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W&L Alumna Lane Johansen ’22 Selected for Fulbright to Poland Johansen has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to teach English to students in Poland.

Lane-Johansen-2_headshot-scaled-600x400 W&L Alumna Lane Johansen ’22 Selected for Fulbright to Poland

Washington and Lee University graduate Lane Johansen ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to teach English in Poland. At W&L, Johansen double majored in global politics and Russian area studies and wrote her honors thesis on the evolution of national identity in Ukraine since independence. Johansen is a native of Tampa, Florida, and graduated from T.R. Robinson High School.

The ETA program in Poland is designed to support English language teaching and learning in Poland.  Johansen will be placed at a Polish university or post-secondary institution where she will co-teach practical English language classes and develop her own lesson plans. She is currently studying nationalism and (de-) democratization in Central and Eastern Europe in a master’s program at Central European University in Vienna, Austria, and looks forward to building upon her academic experience with the ETA.

“The Fulbright grant will allow me to spend valuable time immersed in Poland for real-world application of my studies — enhancing my language skills, studying national identity in the country, and improving my understanding of the region,” Johansen said.

After graduating from W&L, Johansen worked as the communications director at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in Washington, D.C. She then spent over three months in 2023 volunteering with the Kharkiv and Przemyśl Project, a non-governmental organization serving Ukrainian refugees at the border between Poland and Ukraine, and she is eager to experience a deeper level of cultural immersion when she returns to Poland this fall.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity to return to Poland and gain more of the cultural immersion that I couldn’t get enough of while I was in the country last summer,” Johansen said. “At the same time, I hope to utilize my teaching skills and passion for service to help Polish students have as enjoyable and impactful of an experience studying English as I have had studying foreign languages.”

Johansen’s journey as a lifelong learner began at W&L. Krzysztof Jasiewicz, the William P. Ames Jr. Professor of Sociology, recalls being impressed with Johansen’s “intellectual curiosity” and how “she was never satisfied with simple answers to complex questions, but wanted to discover deeper political, economic, social and cultural factors behind discussed phenomena and developments.”

Johansen did not plan on majoring in Russian area studies — now East European and Russian studies — at W&L, but after taking one class in the department, “I was hooked,” she said. She is grateful for the support she received from the department’s faculty and the impact they have had on the direction of her life. She was also profoundly influenced by her Spring Term course in Morocco with Seth Cantey, associate professor of politics, which sparked her interest in international relations and a dedication to public service in her academic and career pursuits.

“It soon became evident that Lane’s pursuit of knowledge serves a bigger purpose — to facilitate her service to others,” Jasiewicz said. “In addition, Lane is gentle, kind and truly personable. In short, one can see in her everything that W&L professors may wish to find in their students.”

Anna Brodsky, professor of Russian and chair of the Department of East European and Russian Studies, also admired Johansen’s intellectual maturity and was impressed by Johansen’s “meticulously researched and beautifully written” senior honors thesis, which examined Ukrainian national identity.

“It’s hard to overstate how timely and relevant Lane’s thesis topic remains, but she always had a sense of what was politically and morally important,” Brodsky said. “Her papers were always perfectly researched and sparkled with deep and provocative ideas, and her sensitivity to the material deeply impressed me, as did her ability to express her thoughts in a graceful and engaging manner.”

Yulia Rubina, visiting instructor of Russian, agrees that Johansen was an exceptionally dedicated student, and recalls that she was determined to learn Russian since her first year at W&L knowing it would require hard work and perseverance.

“For Lane, learning Russian was more than a linguistic pursuit,” Rubina said. “It became a gateway to understanding Russian culture and politics and its regional ambitions. This knowledge will serve Lane exceptionally well during her upcoming year of teaching in Poland.”

With the Fulbright award, Johansen will depart in September 2024 for orientation and begin her nine-month program in October. Upon completion of the program, she intends to continue developing her language skills — particularly Russian, Ukrainian and Polish — and pursue a career in international development that will allow her to apply her knowledge of the region in a meaningful way.

The Fulbright Program was established more than 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Washington and Lee University is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2023-2024 Fulbright U.S. Students for the sixth consecutive year.

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