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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


Fulbright Scholars spark PLU’s global perspective

Professor emeritus Rodney Swenson talks with Tamara Grunhurd '93
Professor emeritus Rodney Swenson talks with Tamara Grunhurd ’93

By Katherine Hedland '88

PLU’s Fulbright Scholars have studied international relations in Germany, literature in Norway and environmental studies in India. But many say the most important lessons weren’t learned in the classroom—as unique cultures and challenges opened the doors to self-discovery.

“My year over there was both the best time of my life and the most difficult,” said Jeremy Mangan ’98, who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. “When you’re on your own, you start to see things in a different way.”

In recognition of the 25h anniversary of PLU’s involvement in the Fulbright program, many of the 51 PLU graduates who have been awarded the prestigious scholarship returned for a reunion during Home-coming weekend. Professor emeritus Rodney Swenson, the heart and soul of the PLU program, presented the Heritage Lecture, and eight alums participated in a panel discussion afterwards. Many came to pay tribute to Swenson, who retired in the spring after teaching German since 1968. He continues to work with Fulbright applicants.

“The thrust of the program is an investment in peace, and one of the best ways to do that is to have young people living and working in other cultures,” Swenson said. “This has become my crusade.”

After his lecture about the importance of language and broadening horizons, panelists took to the podium. One after another, alums told tales of their years abroad and thanked Swenson for encouraging them to pursue the Fulbright, the U.S. government’s premier scholarship program. The Fulbright was created after World War II, with the goal of fostering mutual understanding among nations.

Ann Marie Mehlum ’75, PLU’s first Fulbright winner, was back on campus for her first Homecoming. Mehlum, CEO of Access Broadcasting, an Internet marketing company in Eugene, Ore., said she didn’t realize when she won the Fulbright in 1975 that it was so important.

“It was a fabulous year,” she said after hearing the former students speak. “It was everything they all talked about.”

Associate provost Bill Teska said that all international programs have grown at PLU, and they offer core curriculum emphasizing a global perspective. “It is critical to be preparing our students to be global citizens,” he said. “We are giving our students the tools they need to navigate through an increasingly inter-connected world.”

Click here to read Rodney Swenson's Heritage Lecture.

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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