Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2005

Fulbright Grant Awarded to a Whitworth Student for Fourth Consecutive Year

Whitworth College senior Laura Thaut is already accustomed to working on the global stage. As a 2005 recipient of a Fulbright grant, she will build on work she's done the past two summers for the U.S. State Department. She also becomes the fourth Whitworth student in as many years to receive a Fulbright grant and joins a long list of Fulbright scholars who have gone on to be heads of state, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents and Nobel Prize-winners.

"We are obviously preparing students well for these kinds of opportunities," says Michael Le Roy, Whitworth professor of political and international studies and Thaut's academic advisor. "Our students' work has been outstanding, but we should not underestimate the contribution that Professor John Yoder has made to the preparation of the students' applications and research proposals. Laura provides a good indication of what is needed to be competitive in these kinds of applications: academic excellence, international experience, and a capacity for research."

Thaut, a Billings, Mont., native double-majoring in political science and international studies, is currently participating in Whitworth's Central America study program. She is the fourth consecutive Whitworth student to receive a Fulbright grant for foreign study. Carla DePriest, '04, is currently in El Salvador conducting a comparative analysis of the role women play in the legal and social services provided to children in Latin America and in the United States. Alumnae Kelly Siebe won an award to study in the Netherlands in 2003-04 and Alissa Johnson received a Fulbright grant to study in Burkina Faso in 2002-03.

"Fulbrighters enrich the educational, political, economic, social and cultural lives of countries around the world," wrote Steven J. Uhlfelder, chair of the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board, in announcing Thaut's award. "It is our expectation that you will become involved in the community while on your Fulbright. In so doing you will demonstrate the qualities of service, excellence and leadership that have been the hallmarks of this program for more than fifty years."

Thaut's Fulbright research will focus on the challenge of Lithuanian emigration -- or brain-drain -- that is frustrating economic development in the small north-central European country. She was able to develop her proposal and make contacts with government and university officials last summer while interning in the political and economics division of the U.S. embassy in Lithuania. In addition, she spent the previous summer as a paid intern for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., working in the Office of Nordic and Baltic Affairs under the Bureau of European Affairs.

"Despite the value of working with government officials during the summer of 2004, my greatest privilege was in sharing in the daily lives of Lithuanians," Thaut wrote in an e-mail from Central America after learning of the Fulbright award. "The Fulbright grant will provide me with the opportunity to engage in research about the changing dynamics and challenges Lithuania faces as it completes the transition from a post-Soviet state to new EU member. The grant will also provide me with the opportunity to learn more about the culture and worldview of Lithuanians and benefit from the richness of such relationships. One of the goals of the Fulbright program is to promote the exchange of worldviews and build bridges of understanding between cultures -- a vision that I believe Whitworth shares and that I have learned the value of in my studies."

After graduating from Whitworth and completing her Fulbright study, Thaut would like to attend graduate school and pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Le Roy, who received a Fulbright grant to study in Sweden from 1992-94, believes Thaut has the qualities to become an outstanding Fulbright scholar and diplomat.

"I was able to get to know Laura as a student, teaching assistant, and research assistant over the past several years," he says. "Laura is an outstanding student in every way. She is very capable, extremely hard working, but also humble and very caring toward other students. She is one of those rare students who has consistently used her brain power to serve others."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Michael Le Roy, professor of political and international studies, (509) 777-3755 or mleroy@whitworth.edu.

Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.

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