Two Valparaiso University recipients of a prestigious Fulbright award will continue their international studies while making a contribution to the cultures of Spain and Austria.

The award will allow 2011 Valpo graduate Alison Eyer, a Spanish and secondary education major from Anchor, Ill., to immerse herself in a foreign culture and language as well as prepare for a future teaching career while serving as an English teaching assistant in a bilingual school in Madrid.

“I love Spain because it has a good location within Europe, so not only can I learn and live in Spain, but I can also see the influence of other Europe countries,” said Eyer. “I hope that this Fulbright experience will help me start an international teaching career with adults in the business setting or students in bilingual high schools.”

Eyer said her Valpo education allowed her to build a foundation in Spanish culture and literature, both on campus and during a study abroad program.

“I truly fell in love with Spain and Spanish culture when I studied abroad in Granada in the fall of 2009,” said Eyer. “This experience really gave me the linguistic skills necessary to be successful and I learned so much about the language and culture in the few months that I was there. It also sparked my desire to return and teach English.”

Jan Westrick, professor of education, said Eyer is a strong example of the kind of teacher that Valpo prepares.

“As a student, Alison demonstrates a keen intellect, strong knowledge of Spanish language and cultures, and deep understanding of language acquisition and pedagogy,” said Westrick. “As a future educator, she will be a leader among her peers and communities, as they, in the words of the Fulbright program ‘exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.'”

Mel Piehl, dean of Christ College – Valpo’s honors college – served as the University’s interim Fulbright Advisor for 2011.

“Alison Eyer loves both the Spanish language and culture as well as education with a passion and maturity beyond her years,” Piehl said. “She will be a wonderful ambassador of the United States during her time in Spain.”

Valpo’s other Fulbright recipient, Christopher Stohs, who graduated in 2010 with degrees in history and German, will teach English to students in the town of Wolfsberg, Austria.

“I will be teaching them English, but I will be doing so while teaching them about American history, life, and culture – and I want to give them a true portrayal of what this nation is,” said Stohs, who also wants to immerse himself in the language. “I can speak and understand German fairly well now, but I’d like to reach a higher level of fluency by the end of my time there. When I’m not in the classroom, I want to be speaking mostly German.”

“Chris Stohs’ wide strengths in history and theology as well as his excellent German language skills have prepared him well to take full advantage of his Fulbright opportunity in Austria,” said Piehl.

Stohs said that he also hopes to explore the Austrian church during his time in the country.

“I’d like to find a good church home in Wolfsberg, one that I can attend regularly,” said Stohs. “Hopefully I’ll get to know some of the parishioners well and be able to share in their common life.”

Under the Fulbright program, Eyer and Stohs will begin their work in September and continue through June 2012.

Approximately 1,200 American students are offered grants annually to study, teach English, and conduct research in more than 110 countries throughout the world each summer through the Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

“The fact that Valpo had two Fulbright recipients in 2011 continues the University’s stellar record in garnering these prestigious awards,” said Piehl. “It testifies to the quality of internationally oriented programs here as well as to the fine students who take advantage of them.”