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UNW Pre-Med Alumna Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Teach Health and Psychology in Spain

By Linda LaFrombois on Wednesday, June 23, 2021


It was the Eagles softball program and head coach Alicia du’Monceaux that drew Moriah Maunu ’20 to pursue her studies at University of Northwestern – St. Paul. That, along with the small, Christ-centered environment and the encouragement the Admissions team gave her to enroll at UNW even though she didn’t know what route to take to get to the career she had in mind.

Now a graduate, Maunu is set to teach in Spain this coming academic year on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. She credits the staff, professors, and programs at Northwestern for pushing her farther than she imagined to move closer to her calling.

“I began UNW as a Psychology major with the intent to become a Physician Assistant,” says Maunu. “But the summer after my freshman year, I went on an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) trip to Northern Ireland that changed that.”

While on the trip, Maunu talked of her love of psychology, biology, and Spanish with Dr. Kathleen Black, former director of the Eagle Scholars Honors Program. Black suggested Maunu combine all three areas of study into a double major in Interdisciplinary Studies and Spanish. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” says Maunu.

“I loved my study abroad experience. It’s a testament to God guiding me to where I am today.”
—Moriah Maunu, Interdisciplinary Studies and Spanish major, Fulbright ETA Scholar – Class of 2020

The IDS major provided the prerequisites Maunu needed to apply for PA school, and the Spanish program required that she study abroad in Spain. “I fell in love with Spain, and I loved my study abroad experience. The study program staff and the staff in Spain were amazing. And I had an incredible host family. It’s a testament to God guiding me to where I am today.”

Back on campus, Maunu heard about the Fulbright scholarship in a chapel service and thought, “That sounds cool.” She had already been introduced to the idea while in Spain, where she met a woman that had taught English in India on a Fulbright scholarship.

“So, I talked to Kendra Sundeen, the Fulbright program advisor, and she said, ‘Go for it!’”

“It was such an incredible experience to apply to go to Spain,” says Maunu. “It was long and complicated, but Kendra is amazing. She kept me on track with everything, making sure I got all the required steps done. And my professors made me feel like I could do it.”

Students can apply for Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award, the scholarship Maunu received, on their own or through a university. Maunu chose to apply through University of Northwestern.

“I first submitted my application to a UNW review committee. Kendra, Coach du’Monceaux, Dr. Joanna Klein, and other faculty reviewed my essays in depth and provided feedback,” explains Maunu. “We were able to do the review in-person in October 2020, which allowed us to talk more freely. It was so helpful for professors to say, “I hear this from you, but not in your essay.”

Following the review and editing process, the university committee completes and submits a form in support of the student’s application.

“As an applicant, you don’t actually talk to Fulbright,” continues Maunu. “You help them see who you are in the initial application round through two long essays, transcripts, logistics, and noted experiences.”

“One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Fulbright Program Advisor is encouraging students through each step of the application process. We are proud of all our Fulbright applicants.”
—Kendra Sundeen, Director of Global Programs and Fulbright Program Advisor

The Fulbright team selects a group of semifinalists after reviewing all applications received. Semifinalist applications are then forwarded to overseas placement committees. As a selected semifinalist, Maunu’s application was forwarded to a committee in Spain.

“When you apply for a Fulbright ETA, you can request a region and an age range from pre-K through college. I requested university-level students in Madrid.”

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected in an open, merit-based competition that considers leadership potential, academic and/or professional achievement, and record of service. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 88 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 37 past heads of state or government.

Following review by the Spain selection committee, Maunu was selected to receive a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to Spain for the 2021–2022 academic year. With the Fulbright teaching assistantship, she will support the teaching of English at Universidad Camilo Jose Cela in Madrid.

During her time in Madrid, which runs from September 2021 through June 2022, Maunu will teach English, share knowledge, and foster meaningful connections across communities in the United States and Spain. More specifically, Maunu will assist professors with English-speaking psychology and health science classes for 16–18 hours each week and will work on a self-selected project for the remaining 16–20 hours of the week.

“We are excited to celebrate with Moriah her receiving a Fulbright ETA award to Spain. As an institution committed to academic excellence and global leadership, we are proud of Moriah’s hard work and commitment to professional growth and service.”
—Dr. Janet Sommers, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

“On the Fulbright application, you propose an outside project you’re interested in,” Maunu explains. “My plan is to go to medical school after my time in Spain, and I have an interest in global health. I want to learn how systems of health outside of the U.S. work—how we can learn from them, and I want to increase awareness of public health. That will be part of my project while overseas.”

Maunu has also been interested in the “Stop the Bleed” campaign that trains everyday people to handle emergencies, stop life-threatening bleeding, and administer first aid and basic life support. This summer she will get trained and certified to teach that class in Spain, as well.

“My dream job is to be a culturally competent physician,” says Maunu. “I’d like to open my own free clinic or federally-funded clinic to reach the people who get left behind by the system. I can use my time abroad to learn about what healthcare looks like in Spain—both the pros and cons.”

When asked what she’d say to students considering applying for a Fulbright scholarship, Maunu responds, “Go for it! The worse thing that can happen is you won’t get accepted. At this stage of life, it’s really important to go for it. You have that desire for a reason.”

“Reach out to Kendra!” Maunu adds. “She will put a lot of things into perspective and help you decide if it’s the right path for you.”

Reflecting further on the faculty and staff who encouraged her in her Fulbright and UNW journeys, Maunu says, “My big takeaway from attending Northwestern is that I am so grateful for the people I have in my life and for the connections I made with my professors.”

“Northwestern is really unique in its community. They always say, ‘It’s who you know.’ At UNW, who you know will be encouraging to you or will point out a skill or talent you don’t see in yourself. That was the story of my entire four years at Northwestern: incredible support.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings, and help people and nations work together toward common goals. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.