Partnering with Faculty Mentors, International Scholar Aims for State Department
“I came to Notre Dame wanting to help people,” says International Scholar Deanna Kolberg ’14, a political science and Chinese major who was awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship days before her graduation.
“I thought I wanted to do NGO work, help fix things. But I had a warped idea of service, which has changed with a wide variety of experiences. That is one of Kellogg’s specialties—getting students to think a couple of steps beyond what they know.
“I’m now focused on development and research. I’m interested in how development is best led by people who are doing it for themselves. I want to be a diplomat in the State Department because I want to help facilitate the kinds of connections that need to happen for development to take place.”
With extensive study of Asia under her belt, Kolberg views her Fulbright year in South Korea as a way to increase her effectiveness in the foreign service by boosting her knowledge of a critical actor in the region and as a jumping off point for graduate school.
“The Fulbright is a fantastic opportunity to work on my Korean language skills and [gain a] a basic understanding of Korean society and politics,” she says. “A key component of my application was talking about all I've been able to do through Kellogg.”
Kolberg’s relationship with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies began when as a freshman, following the advice of a resident advisor, she picked a poster that grabbed her attention and “just did it.” In Kolberg’s case, that meant attending a talk about Kellogg internships. She never looked back.
“Kellogg had an internship in Asia that interested me,” she recalls. “I thought they would never select a freshman. But I applied and the summer after my freshman year I worked for an environmental NGO in China. I liked the work, but I began to realize that I like the big picture better.”
“An irrepressible force of curiosity and scholarly inquiry”
Before leaving for China, Kolberg was accepted into the International Scholars Program (ISP), where her personalized immersion in international studies has pivoted upon relationships with faculty mentors.
“The ISP is really cool. It’s probably my favorite thing about Kellogg,” Kolberg says. “Students apply while freshman, and find a faculty member on campus who will mentor them and allow them to assist in their research. The Institute funds this as student employment!
“The best thing about ISP is the way it facilitates long-term relationships between students and professors. I’ve worked for three years with Faculty Fellow Lionel Jensen on political transitions in China and soft-power initiatives. Working with him has helped me with my own research, career trajectory, and graduate school applications.”
Jensen calls Kolberg “a juggernaut—an irrepressible force—of curiosity and scholarly inquiry, whose endeavor has widened the sphere of international area studies."
“Her impassioned work in human development and rights, artistic and religious freedom, education and opportunity, and the necessity of social justice is exemplary. Without it my work and the greater global awareness of Notre Dame students would be significantly less rich."
With an emerging interest in international development, Kolberg received an Experiencing the World (ETW) Fellowship to undertake an ambitious project within India’s education system the summer after her sophomore year.
“I went to India wondering, what is the best way to reach your end goal? NGOs? Grassroots organizations? Or top-down, through the government?” Kolberg says. “I wound up in Kolkata, in West Bengal’s state education department. I spent two weeks working at a school, then six weeks in a government office whose goal is getting kids to actually go to class.
“India is so complex you can’t spend eight weeks there and formulate an answer. But I learned so much. I left understanding that the bureaucracy you hear about is real. There is a huge paper trail, but for a reason. By not computerizing everything, more people can be employed.”
Working on policy issues, she gained additional insights. “The government doesn’t need more money for education—it needs a system to help make education work,” she says.
Thesis research in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi
Kolberg’s research for her senior honors thesis, funded through a Kellogg/Kroc Undergraduate Research Grant, took her to Vietnam to explore multinationals as “tools for soft power.” She began designing the project during her junior year, working closely with Faculty Fellow Alexandra Guisinger to formulate a survey to discover if China could buy another country’s good will.
“I’ve realized over the last few years that everyone likes to dislike China. I specifically wanted to see if foreign direct investment by China would cause Vietnamese citizens to consider China more favorably,” Kolberg explains.
Guisinger helped her better understand foreign direct investment and the current relationship between China and Vietnam. To design the complicated survey itself, she turned to Faculty Fellow David Nickerson. The resulting survey of 1158 Vietnamese citizens gave her statistically significant findings for her thesis. (Read her field report here.).
“I now have experience designing a high-quality survey from scratch,” Kolberg says, “and managing the project itself was an incredible learning experience. I lived in hostels in Saigon and Hanoi and hired research assistants and survey translators who spoke both Vietnamese and English.”
“Kellogg has been my vehicle”
Kolberg credits Kellogg with her success as an undergraduate. “Kellogg has been my vehicle for doing basically everything I’ve done,” she says. “The ISP facilitates valuable connections between students and faculty.”
Kolberg’s professors could not agree more on the role Kellogg programs have played in her past—and future—academic life.
“Deanna’s research in Vietnam not only integrated her courses in political science, economics, and Asian languages, it also created a platform for future success,” says Guisinger.
“Conducting a survey in a foreign country is not easy, but it has given her on-the-ground experience that will help propel her to graduate school and her ultimate goal—working at the State Department.”