Meagan Kusek, who majored in creative and professional writing and also studied German, Chinese and Studio Art at Converse, will spend next year representing the United States in Germany with the highly prestigious Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State’s flagship cultural exchange program. She will serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and work on a novel based on Norse/Germanic mythology that she hopes will allow Americans to understand a facet of the cultural beginnings of Germania. In addition to her proficiency in German, she is a talented artist and one of Converse’s highest-achieving students in the study of Chinese.
“I have been interested in Germany since childhood,” Meagan said. “For several years, it has been my dream to live there for a time and become fluent in the language.” Meagan’s father began teaching her German expressions when she was in kindergarten, and she grew up responding to them as naturally as their English counterparts. “By high school, I had the desire to learn more than the smattering I had picked up and it quickly became clear that I wanted to continue learning German for as long as I could.”
Unfamiliar with the Fulbright program before arriving on campus her freshman year, Meagan developed interest in applying to the program in large part due to Associate Professor of History Dr. Edward Woodfin, who recruits and advises Converse’s Fulbright applicants. She heard Woodfin speak during Opening Convocation just days into her freshman year, and was influenced by his encouragement of students to study or travel abroad during their college career. After hearing him speak of the Fulbright program during a Nisbet Honors Program event, and then seeing Converse student Stephanie Jennings ’11 win the award last year, it finally seemed feasible to Meagan that she could have a chance to win as well.
“I spent last summer mulling over which grant to apply to (research or teaching assistantship), and then spent the first three weeks of school acclimating to my school work and working through the several-page-long application, the most challenging of which were the personal essays,” she said. “If I learned anything during the decision and application process, it was that the study and teaching of language was more important to me than I had realized, and it inspired me to think that maybe foreign language would be something I’d like to study in graduate school.”
Dr. Mirko Hall, assistant professor of modern languages, encouraged and supported Meagan throughout her application process. Hall was with Meagan the morning she learned of her award. “The congratulatory text arrived on Meagan’s mobile phone right at the very start of our Contemporary Germany seminar,” he said. “The look on her face was absolutely priceless—and I was shaking with so much excitement that I actually broke the key inside of the technology tower in Hartness Auditorium (my apologies to the Maintenance team).” Hall enjoyed working with Meagan throughout the rigorous application process, and noted, “Meagan is an outstanding student, writer, and linguist, whose intellectual passion and curiosity is always ‘on fire’ in the classroom. Her cross-cultural sensitivity, community spirit, and goodwill towards others will make her an excellent representative of our country abroad.”
Meagan sees her Fulbright Assistantship as the perfect opportunity to advance her language skills and explore teaching. “I want to use my Fulbright year as a time to see how well I do in certain situations, such as teaching and being immersed in a foreign language atmosphere. I hope to decide whether or not to attend graduate school, and if so, what area I should concentrate in, because as of right now I have too many possible interests and I don’t know how to narrow them down.”
For Dr. Woodfin, whose record of mentoring Fulbright winners is a trend that Converse hopes will become a long-term tradition, Meagan is an ideal young ambassador for the U.S. to send abroad. “I’m very pleased with the idea that, for a number of Germans, when they think of America, they will think of Meagan. She is an intelligent and creative world-citizen—basically, our ideal Converse graduate. With her language skills, her writing, and her art, she has the power to make a wonderfully positive impact on her German students and build lasting relationships.”