Like a lot of her peers, Lori Boegershausen wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to pursue when she started college. She knew she wanted to explore and excel academically. FGCU’s smaller class sizes, which enable students to develop meaningful connections with professors and classmates, appealed to her.
The 21-year-old history major’s passions started to gel after taking University Colloquium — the interdisciplinary environmental education course that explores facets of sustainability — and learning about civic engagement. She got involved in the student-run Food Forest and the local and national Real Food Challenge, a movement that encourages university food-service providers to leverage their purchasing power to positively impact sustainable food systems development.
Before FGCU, sustainability wasn’t something she thought much about beyond the importance of recycling.
“My time at FGCU has really shaped my views on why sustainability is important — it’s a way of life and action needs to be taken now to move toward change,” says Boegershausen. “We learned about the importance of community engagement and applying the theories we’ve learned in class in the world. I found a real passion for community development. I want to be a change agent. ”
Toward that end, the spring graduate from Palm Harbor will incorporate community engagement and sustainability in her 2016-17 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany. She and her friend Emilio Feijoo are the first FGCU students to be awarded the prestigious grant, which funds opportunities for international research, study and teaching. They will be honored along with faculty Fulbright recipients during a reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 26 in Cohen Center Room 247.
In addition to teaching English to college-bound high school-level students — and improving the conversational German she learned as one of her minors — Boegershausen will be helping promote sustainable technology, cooperative farming and community gardens abroad before she begins graduate school. She has been accepted with full funding at Ohio University but also is considering applying to Cambridge University and the University of Geneva.
“The Fulbright is tailored to help me gain experience in international development, to be immersed in another country’s culture and be an ambassador,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to work for a non-governmental agency focusing on sustainability and education. The Fulbright will be a transformative experience that not many practitioners have.”
An Honors Program student since her sophomore year, Boegershausen has already been immersed in leadership, research and community development as an undergraduate. She has served as an Honors Program mentor and senator and won a half-dozen Honors awards. She completed internships at a Honduran orphanage, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and at FGCU’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She has presented award-winning historical research at nine local and state conferences, founded FGCU’s History Club and co-founded the German Club, edited FGCU’s student research journal and helped organize an international conference on campus about the Holocaust in Hungary. She has worked on multiple research projects with multiple faculty members.
No wonder she was named Student of the Year in the College of Arts & Sciences and was inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame.
Dr. Nicola Foote, Professor of Latin American History and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences has worked closely with Boegershausen through Honors and an oral history project on women’s reproductive health that Foote oversees. She says Boegershausen brings joy and passion to everything that she does and is truly humble about her ability and successes.
“The Fulbright award committees look for students who excel academically and who are leaders who will showcase the very best of the United States to overseas communities,” Foote says. “Lori is one of the best students I have ever worked with in the history program here at FGCU and her academic abilities would have been incredibly clear to the Fulbright committee. Lori also has a demonstrated record as a leader, and from the very beginning of her time at FGCU she sought to create opportunities for others. She has been an exceptional mentor to other students. I am truly in awe of her dedication and energy.”
For her part, Boegershausen feels indebted to Foote and other faculty — including Melodie Eichbauer, Eric Strahorn, Sean Kelly, Jessica Rhea — as well her Honors peer mentor, James Till. Without them, she says she might not have become the engaged student she is.
“They saw my passion and they fostered it. Each professor I encountered in the history program invested their time in me and saw potential,” Boegershausen says. “I can confidently say that I have moved from a history student to a historian because of their focus on research and their ability to mentor.”
As a first-generation college student and recipient of scholarships from Wells Fargo and Atilus funds, Boegershausen felt a responsibility to seize as many opportunities as she could.
“It was the dream of my parents to obtain a college education. I have a passion to make them proud and to make myself proud,” she says. “I’m making myself a well-rounded person, so I’m ready to engage in my future work. The best way to make change is to become engaged in the community.”