Obiesie awarded prestigious Fulbright grant

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
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2018-04-27 07:59:07 - General

Christine Obiesie
Christine Obiesie

Coe College graduating senior Christine Obiesie has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant. The Fulbright award will allow Obiesie to teach in Poland during the 2018-19 academic year.

In all, four graduating Coe seniors received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards this spring. Coe has been named a top producer of Fulbright U.S. students three of the last six years.

Obiesie will graduate on May 6 with majors in biology, molecular biology and neuroscience. A native of Nigeria who came to the U.S. at age 12, Obiesie has been actively involved in Coe International Club, serving as president. She has also participated in Model UN, Multicultural Fusion, Student Senate, BSEO, Biology Club and other organizations. In addition, she has volunteered as a tutor at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids.

When considering the possibility of applying for the Fulbright award, Obiesie was influenced by several of her Coe friends who were awarded Fulbrights last year and have been serving abroad during the current academic year. For example, Thomas Petrino '17 has been teaching in Bulgaria through the Fulbright program this year, and Obiesie has been following his experiences on social media.

Obiesie was on campus during the summer of 2017 and had the opportunity to discuss Fulbright opportunities with English Professor and National Fellowship Advisor Amber Shaw. The two agreed that applying for a Fulbright to serve in Poland would be the best course for Obiesie to follow, in large measure due to her scientific background.

"I looked for which country would fit me best," said Obiesie. "One reason I chose Poland was because it was one of the few choices that didn't require applicants to be native speakers, plus they preferred English teachers with more scientific backgrounds compared to the other countries. Poland also has a rich history that I really want to explore, especially in regard to creation of the Esperanto language."

Obiesie will be teaching English to university students, and she believes the experience will be important to guide her future career path. She is also looking forward to exploring and learning more about Europe.

"I'm putting myself out of my comfort zone. With my experience with International Club, we do not have a lot of European students who enroll at Coe," said Obiesie. "I will learn a lot, and it will help me decide whether or not I want to pursue a career in academia and become a college professor."

Obiesie is grateful for the letters of recommendation and other support she received from Biology Professor Paula Sanchini, Education Professor Christy Wolfe, and Director of International Affairs Peter Gerlach.

"I have strong ties with Paula, Christy and Peter, and they helped me figure out how I wanted to approach my application," said Obiesie.

In addition, Obiesie credits Shaw for her "amazing, amazing help. She kept pushing me." She also received assistance from Head of Audiovisual and Instructor Laura Riskedahl, who reviewed her essay multiple times, and student consultants in the Coe Writing Center. Political Science Professor Kim Lanegran and Foreign Language Professors John Chaimov and Mònica Fuertes-Arboix also played important roles in critiquing her essay and conducting mock interviews for her. Finally, Obiesie is thankful for her roommates and friends on campus, who all supported her pursuit of the Fulbright.

"Coe faculty pushed me to do my best work, but they do it in a nice way," said Obiesie. "The faculty make students understand that it is a competition and they need to put their best work out there for people to see."

In the future, Obiesie envisions earning a Ph.D., likely in neuroscience, and then teaching at a college or university.

"The Fulbright experience will help me understand if I feel comfortable teaching college students," said Obiesie. "If I feel like I can do it, I will be more prepared to pursue a career path in academia in the future."

Reflecting back on her four years at Coe, Obiesie feels her education and experiences have laid a solid foundation for her future.

"I've learned a lot more about the world, and Coe really does make things possible," said Obiesie. "The college has many different clubs, activities and off-campus organizations that Coe has a strong connection with and get to work with, like the Catherine McAuley Center.

"There are a lots of avenues at Coe, and I'm interested in a lot of things, such as both international work and science. The activities that I've had the amazing opportunity to participate in have prepared me for the Fulbright experience. I feel like everything I have done comes to this moment."

Working on the Fulbright application caused Obiesie to reflect upon all of the opportunities she has had during her time at Coe, such as tutoring and teaching high school students during the summer on campus through the Coe TAG program. These experiences will be highly beneficial to Obiesie when she begins teaching in Poland.

"Being adaptable is a skill that Coe has taught me," said Obiesie. "I know how to use what I've learned so far in the classroom and apply it outside of the classroom."

A graduate of Lee's Summit North High School, Christine is the daughter of Chris and Chio Obiesie of Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists and professionals were offered Fulbright Program grants to teach English, conduct research and provide expertise in over 160 countries for the 2018-19 academic year.

Coe has established itself as a leading national producer of Fulbright scholars, with 23 in the past five years, and 32 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.