Kathleen Sihler (right) and Mariah Ambrose sit at a desk with books in front of them.

Kathleen Sihler never had the opportunity to study abroad as a student, though travel and a learned appreciation
for other cultures were important pieces of her upbringing.

“My parents traveled in Western Europe as young adults and were passionate about that experience. They took me to Europe when I graduated high school, and then when I moved to Iowa I had opportunities to travel to Russia with students through the University of Northern Iowa and Italy with students from Wartburg,” she said. “Every travel day I woke up thinking that never in my life did I think I would have these kinds of opportunities. It was a powerful and addicting sensation.”

Today, Sihler spends every working day thinking about those experiences and how she can help make them possible for more Wartburg students. As the college’s study away coordinator and competitive scholarship and fellowship adviser, it’s her job to match students to opportunities in both areas. Though Wartburg has long had a study away coordinator in some capacity, Sihler said the structure of the scholarship and fellowship adviser role is new to the college and means she is able to put more focus on helping driven and talented students find funding for opportunities they might not otherwise have.

Currently, the college has about a dozen scholarship and fellowship opportunities that students regularly apply for and have success receiving. Sihler’s goal is to maintain stability with those applications while finding new opportunities that can serve even more students. But finding those matches isn’t as easy as some think.

“I need to get to know each of these students, so I ask them a whole lot of questions. My goal is to ‘see’ the story of who they are, where they have come from, what is meaningful for them, and what they want to do moving forward,” she said. “Oftentimes students don’t have that perspective on their uniqueness, so I have to tease that out of them and get them to see themselves differently through the application and interview process.”

That’s why even a failed application can have immense benefits.

“The process of researching opportunities and reflecting on what is being offered is a great opportunity for growth. Obviously receiving the scholarship or fellowship is the ultimate goal, but that process comes at a valuable time for students as they are preparing for work or graduate school and learning how to go out and represent themselves,” she said.