Alumnus receives top-tier Fulbright grant

Another Cal Lutheran applicant gets teaching award

Erik Fruth received funding for his proposal to spend 10 months in Laos studying stakeholder interaction regarding hydropower development along the Mekong River.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – May 10, 2018) Erik Fruth of Camarillo has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research Award, becoming the first California Lutheran University applicant to receive the program’s most competitive student fellowship.

Five Cal Lutheran alumni have received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards since 2009, but Fruth is the first to get the organization’s top-tier student grant. Fruth, who graduated magna cum laude with degrees in global studies and German in 2014, received funding for his proposal to spend 10 months in Laos studying stakeholder interaction regarding hydropower development along the Mekong River. 

Also in this round of funding, Cal Lutheran graduate Christine Powell of Thousand Oaks was one of about 35 U.S. teachers chosen for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program. Powell, who earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Cal Lutheran in 2017 and now teaches as an adjunct faculty member, will spend five months in an intensive professional development program researching vocational education for students with disabilities in Singapore.

Fruth developed an interest in environmental ethics and inequitable social systems at Cal Lutheran and researched the environmental effects of Laos’ plans to harness hydropower with dam projects in an independent study course. After graduation, in 2016, he spent three months in Laos researching food access for a nonprofit. 

He wanted to return to Laos as a Fulbright recipient so he could examine the hydropower development process firsthand. He will complete his master’s degree in environmental planning at Technische Universitat Berlin this year, and then in December he will head to Laos. Fruth, who speaks Lao and Mandarin, will observe how construction companies, officials, community members and others communicate about the project and determine whether there are ways to improve the process.

“This is an incredible learning opportunity for me as a beginning researcher in the field of environmental planning and governance,” said Fruth, who plans to publish his results in peer-reviewed journals. “I think it could produce information that’s useful for our global neighbors in Laos as well as environmental planners in the U.S.”

Powell, a special education teacher at Thousand Oaks High School, focused her doctoral research at Cal Lutheran on factors that contribute to successful career and technical education for special education students. She is continuing her research on the subject as a Fulbright recipient in Singapore because the country has model educational programs for students with learning differences.

“I will be exploring the curriculum used in schools to provide access to vocational certification pathways that have enabled 25 to 30 percent of special education students in Singapore to graduate and gain employment in competitive-wage jobs,” said Powell, who leaves for Southeast Asia in January.