Mason student travels to Norway on Fulbright scholarship

Mona Anita Olsen is currently in Norway with the Fulbright U.S. student program (photo courtesy of Mona Anita Olsen)
Mona Anita Olsen is currently in Norway with the Fulbright U.S. student program (photo courtesy of Mona Anita Olsen)

A Ph.D. student at George Mason University will be spending this year in Norway as a grantee of the prestigious US Fulbright award.

Mona Anita Olsen served as the assistant director of the Mason Small Business Development Center and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Mason with a focus in instructional technology, entrepreneurship and apprenticeship.

The goal of the program, as described by the Fulbright website, is to promote “cultural exchange” between the United States and other nations. The prestigious Fulbright award has been granted to many notable candidates including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Nobel Prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz and Mason’s own President Cabrera.

“To be competitive for the Fulbright, the applicant must have an excellent academic record, a good project proposal and must be able to demonstrate interest in and preparation for the country to which they are applying,” said Kathryn Agoston, the graduate fellowship director at Mason.

“A successful Fulbright applicant is generally someone who knows what they want to do and what they want to get out of the experience and who is self-motivated and able to work independently in challenging circumstances,” Agoston said.

Recipients are given grants for research and teaching in foreign countries. Olsen applied in August 2011 with the help of Agoston.

“I worked with Mona to define her project, her goals as a Fulbright scholar and to decide what kind of Fulbright grant would be the best fit for her,” Agoston said.

Olsen followed Agoston’s guidance and chose to pursue a grant for individual research.

 “The research that I am working on with entrepreneurship education directly ties to my dissertation,” said Olsen, who is of Norwegian descent.

Olsen first visited Norway in 2002 through a study abroad program at the Norwegian School of Hotel Management in Stavanger. She was surprised to return there as part of the Fulbright program.

“I had written in my journal in 2002 that I would one day get back to Stavanger to live at some point,” Olsen said. “I had no idea it would be as a Fulbrighter.”

“My project explores how apprenticeship can be used as a tool to enhance traditional entrepreneurship education,” Olsen said. Her research will be used to promote new forms of educating entrepreneurs in the United States through apprenticeships to help improve the economy.

Olsen has worked with different entrepreneurs in Norway, including a construction business owner and a jewelry designer.

Along with her research, Olsen will spend time learning about Norwegian culture. She said she has had a few problems adjusting to Norwegian living.

“I started an electrical fire with my vacuum in the garage because I blew the transformer,” Olsen said. “I learned about the difference in electricity quite quickly—put the fire out—but still managed to have the alarm go off in the apartment building.”

Though she believes the opportunity will open many doors for her professionally, Olsen plans to keep her options open for what to do after her time in Norway.

“For the first time in my life, I’m okay with not knowing or having a fully outlined next plan,” Olsen said. “All I know is that as a result of Fulbright, my eyes will be open wider, I will have a new skill set, my network will be larger and I will know myself a lot more.”

Olsen’s grant will last through June 2013. 

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