Elizabeth "Bizz" Browning, a recent graduate of Montana State University with degrees in both English and German Studies, has received a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to teach English next school year at the Albert-Einstein-Schule in the town of Gross-Bieberau in Hessen, Germany.
Browning said she was excited to learn about the Fulbright and the opportunity to spend a year in Germany, even though it means that she will be some distance from her husband, fellow MSU graduate Joe Thiel, who will be studying in Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.
"At the time we applied, we didn't know if either of us would get the scholarships we were applying for, much less both of us," said Browning, who met Thiel while both were in high school in Idaho Falls, Idaho. "We thought if one of us got the scholarship we were applying for, that's where we would go. And, if by some small chance both of us got it ... Well, England and Germany really aren't that far."
Because Thiel's Rhodes scholarship is for two years and Browning's Fulbright is for just one, she said she is already applying for scholarships in England that will allow her to join him for the second year.
Distance is a concept that may have a slightly different meaning for Browning. Born in Pusan, South Korea, she was adopted when she was six months old by a large, loving and accomplished family and raised in Idaho. She said she was in ninth grade when she developed an unexpected love for German.
"I think I first started studying German because few people took it and my friend and I thought we could talk together and no one would understand us," Browning said. "But, I quickly developed a love for the German language and culture."
She credits her high school German teachers, Herr Koepplin and Mrs. Lloyd, with fanning her interest in all things Teutonic. She said learning about German history, particularly from MSU German Studies professors Patty Simpson and Marc Mueller, inspired her to double major in German as well as English.
"The more I learned about (German history) the more I was inspired," she said. "It's such an interesting country."
Browning also has a passion for English. In fact, she credits MSU English professor Michael Sexson with inspiring her and setting the tone for her scholastically and her adviser Doug Downs, also an MSU English professor, with helping set her course for a double major.
Despite the double majors and a semester abroad studying at the Universitat Marburg in Germany as part of an International Undergraduate Scholars Program, Browning graduated from MSU in five years with highest honors and a nearly perfect grade point average. Last year she received the College of Letters and Science's Dean's Award for Academic Excellence, an award presented to the top two seniors in the college. She has also was involved in several service projects on campus and in the community, such as working as a SmartyCat tutor at MSU and as a volunteer in-school tutor while she was an exchange student in Germany.
"(Bizz) is so deserving, such a committed educator already," said Simpson of her student. "She brings international experience, energy, and openness to the table. Her students in Germany will benefit, she will gain further experience. It's a win-win for international education."
Browning said she and Thiel are glad they decided to come to MSU together and join the University Honors Program. "It has been an amazing experience." Thiel has served as the MUS Student Regent. Browning said observing Thiel and talking to him about his experiences as a student Regent on the Montana Board of Regents have inspired her interest in studying for an advanced degree in education theory.
"Joe says that MSU rivals the top-named schools in providing a great educational experience, and I would have to agree," Browning said. "We both would love to return to Montana one day. We love it here."
Sally O'Neill (406) 994-7688 firstname.lastname@example.org