A Larger Sense of Home
Fulbright Scholars to spend the next year getting back to their roots
by Barbara Davenport

Mary Kathleen McCann is a history major. Alexander Neuwelt studied chemistry. While the two Fulbright scholars from the 2007 graduating class have pursued different fields of study and have different professional goals, in their decision to seek the prestigious scholarship, they do, in fact, share a common goal. Each was looking for home.The Fulbright Scholar Program is the U.S. government’s flagship academic exchange effort. Candidates must apply to a specific country, and for McCann the choice was obvious. She applied for a position in Slovakia because her great grandparents had emigrated from there almost 100 years ago. “I thought it’d be cool to learn about the culture, and know more than the couple of dishes my grandmother makes.”

McCann will spend the year as a teaching assistant for English at the University of Zilina in Slovakia. A self-described “history nerd,” McCann knew she wanted to study European history up close; she also sees the year as a time to figure out the work she’s called to do. As part of that effort, she’ll contact Catholic Charities in Slovakia and look for a way to do some service while there.

Alexander Neuwelt, who was also class valedictorian, will be a research assistant in a lab and hospital in Gdansk, Poland. The head of the lab there has collaborated with Neuwelt’s mentor, chemistry Professor Peter Iovine, on a drug study at USD for which Neuwelt did research.

He chose Poland because of its stature as the historic center of Europe’s rich Jewish culture. Neuwelt is Jewish, and he saw the Fulbright as an the opportunity to learn about and experience his heritage at the origin.

For the next year, as Neuwelt and McCann study and teach, they’ll not only be learning about their own roots, but will no doubt wind up enlarging their sense of home.