Linfield sees three Fulbright finalists

Olivia Gomez, Staff Writer

Three Linfield seniors are excited to have been chosen as Fulbright finalists.

The Fulbright Program, started in 1947 by Arkansas Senator William J. Fulbright, is a competitive scholarship program that allows American citizens to conduct research or teach English in other countries. Linfield’s Fulbright Program adviser Tom Mertes said Fulbright recipients have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, become elected officials, professors, and much more.

More than 10,000 people apply each year, Mertes said. This year, three Linfield seniors and one Linfield graduate were chosen as finalists. According to the Fulbright Program’s rules, scholars are not officially Fulbright recipients until they land in their host countries.

Grant Cates, a physics and mathematics double major, was originally chosen as an alternate but was declared a finalist last week. He said he was motivated to apply for a Fulbright by his desires to return to Europe and to improve the skills he will need in a scientific career.

Cates will be observing ferroelectricity, which he said is similar to the pull of fridge magnets, in trapped water molecules with other international students in Germany. He said the thought of working in a multinational field, especially in an academic setting, was exciting. The research he will be doing will act as an extension of his senior thesis.

Chemistry major Chris Munjar will also be going to Europe on a research grant, but his program in Austria also allows him to be an English teaching assistant. He will be researching bacterial surface adhesion and trying to find a surface that will allow no bacteria to grow on it. So far, scientists know of no surface that is completely bacteria-proof because “bacteria are really smart,” Munjar said.

Munjar started preparing his application in May for the mid-September deadline. The application includes a statement of grant proposal that demonstrates the skills the applicant will bring to the program and a one-page personal statement. Mertes said students average 10 to 20 drafts for each statement.

All three seniors agreed that the personal statement was the most difficult to write. “You are working with an infinite number of ideas you want to convey but only extremely limited real estate,” Cates said.

Literature and Spanish major and gender studies minor Mackenzie Fraser said she benefited from the challenge. The personal statement “forced me to really evaluate my own goals with Fulbright and made it more than just an application,” she said.

Fraser is going to be an English teaching assistant in Costa Rica. What excites her most is the prospect of meeting new people. “I love to learn about different cultures and meet people who are very different than I am, hear their stories in their own language, and find out more about myself and my culture,” Fraser said.

She encouraged anyone considering applying for a Fulbright to do it, saying that at the very least, the application process is an “exercise in grown up applications.”

Cates agreed. “Just go for it,” he said. “Above all, believe in yourself.”

Munjar offered a word of caution. Applicants are only allowed to choose one grant in one country, “so, know what you want,” he said.

The fourth Linfield finalist, Chandler Collins, ‘15, was unavailable for comment.