Lexington, Virginia • May 24, 2010
Three Washington and Lee University seniors — Meredith Freeman of St. Louis, Ben Goetsch of Timonium, Md. and Matthew Pagano of Zionsville, Ind. — have been awarded Fulbright grants to teach English and conduct research in during the 2010-2011 academic year. Freeman and Goetsch will be in German; Pagano will be in Austria.
The Fulbright teaching assistantship program places students in a host country to teach English and complete research projects. The host country provides the student with international travel expenses, a living stipend and in some cases, tuition assistance.
A business administration and German double major, Freeman will be located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where she will conduct research on perceptions of aging and wellness in a comparative study of attitudes and health care systems in Germany and America. "I'll be looking at people's attitudes towards wellness are expressed in their different health care systems, how the doctors work and how treatments compare to those in the United States," she said.
The idea for the research came during her time studying abroad in Germany, when she also visited Vienna, Austria. Freeman noticed that Germans took a more preventative approach to wellness and healthcare. "They have a wildly different way of thinking about health and a much more preventative approach to wellness" she said.
"In America if you get a cold, you wait until it's full blown and buy medicine to try and take care of all the symptoms, but you never really treat the overall wellness part," she said. "In Germany and Austria, if you go into a drug store you'll find spiced wines and cough drops. You'll put a scarf around your neck because that's supposed to cure something and you'll go to sleep. You're not allowed to go to work because it's rude to pass your sickness on to others."
She approached Daniel Kramer, assistant professor of German, on how to get started. "He was with me pretty much every step of the way and was very helpful," she said. Amanda Bower, associate professor of business administration gave moral support and also wrote a letter of recommendation.
Kramer called Freeman, who was a four-year letterwinner on W&L's women's lacrosse team, an ideal student for the Fulbright. "It's not only because she is "kontaktfreudig" - able to make an instant connection with people - but also because she knows how to use her vast experience as an athlete in the classroom to generate creative lesson plans and innovative projects," he said.
Goetsch, who majored in economics and German, will be in Willingen, Germany. He first visited Germany two years ago as a study abroad student at the University of Bayreuth. "During my semester in Germany I became aware that, even though it's been 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down, there are still large tensions between East and West Germans," he said.
His research will focus primarily on the differences between the former East and West Germany with respect to athletes. "I know a lot about German athletes because I was on the basketball team while I was in Germany. Athletics is something that brings people together from various regions of the country," said Goetsch, who was a four-year letter winner in basketball and was captain of the team in his senior year. He was also named the ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Goetsch plans to delve deeper into how the various stereotypes of both East and West Germans have prevailed or diminished over time as the country has become more unified. One stereotype he cites is that East Germans have a narrower view of the world because they were trapped in the communist system where they didn't have freedom of choice or a quality education. "Some West Germans see them as lazy and less innovative," said Goetsch.
He added that he was looking forward to representing his country as an informal ambassador and giving German children a positive impression of an American citizen. "That's something I take a lot of pride in," he said.
Goetsch expressed gratitude to Daniel Kramer, assistant professor of German at Washington and Lee, for his assistance in helping form his topic. He also thanked George Bent, professor of art and W&L's Fulbright liaison, for reviewing his drafts and helping him prepare his statements.
Kramer said that Goetsch found a way to combine two of his great passions-German and basketball-during his first trip abroad to Bayreuth by heading to the gym to play in pickup games. "By the end of his stay, he had not only improved his language skills but, more important, had gained a greater understanding of German culture and made many life-long friends. He'll return to Germany as a wonderful ambassador for his generation," he said.
Pagano double majored in German language and European history. He learned about his teaching assistantship the day he graduated from W&L. "I would say never give up because you never know when something's going to happen at the last minute," he said. He will be located in the town of Bruck an der Mur, a city of 13,500 people in the southern Austrian state of Styria.
"This is something I've wanted to do ever since I declared my major in German language," said Pagano. "Bruck an der Mur is a smaller city where they are very proud of their culture and the people live it every day. So I think it's one of the best places to have the full Austrian experience."
Pagano's dream job is to become an ambassador to Austria one day. "I think that would be wonderful," he said. "After my time in Austria I plan to return to the United States and attend law school to study international law. Then I'll keep applying to the Foreign Service."
Pagano said he had "an entire team working on this for me, and they were a great deal of help." He was especially grateful to Debra Prager, assistant professor of German and Pagano's advisor. "She is the reason I became a German major in the first place. Before studying with her, I didn't speak a word of German and had no intention of being a major. I owe her everything," he said.
"Matt Pagano may be the first W&L Fulbright to Germany or Austria to begin his career here with no prior German skills," said Prager. "Over the course of four years as his advisor and in the six classes that he took with me, I've seen Matt progress from zero to near fluency. At our very first meeting his freshman year, he told me that he had visited Vienna with his high school orchestra and he wanted to go back. Four years later, I'm thrilled to see Matt realize that dream."
Pagano also thanked Roger Crockett, professor of German, and George Bent, W&L's Fulbright advisor. Daniel Kramer, assistant professor of German, also helped Pagano. "Professor Kramer has a lot of recent Fulbright experience and was able to help me negotiate my way through the system," said Pagano.