Fulbright scholarship awarded to Lauren Petersen

This article and photo on Lauren Petersen explains something I didn’t know much about – Fulbright Scholarships. That’s such a great thing about being a writer – you get to learn so many things in the name of research! She is planning such a great year for herself in Poland as an English teacher. She has worked hard for her accomplishments and I’m proud to know her.

This article appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner. If you know Lauren, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure she reads them. Thanks!

Besides winning a Fulbright Lauren Petersen held the title of Miss Central IN in 2011

Lauren Petersen, a 2007 Bluffton High School graduate and 2011 Ball State University graduate, was notified in May that she had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship.

According to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars website (http://www.cies.org/about_fulb.htm), the Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people of other countries. Participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. They study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Petersen, who graduated with a degree in Urban Planning and development, was one of three students from the college to be the recipient of the academic scholarship.

Petersen applied for the Fulbright at the beginning of her senior year. “I wondered what my next step should be after graduation,” she said. “I didn’t know if I should go to graduate school or study abroad. I knew being awarded a Fulbright would allow me to celebrate the joy of diversity of culture I’m so passionate about.”

Lauren Petersen and her sister Claire stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

As a first step, Petersen submitted an application stating her qualifications as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA). “The people who approve the Fulbright want to see how well-rounded an applicant is and his or her desire to serve as an English Teaching Assistant on the global level,” she said. “I love to delve into cultures different from my own and stated that I would relish traveling the world for this purpose.”

She specifically applied as an English Teaching Assistant to Poland. “I was fascinated with how the European countries had rebuilt themselves since the Cold War,” she said. “Also, Poland didn’t have a language requirement.”

Petersen’s prior experiences in leadership positions, many of them in Wells County, assisted her in her application. “I had been a tutor at elementary schools, teaching piano, lifeguarding, as a camp counselor, and leading architectural workshops,” she said. “My mom is a teacher and instilled in my sister and me the importance of education.”

Following the written application, Petersen completed a round of campus interviews. After being nominated by the university to the regional level, her application was submitted to the national level where it was approved.

Petersen will leave in September for her nine-month position at Wroclaw University which included travel expenses, room and board.

As part of her application, Petersen had to propose a service project she would attempt at the Polish university. “I would like to initiate community-based planning discussions with university students and help them explore their neighborhoods,” she said. “The city was demolished after WWII. It has 12 canals and 100 bridges, which creates water-logged problems. We could bring like-minded people together that have a desire to improve the city’s infrastructure.”

As an added bonus, Petersen, who carried the title of Miss Central Indiana, competed in June at the Miss Indiana pageant. While she didn’t  win the main title, Petersen did win $1,800 in scholarships. Petersen plans to use the money from the pageant to enroll as a student at the university and take Polish classes.

She has another goal for her year abroad. “I want to visit every country in Europe,” she said. After graduation, Petersen had her first experience out of the United States when she and her sister, Claire, traveled to Italy and Greece. “It’s a blessing to have received the Fulbright,” she added. “I’m passionate about this type of job.”

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Angela Witte, Mrs. Indiana, voted ‘Mrs. Congeniality’

Angela poses with her husband Zach and their two dogs.

Angela decorates Christmas ornaments with a child at Lutheran Children’s Hospital in Ft Wayne IN
Angela Witte- Mrs Indiana 2011

I first met Angela Witte as she was cleaning my teeth two years ago at our dentist’s office. She was professional and friendly and gentle. At that time Angela had won a number of beauty pageants and was still competing at ever higher levels. Since then, Angela has been crowned Mrs. Indiana and is currently serving that position through July 2011 when the new Mrs. Indiana will be crowned.

In April 2011 Angela competed in her first national pageant — the Mrs. America pageant which took place with 50 other married women at a resort in West Virginia. While she did not win that crown, she was voted ‘Mrs. Congeniality’ by her peers, an honor she has received many times in her pageantry career. I love this photo of her in her gray dress. A lovely girl with a lovely heart.

If you know Angela, please leave a comment of support and I’ll be sure to tell her about them.

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Wells County may be a rural area but it has a prestigious claim to fame as the birthplace of the current Mrs. Indiana, Angela Micklitsch Witte.

Witte was born and raised in Wells County. After graduating from Norwell High School in 2004, she attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne as a student of the dental hygiene program. In 2006, Witte (who was still unmarried) entered the Miss Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne pageant. Witte did not win that competition, but discovered she loved the process of pageantry. Over the next few years she competed and placed in a number of pageants: Miss Wells County 2006 (first runner up); Miss Mideast Indiana 2006; Miss Fort Wayne 2007 (third runner up and Community Achievement Award); Miss Mideast Indiana 2007 (winner); Miss Indiana 2008 (voted Miss Congeniality, Jon Price Community Service Award, Miss Miracle Maker Award, Hoosier Leadership Memorial Scholarship); Salvation Army’s Fort Wayne Queen of Charities 2010 (winner, voted Miss Congeniality).

After marrying Norwell High School graduate Zach Witte in 2008, Angela was eligible to compete for Mrs. Indiana. In 2010 she entered for the first time. Although she did not receive the crown of Mrs. Indiana, she was voted Mrs. Congeniality.   

Witte was voted winner for congeniality in most of the pageants, a fact that thrilled her. “That honor means so much to me because making new friends and building relationships with my peers is an important part of pageantry,” she said.

On November 13, 2010, Witte competed again for Mrs. Indiana (2011) against eight competitors. This time she won. She also was awarded Mrs. Congeniality and the Physical Fitness Award.

On March 31, 2011, Witte and 50 other contestants from the nation (one from each state; Washington DC enters its own contestant) arrived at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for the Mrs. America pageant. The competition runs April 2 through April 14 when Mrs. America 2011 will be crowned.

During the first week, the contestants are not judged but spend time getting to know each other and participating in volunteer activities with Habitat for Humanity and other charitable organizations. “Each day we’re doing something different,” said Angela in an email shortly after her arrival. “According to our itineraries, we’re expected to attend some events that require formal attire while others just need us to wear blue jeans,” she said.

On April 11, the contestants will begin the first day of competition with judged interviews. This area of competition in the Mrs. America pageant counts for 50 percent of the each contestant’s final score. Other areas to be judged will be Physical Fitness in Swimsuit (25%) and Evening Wear (25%). 

Preliminary competition will commence on April 12 with final judging to be announced on April 14. “No one knows until the last day who the top contestants will be,” said Witte in an interview a few weeks before leaving for the Mrs. America competition. The contestant voted Mrs. Congeniality by the other contestants will also be awarded on the final night. Winner of the Mrs. America pageant will then compete for Mrs. World later this year.

The Mrs. America event will be televised on My FamilyTV.tv and RRTV.com. Schedules are available on the Mrs. America website (http://www.mrsamerica.com/).

In the weeks leading up to her departure, Witte was feeling confident about her chances at being crowned the next Mrs. America, due to her Hoosier upbringing. “I am very proud of being a Hoosier,” she wrote in an email interview. “Being born and raised in Indiana has given me a strong direction of right and wrong, taught me the importance of community, and encouraged me to develop my faith in God with others. From a young age I was always encouraged to do my best and dream big. I am who I am today because of being raised in Indiana.”

She also found a welcoming omen upon her arrival which she described in an email: “The room I share with Mrs. Kentucky has big, fat, pink peony wallpaper — Indiana’s state flower!!

Competing for the national pageant is Witte’s last chance to win the title of Mrs. America. “Once a woman wins a state title, she is not allowed to compete again,” she said. “That allows other women the opportunity to win.”

Witte will remain Mrs. Indiana until July 30, 2011, when she will hand her crown to the next Mrs. Indiana at a pageant to be held in Westfield, Indiana.

Until then, Witte plans to continue promoting the Mrs. Indiana America pageant and focusing on community service. Besides working full-time at Dr. James Taylor and Sigler Associates in Bluffton, she will continue to volunteer throughout the state for charities. “If somebody needs my help in promoting a fundraiser, I will be glad to drive to their location and lend a hand,” she said.

Those wanting to contact Witte to schedule an appearance may do so at www.mrsindiana.com.

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Lauren Petersen-Miss Central IN

Lauren Petersen is one of the most ambitious young women I’ve met. She has much going for her. Read this and be amazed.

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It may seem as though competing in pageants is becoming old hat, so to speak, for Lauren Petersen. During the past couple of years, the Bluffton native has won the title of Miss Ball State University (2009) and Miss Huntington (2010). She was an Indianapolis 500 princess in May and first runner up for Miss Indiana in 2010.

But Petersen, who, with her sister, won the Lilly Scholarship as a senior at Bluffton High School in 2007, admits to an area she struggles with when competing. “The talent sections of the pageants are a challenge for me,” she said.  “I did not grow up playing the piano for others, so for me to do it on stage was fearful.”

To the average ear Petersen’s hard work and discipline belie her fear as she plays classical pieces on the piano as her talent. Petersen was a 10-year student of well-known Wells County piano teacher Daisy Cox.

The solution, according to Petersen, was to work through her fear. “As I continued to enter contests, my fear of playing the piano in public gradually eased.” For the talent portion of the Miss Central Indiana contest which took place on September 18, 2010, Petersen played a concerto in A Minor by Schumann on the stage in front of 300 people. The judges were pleased not only with her talent but also her replies to interview questions. They chose Petersen among 14 contestants to wear the crown for Miss Central Indiana 2010.

The pageant took place at Westfield High School near Carmel, Indiana. It was open to young females who lived in the area surrounding Indianapolis. As Petersen had worked at an internship at the State House since January 2010, she met the requirements.

Besides participating in community outreach activities and fundraisers during the next year, Petersen, who is a senior at Ball State University (BSU), will continue to support the program she has chosen for her pageant platform, the Make-a-Wish Foundation. “As a member of the speakers’ bureau for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I hope to meet people and get involved on several levels in the Indianapolis area in helping people,” she said.

Petersen plans to graduate in May with a degree in Urban Planning. She would like to attend graduate school and has applied for various scholarships, including Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright. Her career goal is to work in real estate development and urban planning. “Through my internship, I’ve seen how people who care can make a difference,” she added. “For that reason I would like to go into politics at some level of government, either local, state, or national.”

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Reprinted with permission from the News Banner