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Stellar Students: Fredonia's first Fulbrights

Amanda Bogert

Amanda Bogert to Turkey


Catherine Riedesel
Catherine Riedesel to Andorra



SUNY Fredonia has a rich tradition of faculty receiving Fulbright awards to teach or study in foreign lands, but never has a student been awarded this distinguished honor. That void disappears in September.

That’s when two Fredonia graduate students from the College of Education, Amanda Bogert and Catherine Riedesel, depart for Andorra and Turkey, respectively, as recipients of one-year Fulbright scholarships to become English teaching assistants. Both earned master’s degrees in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in May.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of these fine young educators,” said College of Education Dean Christine Givner. “These scholarships are compelling evidence of Amanda’s and Cathy’s academic excellence as well as the quality of their educational experiences here at SUNY Fredonia.”

“I think it’s wonderful,” added Dr. Ted Schwalbe, coordinator of International Learning at SUNY Fredonia and the campus Fulbright program. The valuable experiences and cultural enrichment resulting from “Fulbrights” are well known to Schwalbe, a longtime member of the communication department and a four-time Fulbright recipient for teaching and research. The Fulbright was created after World War II by Sen. J. William Fulbright to promote peace and understanding through educational exchange.

Deep interests in foreign cultures, international matters, languages and teaching bond all “Fulbrighters,” and the SUNY Fredonia pair fit that template precisely. Riedesel and Bogert, who also hold Fredonia undergraduate degrees, have already logged bundles of frequent-flyer miles. Last summer they participated in the college’s international exchange program in Wales.
Bogert, salutatorian of her class at Frewsburg (N.Y.) High School, was only a sophomore when she spent a year in Argentina as an exchange student. Several years later she relocated to Venezuela to attend medical school. Her bachelor’s degree is in Economics, with a minor in Spanish and certification in International Economic Studies. She also participated in the Belize service-learning and teaching practicum on campus.

Riedesel, a graduate of Westfield (N.Y.) Academy and Central School, has already visited South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. She studied in India, spent a summer in Tanzania and went on expeditions in Europe and Kyrgyzstan. Her bachelor’s degree is in education, with a concentration in Adolescence Education-Social Studies/History.

Stellar academics at undergraduate and graduate levels, plus extensive engagement in international programs undoubtedly made these two students outstanding candidates. Turkey accepted only 35 students from a pool of 115 applicants for its program, while the considerably smaller pool of 13 applicants for Andorra resulted in just five student placements. Also, Bogert becomes only the second student from the entire SUNY system to be accepted for a teaching assistantship in Andorra, the country of only 83,000 residents situated at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.

“The placement in Andorra will allow me to pursue my life goal of becoming plurilingual – speaking, reading and writing – in more than two languages,” explained Bogert, who is excited to learn “Catalan,” her first heritage language. Enrolling in French, Italian or Portuguese classes is also on her to-do list.

Riedesel’s dream has been to broaden her teaching experience. “As soon as I got to graduate school, I knew that I wanted to teach and travel. The Fulbright was the perfect opportunity for me to do both.”

Her primary assignment will be teaching English to university students in Turkey, which has a population of 70 million. She chose Turkey because, “It’s on the border of Europe, Asia and Africa, so it has so many cultures coming together right there. It’s a predominantly Muslim country, but there is huge diversity.”

Both women have high career aspirations. Riedesel wants to be a global history teacher, preferably in an international school, and a bilingual teacher. Bogert plans to return to Western New York to become a dual-language elementary teacher or perhaps develop after-school bilingual programs. The experience in multi-lingual Andorra, she believes, will provide a solid base for a career in bilingual education and set the pace for a doctorate.

Schwalbe expects more students will now be encouraged to apply following these two placements. “The perception has been that the Fulbright is for students from Ivy League schools, and not for mid-size state institutions. But now they’ll see that’s not true.”

posted @ Friday, August 27, 2010 1:46 PM by Christine Davis Mantai

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