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Calvin Senior Earns Fulbright
April 18, 2006

A Calvin College senior due to graduate in May 2006 is the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Grant from the Institute of International Education.

Laura Peterson, 22, a double honors student in both English and German from Aberdeen, South Dakota, will use her Fulbright teaching assistantship to teach in Germany and to study the literature written in German by the country’s Turkish immigrants.

“The Turks are the biggest population of immigrants in Germany,” Peterson said of her Fulbright project. “You have to propose a project that will be worthwhile for yourself and to a greater community.”

The Fulbright Program, the largest international exchange program in the U.S., was established in 1946 by Congress to “enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

The Student Fulbright Program awards approximately 1,100 grants annually to highly qualified students —advanced doctoral candidates, students in master’s and professional programs and recent college graduates—to study, conduct research and teach in one of 140 countries. A Fulbright Grant provides the recipient with funding for overseas travel, university tuition and maintenance, including health and accident insurance, for one academic year.

“It’s an instantly recognizable honor,” said Chad Engbers, the interim advisor to Calvin’s Fulbright candidates. “It certainly good for Calvin because it shows the caliber of the students we have here.”

Peterson, who came to Calvin as a National Merit Scholar, has been a perennial name on the Calvin Dean’s List. She also found time to write for Chimes and to serve as the public relations manager for Dance Guild in 2005-2006. Peterson won the 2004 Wallace and Marianne Bratt German Interim Abroad Scholarship fromt eh German Department and the 2006 Harmon D. Hook Memorial Award from the English department. Her honors thesis is an in-depth character study of Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth.

“The amazing thing is how diverse her work is,” Engbers said. “She goes from Henry the Fifth to German literature to Turks living in Germany. She has a broad mind and a powerful one.”

Peterson, who has studied the German language since high school, has visited Germany on a Calvin Interim and while vacationing with her family. She chose her Fulbright project after interacting with the Turkish citizens there. “This was the first experience I had of this large population of Turks that I had known about since I started studying German,” she says.

Noting that the first Turkish “guest workers” arrived in Germany just after World War II, Peterson said, “They call them a parallel society. They don’t integrate. It’s kind of a big deal that the Turks are writing in German. It’s a step toward integration.”

Peterson, who confessed an inclination toward a foreign service career, is the third Fulbright recipient in two years from Calvin. Last year, Aaron Iverson from Radnor, Ohio, earned a Fulbright to study sustainable agriculture at the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina in Peru. James Robin King from Indianapolis, Indiana, won a Fulbright to study the application of Islamic teaching on non-violence to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies in Amman.

All three awards have closely followed Calvin efforts to provide intentional mentoring for applicants to Fulbright and other top scholarship programs. “The fact that we’ve had successful Fulbright applicants for two years running speaks well of the quality of our students,” Engbers said.

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson