Luise Wollesen and Dr. Kevin Hillmer-Pegram

Fulbright Scholar Luise Wollesen spent fall semester studying sustainability leadership at CMC Spring Valley taking the majority of her courses from Dr. Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, associate professor of sustainability studies. Photo Stephanie Stocking

By Carrie Click

For Fulbright Scholar Luise Wollesen, traveling to the United States from her native Germany to study at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley was “the best decision of my life.”

The 22-year-old from Hamburg, Germany, is a recent graduate of the Business School Potsdam Campus Hamburg. With a bachelor’s degree in business psychology, she plans to attend graduate school in Germany in the future. Between degrees, however, Wollesen was looking for a new academic perspective. She found it at Colorado Mountain College.

Wollesen is interested in pursuing her master’s degree in international business and sustainability. CMC’s sustainability leadership certificate provided the bridge she was seeking.

“I want to learn how to make people care and be aware,” she said. “My classes at CMC connected fostering sustainable behavior.”

Coming to America

Wollesen came to the mountain town of Glenwood Springs and CMC Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs through the German-American Fulbright Program. Acceptance to the program involves a highly competitive application process. Once selected, a limited number of German bachelor’s degree graduates receive scholarships to study in the U.S. As one of numerous divisions of the Fulbright Scholar Program, the program also provides scholarships to American students to teach or research in Germany.

For Wollesen, the Glenwood Springs area is familiar territory. As an exchange student during her junior year in 2013-14, she attended Glenwood Springs High School.

Wollesen’s Fulbright Scholar application included listing the top five American colleges she’d consider attending. Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley was high on her list – and not only because she has an affinity for the region. The faculty and curriculum of CMC’s sustainability studies program piqued her interest as well. Plus, Wollesen learned that unlike course credits earned at other colleges, her CMC credits would transfer to a master’s program in Germany.

Elevated experiences

Living in Glenwood Springs with her host family, Paul and Cali Gonzales and their two sons, Wollesen took five classes during the fall semester, ranging from Sustainable Business to Ecology & Sustainability. Dr. Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, associate professor of sustainability studies, taught three of those classes.

“The sustainability studies program is always seeking ways to enhance the learning environment of our students,” he said. “Adding a Fulbright Scholar to the classroom mix definitely achieved this goal. Despite being exceptionally humble and friendly, Luise contributed a level of scholarly rigor and professional excellence that elevated everyone’s experience.”

In addition to studying at the Spring Valley campus, Wollesen said her involvement in the campus’s sustainability club demonstrated to her that each person can make a positive difference, through such seemingly small actions as reusing wrapping paper and using compost instead of fertilizer.

Wollesen also ventured out of the Roaring Fork Valley. She attended a three-day German American conference at Harvard, sharing and comparing her learning experiences at CMC with other scholars. Furthermore, she said flying over Colorado in a small Cessna with EcoFlight was a highlight. EcoFlight, a nonprofit environmental aviation organization, takes students on multi-day flights to see and study areas of the American west.

She said her semester at CMC “was an amazing experience. I want to thank the Gonzales family; faculty members Kevin Hillmer-Pegram, Johann Aberger and Delia Malone; plus Adele Craft of the sustainability club and everyone involved in bringing me here. I’m evolving as a person through this experience. I have such a wider perspective now.”

Not only has Wollesen been impacted by her experience, she has created her own lasting impression. “CMC’s sustainability studies program now wants to produce our own Fulbright Scholar, who can share our culture of transformative change with another part of the world,” said Hillmer-Pegram. “Hosting a Fulbright Scholar showed our students what is possible.”