading horoscopes to polish his Hindi language skills, Nick Tackes got word from a more scholarly source that his immediate future looks bright.

Great Ideas and religion major from Rockford, Ill., Nick recently learned he had won a Fulbright Scholarship for the 2013-14 academic year. He will spend nine months in India, assisting English teachers in one of three cities: New Delhi, Calcutta, or Chennai.

Carthage Provost Julio Rivera congratulates Nick Tackes ‘13 after he won a Research and Creativity Award at Honors Convocation. Nick received a Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Assistantship to India.

Nick’s interest in studying India blossomed during a J-Term study tour in 2012 with Professor James Lochtefeld, director of the Asian Studiesprogram. The group toured historical religious sites in the northern part of the country.

“There’s so much religious liveliness,” Nick said. “Everyone is in tune with their spiritual vocation.”

After forming a Meditation Club at Carthage, he considered it a highlight to meditate among Sikhs in the city of Amritsar. Yet his interest runs much deeper than any tourist’s would. Nick hopes to expand on his religious studies in graduate school and, eventually, to teach Hindu culture at the college level.

Prof. Lochtefeld, who also teaches religion courses, has helped Nick to learn elementary Hindi through an independent study over the past two years. Often their one-on-one sessions include a review of horoscopes and news headlines in Indian media. Prof. Lochtefeld said the concise, formulaic examples provide an entry point into the language.

“I’m really grateful that he’s been willing to take the time to do this with me,” Nick said.

He completed the Fulbright application and required essays with guidance from Professor John Isham, Carthage’s Fulbright Program advisor, as well as professorsGregory BaerDan ChoffnesStephen Udry, and Erik Kulke. Besides his efforts to learn one of India’s primary languages, Nick cited his experience as a fellow at theBrainard Writing Center and a resident assistant/assistant hall director as evidence of his ability to connect to students.

In his application, Nick described some of the teaching strategies that he wants to implement in India. He plans to boost interest with discussions of contemporary American poets, celebrities, and songs.

According to preliminary figures from the program’s website, only 15 of 126 applicants have been approved for Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantships this year. Nick is confident he’s prepared for the challenge.

“As I come out of my four years at Carthage, I feel confident in my communication skills, my critical thinking skills, and also my ability to adapt to new and potentially challenging surroundings with a positive and determined attitude,” he said.

Faculty members agreed that the graduating senior’s diligence, calm demeanor, and cross-cultural interests make him a strong fit for the teaching role.

“He’s a very patient man,” Prof. Lochtefeld said. “He’s very good at explaining things. He doesn’t get rattled.”