From Central Minnesota to the world: Two CSB students are now Fulbright awardees

Academics Campus & Community Student Features

May 3, 2024

By Frank Rajkowski

Morgan Van Beck and Amelia Kahlhamer both grew up within minutes of the College of Saint Benedict campus.

But for each of the two seniors – the latest CSB and Saint John’s University students to become Fulbright awardees – their time at Saint Ben’s has served as a passport to the world.

“Initially, I had a little concern that I wasn’t going to be able to reinvent myself staying so close to home,” said Kahlhamer, who grew up near St. Joseph and graduated from Holdingford High School.

“But someone once described this place to me as a bubble. You become immersed in the community and there’s so much to be involved in. You don’t need a car because so many things are available to you within walking distance. But there are so many opportunities to get out and see the world as well.”

Kahlhamer took advantage of that, studying abroad in Greece in the fall of 2022. Now the English and sociology major has earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award and will teach English in Romania beginning this September.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as English Teaching Assistants in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international students’ English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country.

ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

“The first thing I liked about Romania was the age group of the students I’d get to be teaching,” said Kahlhamer, who previously helped teach adults with disabilities in St. Cloud as part of a program offered through Cow Tipping Press.

“I’ll be teaching students in universities, and I like the idea of teaching my peers. But Romania also has such a robust connection to storytelling. I’ve always loved myths and legends and this is a country that’s rich in them – most notably Dracula. The more I learn about the culture there, the more intrigued I am by it.”

Van Beck, meanwhile, is a Sartell High School graduate who is majoring in political science and Hispanic studies with a minor in Latin American studies.

She previously studied abroad in Spain and worked in Guatemala with the Guatemala Human Rights Commission as part of the CSB and SJU Washington D.C. Summer Program in 2022. She also spent the summer of 2023 in Washington working with the International Law Institute.

Her Fulbright ETA will allow her the chance to teach English in Colombia beginning Aug. 1.

“Teaching English in a Spanish-speaking country is something that really interested me,” she said. “Living in Spain when I was studying abroad made me realize how much I enjoyed being in that kind of setting, and the work I did in Guatemala two summers ago just reinforced that.

“I wrote a lot about Guatemala during the Fulbright process and there are a lot of similarities with Colombia. I can’t wait to get started.”

Kahlhamer and Van Beck are the 50th and 51st Fulbright awardees from CSB and SJU in the past 10 years alone.

“We really have developed an extraordinary record of success over the past decade,” said Phil Kronebusch, a professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU. “There have been very few liberal arts schools our size producing this many Fulbright students.”

Both Van Beck and Kahlhamer say they benefitted from the growing CSB and SJU Fulbright network during their own selection process.

“I was able to meet with a couple of past Fulbright winners – Rachel Mullin ’14 and Brigid Smith ’22 and they were amazing,” Van Beck said. “That helped a lot.

“But I think the biggest thing is that we have an infrastructure here to support students who want to achieve this. Both Phil (Kronebusch) and (associate professor of political science) Pedro (dos Santos) know the system so well and they’re able to guide students through it. Without them, I’m sure we wouldn’t have nearly as many Fulbright winners as we’ve had over the years.”

“One thing that helped me so much was that Noah Knapp ’22 had done his Fulbright in North Macedonia,” added Kahlhamer, who also serves as the public relations coordinator for the Sister Nancy Hynes Institute for Women's Leadership on campus.

“He was able to advise me on what to include and what experiences to talk about. It’s amazing knowing there are all these CSB and SJU graduates out there who have been through this, and that if you text them, they’ll be more than willing to help. That’s why if anyone reaches out to me in the future, I’ll be happy to support them in any way I can.”

Kronebusch said Van Beck and Kahlhamer are proof that CSB and SJU truly offer students a global perspective – no matter how near or far from campus they come from.

“Morgan and Amelia have both made the most of the opportunities Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s offers to be globally engaged,” he said. “And I think earning a Fulbright is really the culmination of that.”

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Morgan Van Beck '24

Amelia Kahlhamer '24