Fulbright award supports graduate study in Germany for senior

Holli M. Cavender, a senior at Bates College from Austin, Texas, has received a Fulbright Student award for study in Germany.

A German major, Cavender received the award for her proposal to research representations of the tension between the individual artist and society in 20th-century German literature. The award covers her travel costs and provides a monthly stipend from September 2002 to the following June. During that time Cavender will help teach English in a public school and pursue her research.

“I was ecstatic” upon hearing of the award, says Cavender. She got the good news on the eve of spring break, and “it was a great way to end the semester.”

The U.S. government created the Fulbright Program right after World War II to foster international understanding through educational and cultural exchange. One of a variety of Fulbright programs, the U.S. Student Program awards some 900 grants each year and operates in more than 140 countries.

Such an award is “an entrance into the academic world,” says Gerda Neu-Sokol, a lecturer in German at Bates and Cavender’s adviser. “It’s a prestigious stipend that gets you on your way to a graduate career. It helps you tremendously.”

Cavender is one of 80 national recipients of a “Pädagogischer Austauschdienst” grant, which supports teaching assistantships in Germany. She will combine part-time work helping an English teacher in a public school with her own study and research.

“I want to use the opportunity to narrow my focus in terms of what I want to study in grad school,” says Cavender, who is considering a teaching career.

Cavender began her German studies at James Bowie High School. She has twice taken part in study programs in Munich, during high school and for her junior year at Bates. Although the Fulbright Commission in Germany hasn’t yet notified her of her destination, she has a particular interest in working in Germany’s capital, Berlin.

“There are so many possibilities there,” she says. “There’s so much going on.”

Cavender’s honors thesis at Bates, which she wrote in German, analyzes how the female narrator’s voice evolved in the fiction of Christa Wolf, one of the few authors from the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to win international regard.

Cavender, says her adviser, “is a very good writer and a terrific reader” in German. “It is a wonderful achievement, in the course of four years, to learn another language and tradition so well that you can write an honors thesis in it,” Neu-Sokol says.

Although the thesis project was immensely important to her written command of the language, says Cavender, the immersion in everyday German culture that the Fulbright award makes possible will be key to making her an even more effective speaker of the language.

Cavender praises the German program at Bates for its academic rigor and for its size. “You have this intimate class atmosphere,” she says. “You really get to know your classmates and professors.”

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