Imagine experiencing four life-changing events in a period of just 12 months. That is the life Eagan native and Gustavus alumna Kelsey Kennedy ’13 is living. In those 12 months, Kennedy has played in the Division III women’s hockey national semifinals, received a job offer at a rapidly growing consulting firm in Minneapolis, earned her bachelor’s degree in international management, and most recently, received a Fulbright grant to teach English in Brazil.
“The English Teaching Assistantship in Brazil will allow me to combine my love for language with the mentorship model that has provided me with so much joy and personal, academic, and professional growth,” Kennedy said. “I am eager to discover new ways that I can cultivate my innate commitment to continuously recognize potential in others and in myself. I yearn to be more than just a visitor to another country, but to be completely embedded in its culture. I am ready to be a citizen of the world rather than just a traveler of its surface.”
Despite majoring in international management and minoring in Spanish, Kennedy chose not to study abroad during her four years at Gustavus due to her commitment to the women’s hockey team. The Fulbright grant will now allow her to fill that void.
“A main reason I chose to attend Gustavus was that it has one of the top women’s hockey programs in the country. Seeing as there aren’t many opportunities for females to play competitive sports post-graduation, I decided that I would enjoy the sport I grew up with for those last four years and I would not study abroad,” Kennedy said. “I always told myself that I would just have to find a different way to practice Spanish, learn other languages, and live abroad.”
Besides her participation in hockey, Kennedy was also involved in spearheading the Gustavus Women in Leadership program. She took advantage of the College’s liberal arts curriculum by taking a number of classes in the departments of economics and management, religion, and Spanish. In the process, she developed relationships with faculty mentors in those departments who ultimately helped her secure her Fulbright grant.
“My advisor, Kristian Braekkan, and I met numerous times during the four month application process. Together we brainstormed potential topics, talked strategy for applying, and made innumerable edits. He provided one of my letters of recommendation along with Kathi Tunheim,” Kennedy said. “Kathi helped me to understand the importance of having the women leaders I have had in my life, and the importance of trying to be that person for others. Ana Adams was my Spanish advisor and was the one who completed my language evaluation.”
In addition to working on her Fulbright application, since graduation Kennedy has been employed by Boom Lab, a consulting firm that was founded on the idea that talented recent graduates have a lot more to offer than most companies realize. The company hires promising young graduates and provides up to 200 hours of training in the first year to help their consultants quickly build the skills and experience needed to excel in today’s challenging corporate environment.
Kennedy has spent most of the last 10 months working at Thomson Reuters on various projects related to the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool that is dedicated to servicing their Intellectual Property and Science business.
When Kennedy’s Fulbright grant period begins in March of 2015 she will move from one challenging project to another. The Fulbright Commission intentionally implemented a comprehensive plan to increase the quality and quantity of English teaching in Brazil in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in the country. Kennedy will be assigned to one of 59 federal universities throughout the country where will she will develop and lead language learning activities and classes while promoting U.S. culture through cultural and social programs. She will also pursue a supplementary project with a goal of ensuring that young Brazilian women have opportunities for female camaraderie and self-empowerment through participation in athletics—just as she did at Gustavus.
“This experience will allow me to spark the internal fires within the students, athletes, and young women of Brazil in addition to continuing to fuel my own,” Kennedy said. “Through my coaching experience I have learned that any relationship, the student-teacher relationship included, must be a mutual transaction of giving and receiving. I know that I will participate on both sides of this equation throughout my time in Brazil, and I am dedicated to creating opportunities for my students to do the same.”
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.