Three graduating seniors and one recent alumnus have been awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants to conduct research and teach English abroad for an academic year.
Fulbright fellows receive round-trip travel to their host countries, a living stipend, project allowances and medical insurance. Connecticut College has had 32 winners in the last six years and is regularly recognized as a top producer of Fulbright recipients.
“Connecticut College is very proud of this year’s four Fulbright winners,” said Dean of the College Erika J. Smith. “Our success with the Fulbright program is a testament to how well prepared our students are for engagement with the world. This richly deserved recognition of this outstanding group of award recipients underscores the foundation that our curricular experience lays for excellence in global engagement.”
The 2023 Fulbright fellows are:
Catja Christensen ’23, Fulbright Study/Research Award to the United Kingdom
Christensen is a dance and English double major and scholar in the Media, Rhetoric and Communication Pathway from Dunn Loring, Virginia. She will spend the year in a dance performance and practice master’s program at the University of Roehampton in London, one of the leading institutions for graduate studies in dance.
“After studying abroad at King’s College London in the fall of 2021, I fell in love with the city and had a gut feeling that I needed to return one day. I knew I had so much more to explore in the rich arts and multicultural environment,” Christensen said. “I plan to focus on the ethical preservation of dance, how postcolonialism and multiculturalism impact arts performance on modern stages, and how dance preserves cultural identity. I am so excited to further my dance education and apply what I have learned at Conn to another community,” Christensen said.
At Conn, Christensen is co-editor-in-chief of The College Voice. She is also a four-year member of the Dance Club, serving as co-president during her sophomore year, and she danced with the Music Department’s New Music and Improvisation Ensemble. She completed three internships during her four-year collegiate career, serving as a media intern with Final Bow for Yellowface, an arts activism organization working to eliminate the use of yellowface and offensive caricature from the stage; a journalism intern with The Oslo Desk, a publication that serves marginalized and underrepresented people in Norwegian media; and an editorial intern for Pointe Magazine, a leading international dance publication.
Christensen is currently completing a dance honors thesis in costume design and construction exploring embodied transgenerational trauma. As part of the project, she is reconstructing her grandmother’s traditional Filipino terno dress to explore what it means to wear the weight of family history and deconstruct the traumas passed down from mother to daughter.
“I have always been fascinated by genealogy, psychology and movement, so I am combining all of my interests into my research,” she said.
Following her Fulbright, Christensen is considering writing a dance history and performance book, and hopes to continue collaborating with arts activism organizations. She is also considering a career in dance.
“I didn’t think I would again consider a performance career after I left the Washington School of Ballet’s pre-professional program in 2019, but dance has offered me so many opportunities since then that I am rekindling that childhood dream,” she said.
Jack Rider-McGovern ’21, English Teaching Assistantship to Paraguay
Rider-McGovern, who majored in Slavic studies and earned a certificate from the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts while at Conn, will teach English in Asunción, Paraguay. There, he plans to start a pen pal program with his former students at Lowell High School in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he taught students learning English as a second language.
In 2021, Rider-McGovern was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study marginalized languages in several locations around the world.
“I stayed with an indigenous family in rural Paraguay and learned Guaraní while learning about indigenous language rights in the country. Then, I traveled to southern Morocco to learn Tachelhit, and I met with the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture to learn about the standardization of the language and its presence in the Moroccan education system. In Bulgaria, I learned about the Turkish communities in the country and how they manage to maintain their language despite generations of separation from Turkey by a border. After that, I traveled to Ireland to learn about the strategies that are being used to revitalize the Irish language. And soon I’ll be traveling to Kazakhstan to learn about how the use of Russian in urban areas might affect the future of the Kazakh language,” he said.
Rider-McGovern said he decided to apply for a Fulbright to Paraguay after falling in love with the country during his Watson experience.
“I’m passionate about education and language learning and I wanted an opportunity to hone my skills as an educator by practicing teaching English as a foreign language,” he said.
Following the Fulbright fellowship, Rider-McGovern says he hopes to earn a master’s degree and continue working in the field of second language education.
Beatrice Voorhees ’23, English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic
Voorhees is a history and Slavic studies double major, computer science minor and scholar in the College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts from Kent, Connecticut. She will be teaching English at the Gymnazium and Stredni Odborna Skola in Ledec nad Sazavou, a small town on the Sazava river in the center of the Czech Republic. There, she plans to assist with the after-school English conversation club and may start an English-language book club.
Voorhees has been interested in the Fulbright since her sophomore year and, before the war in Ukraine, had originally planned to apply for a fellowship to Russia.
“Because of my interest in Slavic and Eastern European studies, I knew I wanted to go somewhere in that region. I was drawn to Czechia because of its natural beauty and architectural sites of interest,” Voorhees said. “For more practical reasons, the Czech language, being in the Slavic family, has some similarities to Russian in its grammar and word origins. I’m also interested in learning more languages and I’m excited to get the immersive experience of being in a small Czech town.”
At Conn, Voorhees plays the first violin in the college orchestra, serves as the social media manager and poster designer for the History Student Advisory Board, and is the publicity director for CC Gaming Club.
After her Fulbright year, Voorhees is considering teaching history at the high school. She also plans to pursue a master’s degree in history or Slavic/Eastern European studies.
Lauren Williamson ’23, English Teaching Assistantship to North Macedonia
Williamson is an international relations and philosophy double major and Jewish studies minor from Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to teaching English, she plans to start a Women in Philosophy group to read and discuss texts by influential female philosophers, host American movie nights for her students and work on her own manuscript for a philosophy book of short essays on what various Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant thinkers wrote about the doctrine of justification.
“The idea of spending a year in a country I’d never been to before, teaching English and working on a supplemental project sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Williamson, who decided to apply for the Fulbright during her junior year. “I knew even getting the application together would be a worthwhile experience. I had a chance to reflect on my time at Conn—my classes, extracurriculars and volunteering—and I realized that each class and activity prepared me in a unique way for my goals during Fulbright and beyond.”
At Conn, Williamson is a member of the Honor Council, co-president of Conn Christian Fellowship, secretary of the Philosophy Department Student Advisory Board, captain of the Competitive Figure Skating Team, a teaching assistant for the Government and International Relations Department, and a baker at Coffee Grounds. She also served as a ministry team member for Officers’ Christian Fellowship at the United States Coast Guard Academy.
During her junior year, Williamson interned with Days for Girls, an international NGO that promotes female entrepreneurship within the domain of feminine hygiene access. There, she worked as a graphic designer, took inventory records from the 145-plus countries that participate in Days for Girls programming, and met over Zoom with women from Uganda, Kenya and Malawi to discuss ways to better serve their communities.
“I learned cross-cultural communication skills and gained such an appreciation for the values other cultures hold and the practices that contribute to them. This internship sparked my interest in further abroad experiences, and contributed to my decision to apply for a Fulbright,” she said.
Williamson also conducted research with Professor Eric Fleury on how conservative hegemony informed U.S. Grand Strategy in the post-Cold War era. They analyzed Alexis de Tocqueville’s conception of the “passion for equality” within and among nations and examined how it and international democratization more broadly have affected U.S. foreign policy. They presented their article at the Northeastern Political Science Association Conference in Boston this past fall.
Following her Fulbright fellowship, Williamson plans to attend law school for the purpose of commissioning into the United States Coast Guard to become part of the JAG Corps.
“This is my long-term goal because I’m interested in fast-paced, detail-oriented work, but I can only see myself practicing law in a job that allows me to serve others, be part of a team and be a legal generalist able to work in areas spanning environmental regulations, family law, drug interdiction and international law,” she said.