Becoming global citizens, part 2

September 25, 2021

Lauren Griffin ’12

Then: ETA in Podgorica, Montenegro, 2012–13

Now: social scientist in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the Administration for Children and Families in Washington, DC

What was a highlight (or two) of your Fulbright experience?

One highlight was working together with my colleague and a community leader to codirect the country’s premiere production of The Vagina Monologues, raising over 1,000 euros in donations for the local women’s shelter.

Lauren Griffin visited the Bay of Kotor during her Fulbright in Montenegro in 2012–13.

Another highlight was spending time with a Luther family while I was there. Professor Steve Holland (economics), his wife, Krista, and their three girls also happened to be on a Fulbright fellowship in the same city at the same time. This was such a serendipitous part of my year abroad! I recently had the chance to visit with the Holland family while I was back in Decorah for Nordic Fest this summer.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken?

It’s hard to imagine where I would be today without my Fulbright experience! My year in Montenegro challenged me in ways I never expected, and pushed me to feel capable of embracing exciting opportunities in the future. From moving to both the East and West Coasts, going to grad school, and taking new jobs, Fulbright set me on an extraordinary path and gifted me with lifelong friends.

How did it shape your perspective?

Upon returning to the US, I had not only learned about another part of the world but I also gained a new perspective toward my own country and cultural practices. My year in Montenegro enhanced the critical thinking skills I developed at Luther and has helped me see myself as a global citizen.

Kristen (Carlson) Einertson ’17

Then: ETA in Riga, Latvia, 2018–19

Now: currently in her third year of pursuing a PhD in rhetoric at the University of Minnesota

What was a highlight (or two) of your Fulbright experience? 

I have so many, but two immediately come to mind. First, I will always remember when one of my communication studies professors at Luther, Mark Johns, visited me in Riga! He and his wife were traveling through Eastern Europe in the spring of 2019 and made sure to visit me so that I could be their tour guide through the city. Another highlight of the year was joining a semiprofessional orchestra there. Being able to continue playing music while living in a new country helped me to feel at home and meet lots of other motivated young professionals who had moved to the city from all over the world. I will never forget the great music that we made together and all the fun that we had.

Now pursuing a PhD in rhetoric, Kristen (Carlson) Einertson and her husband welcomed their newborn son, Theodore, into their family in June 2021.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken?

Before I received the Fulbright fellowship, I had committed to beginning my PhD program at the University of Minnesota after I graduated from Luther. However, at that point I was not 100 percent sure what I wanted to study within the field of rhetoric. My time in Latvia greatly inspired my research and has completely directed my graduate school interests. I now focus my studies on the rhetoric and public discourse surrounding the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. The year I spent in Latvia completely immersed me in the history and culture of that region and has given me a wealth of cultural experiences that I greatly enjoy researching and writing about.

How did it shape your perspective?

Studying in Eastern Europe deepened the perspective that I bring to issues related to the public discourse surrounding that region and foreign policy more generally. Given the outsized role that coverage of Eastern Europe–related issues has played in the media and societal landscape of the US in the years since I returned, that deeper perspective has been an invaluable tool as I analyze these events from the perspective of a rhetorical scholar. Indeed, that tool gives me an edge in producing substantive and original work in my academic context, which has bolstered my scholarly career. On a more personal level, my year in Latvia changed my perspective on living in foreign countries. While the idea of it might have been intimidating at first, during my year there I began to love the adventure of living somewhere new. After my Fulbright experience I can honestly say that I hope to live abroad again.

Sean Anderson ’11

Then: ETA in Barranquilla, Colombia, 2011–12

Now: heads the Mexico City office of the Mintz Group, a global private investigations firm

What was a highlight (or two) of your Fulbright experience?

Experiencing Carnaval and seeing the whole city become a weeklong celebration (not counting the preceding month of weekend celebrations). The parades were truly stunning, with seemingly endless lines of incredible salsa dancers and characters from Costeño folklore. I still don’t quite understand how they could dance for hours in that heat and humidity.

Getting to travel throughout Colombia visiting other Fulbrighters and seeing what an incredibly beautiful country it is. The Colombian people are among the most friendly I’ve met, and I’m so grateful I was able to meet lifelong friends there and learn about their culture. I can’t recommend enough that people visit Colombia.

Tell us more about what you do now.

I head the Mexico City office of the Mintz Group, a global private investigations firm. I manage and conduct complex litigation, due diligence, and asset-tracing investigations throughout Latin America and help lead our cryptocurrency investigations team.  Immediately after my Fulbright experience and before entering the investigations sector, I completed a master’s degree in political science (specializing in international relations) from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Sean Anderson with his partner, Viridiana, in rural Mexico, enjoy a weekend away from their home in Mexico City.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken?

My Fulbright experience definitely pushed me to focus on Latin America professionally, as it heightened my interest in the region and allowed me to gain a higher level of fluency in Spanish, building on my Spanish major from Luther. Even more importantly, that Spanish fluency and my roommate in Colombia ended up introducing me to the love of my life, and she led me to move to Mexico City. Thanks, Fulbright!

How did it shape your perspective?

I know it sounds stereotypical, but I think living abroad for a substantial period is one of the best choices you can make in life. Studying abroad at Luther was a fantastic opportunity that helped open my eyes to the world, but living and working in another country really changes how you view the world. It helps remove a lot of the assumptions we all make about how the world works and should work. You start to question things you take for granted at home and gain appreciation for other things about where you grew up. Plus, hopefully, you gain a deep appreciation and love for another culture, which will always influence the way you see the world.

Julia Reimann ’16

Then: ETA in Alor Setar, Malaysia, 2017

Now: pursuing an MDiv at Harvard Divinity School

What was a highlight or two of your Fulbright experience? 

At my school, SMK Alor Merah, I started a choir called the Sunnyside Singers (amazingly named by one of my students), which filled my Luther heart with such fond memories of Sunnyside Café cinnamon rolls. The Sunnyside Singers performed covers of pop songs at a number of school events. Each rehearsal was a special opportunity to learn from my students about Malaysian culture as we shared our passion for music.

During her Fulbright in Malaysia in 2017, Julia Reimann started a choir called the Sunnyside Singers, pictured here.

Tell us more about what you do now.

I am currently pursuing a master of divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School. This summer I completed a chaplaincy internship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. I find the work of spiritual care to be a beautiful and liminal art and form of care that can support people in the fullness of their particularity. After graduating in May 2022, I hope to continue down the path to become a hospital or hospice chaplain.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken?

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the generous, loving hospitality I experienced within my community in Alor Setar. My experiences in Malaysia deeply informed my life’s path, expanded my capacity for flexibility in all areas of my life, and developed my confidence in the skills I offer as a teacher and friend. They also confirmed my desire to pursue further studies in the fields of religion and spirituality at a multireligious divinity school due to my interests in religious literacy and interreligious connection. Now I find myself regularly reflecting on my connections with my Muslim community members in Alor Setar and their powerful model of care that I benefited from as I train to become a multifaith healthcare chaplain.

Matthew Lind ’13

Then: ETA in Gaziantep, Turkey, 2013–14

Now: a lawyer in Chicago

What was a highlight (or two) of your Fulbright experience? 

Getting to know my Turkish and Syrian students, colleagues, and neighbors.

Matt and his wife, Amy Anderson ’13, attended a fellow Luther alum’s wedding last summer.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken? 

My Fulbright year got me interested in refugee and asylum law, which has led to me advocating for asylum-seekers as part of my legal practice.

How did it shape your perspective?

I learned to become much more comfortable with not having a plan and just enjoying the journey.

Paul Hanson ’67

Then: ETA near Agra, India, 1967–68

Now: professor emeritus of history, California Lutheran University

At the urging of my professor, Earl Leland, I applied for a Fulbright to India in 1967. I saw it initially as a chance for a “gap year” of travel before starting graduate school. Instead it turned out to be the pivotal year in my life in many ways. I was assigned to teach English in a small agricultural college eight miles outside the city of Agra, most famous as the site of the Taj Mahal. My students were mainly village boys who had had limited prior English instruction and thought there would be little use for it in their lives. So they joined in several nationwide strikes to make Hindi the national language, including for instruction in colleges, at least in north India, where we were. The strikes added to the numerous school holidays, and vacations gave me lots of time to travel and see much of the rest of the country. The states in India are as diverse from one another as the countries of Europe, so solving the problems of third-class train travel in different linguistic and cultural settings provided a crash course in the incredible panoply of India. I was absolutely fascinated and eventually decided I could spend the rest of my life trying to understand this civilization and never be bored. This led me to change where I would go to grad school and what I would study (South Asian history at the University of Chicago instead of medieval Europe at Yale) and more particularly to focus on the Mughal Dynasty, who  ruled most of South Asia from the 16th to the 19th centuries, who had made Agra one of their capitals, and who had left an amazing legacy of forts, palaces, mosques, and tombs, including the Taj Mahal, which I spent much time visiting and exploring.

Now in retirement, the significance of that Fulbright year only looms larger in importance. Because of the wonderful experience I had at Luther, I decided I wanted to teach in a similar environment. I wound up teaching for 40 years at California Lutheran, during which time it changed from a college to a university, and I was able to help internationalize the curriculum. I changed the basic first-year history course from Western Civilization to World History, I founded and directed an interdisciplinary Global Studies Program, I developed and led several study abroad trips to India, and nationally I was a founding board member of the South Asia Studies Association.

Paul Hanson's Fulbright experience in India in 1967-68 sparked a lifelong love of photography.

By the way, one of my other lifelong interests developed in India was photography.  I bought my first camera in Japan on the way over to India and ever since have been trying to capture the astounding color, beauty, and character of that unique place. I’ve increasingly been sharing my work with others and had an exhibition of over 40 of my photos mounted on display in the university gallery.

That 1967–68 Fulbright and the travel to and from India (Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Turkey, and much of Europe) obviously gave me a global perspective that I have carried through life. More surprising to me at the time was the new perspective it gave me on my own country. Learning how people and media abroad saw the US and how our actions and motives were seen and interpreted added a new dimension to my trying to be a good American citizen. In retrospect, I was fortunate to have this formative experience before the internet and cell phones, so there was no choice but to engage and accommodate to the very different culture I was in. No contact with friends or family except by letters, which took two weeks. That built independence, resilience, and self-confidence—all useful for the rest of one’s life.

Katherine Shaner ’98

Then: ETA in Heidelberg, Germany, 1998–99

Now: professor of New Testament at Wake Forest University

What was a highlight or two of your Fulbright experience? 

One profound and one silly:

Profound: Being a Lutheran pastor’s kid, a Luther College alumna, a German and English major, and an organist, Germany was a place where I felt connected and wanted to study theology. What I didn’t realize, though, was that German theology students take two years of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew before they start their courses in theological studies. Since I’d learned Greek at Luther, I was advised to spend my Fulbright year taking New Testament courses. I was a little cranky. I’d wanted to study Martin Luther, but all the classes required medieval Latin. But then I sat in on New Testament courses, and I fell in love. I discovered exactly how compelling the Gospel of Mark is. I had lots and lots and lots and lots of questions about Paul and Paul’s writings. Once I returned to the US, I realized that this was the kind of love that required me to keep coming back to New Testament studies and that would grow, change, and sustain my career. More than 20 years later, my love for this research has changed, but its beginnings are still so very rooted in my Fulbright year—beginnings that wouldn’t have even been possible without my Luther College experience!

Silly: I was a cross country and track athlete during my years at Luther. I LOVED my team, my sport, the discipline. So I was a little lost when I first got to Heidelberg, because I didn’t have my team to run with. Then I saw a flier for intramural rowing on the Nekar River that runs through the old city of Heidelberg. This was rowing like you see in the Olympics. I’d never even contemplated rowing—it’s a lot harder than tubing in Decorah. But I signed up. Why not try something new?! And I was terrible at it. TERRIBLE! I couldn’t keep my oars steady. I didn’t understand the cadence needed for a team of rowers to be effective together. And whenever I was in a solo boat, I dumped myself into the river within five minutes of starting out. What I learned, though, was that laughter was more important than skill, that I needed to keep trying even when success was not going to be measured in awards or races won, that humility means learning the expression for “drowned rat” in German, and that new experiences give you courage. I haven’t been in a rowing skull since!

Katherine Shaner is professor of New Testament at Wake Forest University and an ordained ELCA pastor. Photo by Carly Geis.

Tell us more about what you do now.

I am a professor of New Testament at Wake Forest University. After my Fulbright year, I returned to the US and began the master of divinity program at Harvard Divinity School (completed 2002). I took two years to finish ordination requirements, and then completed the ThD program at Harvard Divinity School in 2012. All through that program, I taught German for theological reading at HDS. In 2007 I was ordained as an ELCA pastor and served University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square. I also had pastoral relationships with several other congregations in the area. In 2011, I took a position at General Theological Seminary (Episcopal) in New York, New York,  and in 2013 I moved to Wake Forest University School of Divinity. I have a book published with Oxford University Press entitled Enslaved Leadership in Early Christianity and have published articles on topics ranging from feminist biblical interpretation to archaeological resources for New Testament studies from ancient Ephesos (modern-day Turkey). I’ve had other fellowships to live and work in Turkey and Israel. My service work has been through community-building and education around racial justice and with organizations that work to care for the unhoused.

How did your Fulbright experience shape the path your life has taken? 

I learned skills for intercultural living and communication—skills that have translated into a better understanding of the diversity of experience in the United States. After my MDiv, I moved to Detroit to complete my Lutheran internship requirement for becoming a pastor at Gracious Saviour Lutheran Church. My time in Detroit was life-transforming as I learned, worked, and lived in an African American–majority context. I would never have thought to do that work if I hadn’t had the skills of living as a guest in another culture. And the community in Detroit changed the direction of my career. I returned to Harvard Divinity School for my ThD with the blessing of my internship committee from Gracious Saviour. My love for New Testament studies from my Fulbright year, and the ability to thrive in multiple environments and hear multiple perspectives that living abroad gave me, coalesced during my doctorate. Today, my research, scholarship, and teaching challenges me and others to listen for the voices of people who are usually left out of the stories in our biblical texts and in our histories of justice. This theme that runs through my career has emerged from the unique combination of seeds planted at Luther College, tending and nurturing learned during my Fulbright year, and the resilience and creativity that comes with strong roots.

Marta Williams ’19

Then: Fulbright research grant to study in Bonn, Germany, 2019–20

Now: student at Harvard Medical School

What was a highlight or two of your Fulbright experience? 

One highlight of my experience was Karneval! Originating as a pre-Lenten celebration, Karneval is a communal celebration of epic proportions! Lucky for me, Bonn and Cologne (which is close by) are some of the best places to experience this celebration. Over the course of several days, I, along with my German housemates, dressed up in costume, rode the train to Cologne surrounded by other people singing and dressed up in costume, watched the giant Bonn parade, watched smaller neighborhood parades, learned traditional Karneval greetings, ate the candy (Kamelle!) thrown out to the crowds at the parades, and generally enjoyed the wonderful spirit of Karneval community. Karneval happened just before COVID really began to hit Germany, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to experience it in Bonn!

After spending her Fulbright research grant in the ER in Bonn, Germany, Marta Williams started medical school at Harvard this fall.

How did your Fulbright experience shape your perspective? 

I knew I wanted to attend medical school before going to Germany, but my experience there has definitely changed my perspective as I enter medicine. Having experienced the challenges of language and cultural barriers firsthand in the Bonn ER, finding ways to effectively provide care across such barriers is definitely a priority for me. Having also seen the advantages of the universal healthcare system in Germany (particularly amid a pandemic), I hope to be an advocate for expanded access to affordable and equitable health care. More generally, my time in Germany helped me to recognize some aspects of myself and my own culture that were harder to see against the backdrop of the US. I loved the emphasis on community, for instance, that I saw in so many sectors of German society, and I hope to incorporate aspects of that into my life here. I truly loved my time in Germany, jump at every opportunity I have to speak German here, and can’t wait to return at some point in the future.