Gibson Odderstol awarded prestigious Fulbright grant

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
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2017-05-09 15:29:02 - General

Gibson Odderstol
Gibson Odderstol 

Coe College graduating senior Gibson Odderstol has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant. The Fulbright award will allow Odderstol to teach in Malaysia during the 2017-18 academic year.

In all, six graduating Coe seniors and a recent alumna received prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards this spring.  The seven recipients represent a new record number of Coe students and recent alumni who have been awarded Fulbrights in a given year. 

Odderstol graduated magna cum laude on May 7 with majors in religion and political science. He has served as a Writing Center consultant, helping students with any writing project at any stage of the writing process.  Throughout his time at Coe, he has been the vice president of Phi Kappa Tau, the Improv Troupe director, and the Model United Nations president, along with serving as a college adjustment peer and a resident assistant.

As a freshman, Odderstol initially became interested in the Fulbright program when Professor Ann Struthers, the college’s national fellowship advisor before her retirement, visited his first-year seminar class.  As a former Fulbright scholar, Struthers’ enthusiasm for the program was contagious. 

“I felt Ann Struthers’ exuberance for the Fulbright grant.  I really got a sense from her that it was a worthwhile endeavor,” said Odderstol.  “We met, and she convinced me that pursuing a Fulbright was something to have as a goal throughout my college career.”

Originally, Odderstol was interested in serving in Turkey, but chose to pursue Malaysia as a result of the U.S. State Department Turkey travel advisory in effect during his application process.  He also talked to Coe alumni would had received Fulbrights to Malaysia, who convinced him it was the ideal choice. 

“The more I learned about Malaysian history and culture, the most excited about it I became,” said Odderstol. 

While in Malaysia, Odderstol will be teaching English at a secondary school.  Odderstol also selected Malaysia as his assignment country because of the unique opportunity to contribute to the community where he will be placed. Community engagement and involvement is of high interest to him because he wants to make an impact on the world.

Odderstol believes his Coe academic program—and particularly his religion major—has provided a solid foundation for his upcoming Fulbright experience.

"For me, studying different religions has helped me learn how people relate to one another, and about how people try to cement those relationships in a text, or in a tradition, or in a ritual,” said Odderstol.  “My study of religion will help me to fully embrace Malaysian culture and be a good representative of my own country and my own culture.”

Specifically, Odderstol has found that Coe teaches students how to think and how to articulate their thoughts, as well as develop strong writing skills.

“Fundamentally, Coe taught me how to think, and how to process the world in a unique way,” said Odderstol.  “I’ve had professors who have wanted to interact with me on a person-to-person basis, and challenged me, which has been formative in terms of how I think and process new information.” 

Along with Struthers, Odderstol is especially appreciative of the help has received from Coe Professors Meira Kensky, Kim Lanegran, Geoff Chaplin and Amber Shaw, who serves as the college’s national fellowship advisor, as well as other Coe faculty.

In the future, Odderstol is considering law school or foreign service.  By taking a gap year and participating in the Fulbright program, he believes his future direction will come into focus.

“I find myself called to be in a job where I can be interacting with different people on a daily basis to engage in the world, and try to improve it in some way,” said Odderstol.

A graduate of Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, Gibson is the son of Eric and Sarah Odderstol.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential—with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.  More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and early-career professionals in over 100 fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research annually in over 140 countries around the world.

Coe has established itself as a leading national producer of Fulbright scholars, with 20 in the past five years, and 28 awardees in the past decade.  This builds upon the tradition of Coe students, alumni and faculty who have received Fulbrights since the program was established.

Coe College offers superb academics and exciting co-curricular activities in a thriving urban setting that promotes student growth and success.  Established in 1851, Coe has a national reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment.  Coe’s vibrant Cedar Rapids location provides an abundance of internships for students and career opportunities for graduates.