Bechtel Awarded Fulbright Scholarship

Rachel Bechtel

Carroll 2020 Graduate Rachel Bechtel Awarded Fulbright Scholarship

HELENA – Carroll College alumna Rachel Bechtel, class of 2020, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Award. As a Fulbright Study/Research Award recipient, Bechtel will begin her Master’s degree in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, this fall.

The U.S. Fulbright Program is a competitive, prestigious fellowship designed to facilitate cultural exchange and foster mutual understanding between Americans and their host countries. It is the world's largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. Bechtel’s Fulbright award provides a full tuition waiver for a year of study plus a living and travel stipend.

The University of Kent’s specialized master’s degree is uniquely aligned with Bechtel’s academic interests. For her master’s research, Bechtel has designed a study with the support of faculty from the Tizard Centre, a research center that pioneers care alternatives for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), to analyze how increased contact with people with IDDs, facilitated through community care, may affect community perceptions of people with IDDs. She will conduct this research in partnership with L’Arche Kent, a cooperative living community for people with and without IDDs. “The mentorship, research, and personal connections formed through this master’s program will directly inform my future policy work and provide me with the relationships necessary to serve as a cultural ambassador to both the University and the greater  community,” said Bechtel.

“Rachel’s motivation, perseverance, and her ability to actively engage learning for the purpose of doing something about what is not right in the world, are revealing of a maturity and a vision that are not easily found at such a young age,” said Dr. Elvira Roncalli, professor of philosophy. “This is not mere idealism. It is being able to see the problems for what they are and seeing concrete ways to address them. Her genuinely curious mind as well as her positive attitude towards life, that there is something worth wrestling with, even if it is hard, make her an inspiring person for her peers.”

Bechtel, originally from Moscow, Idaho, graduated summa cum laude, with distinction, in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. Growing up with a father and brother with hearing loss, she was introduced to the disability community at a young age which inspired her disability justice advocacy. During her time at Carroll, she interned with Disability Rights Montana and obtained policy experience while also working on individual discrimination, abuse, and neglect cases. In addition, her academic research and honors thesis focused on addressing systemic disparities, such as the disability wage gap. She currently lives in and provides support to a L'Arche community in Portland, Oregon.

“After these personal and professional experiences, I am determined to expand my knowledge of the psychology of disability-based discrimination and experience varying approaches to these social issues to inform my future policy work. This Fulbright grant will allow me to achieve this through my participation in supported living within the U.K. and my study of societal perceptions of disability and their effect on discrimination. The master’s program that this Fulbright will fund is the necessary next step in my development as an advocate and will prepare me for my future career as a disability justice attorney. I am so grateful for the overwhelming support and mentorship I have received from current and former Carroll faculty and staff throughout this process as well as the last six years!” said Bechtel.

Bechtel is the second Carroll alumna in recent years to receive a Fulbright award. Cierra Powell, class of 2018, received a Fulbright in 2019 to serve as a cultural ambassador for the United States in the Canary Islands (Las Canarias) of Spain where she was an English Teaching Assistant for early childhood and elementary education.

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Program offers grants to study, teach and conduct research for U.S. citizens to go abroad and for non-U.S. citizens to come to the United States. The primary source of funding is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Since its inception in 1946, more than 400,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated from over 160 countries. The Program awards approximately 8,000 fellowships annually. Fulbright alumni include 40 Heads of State or Government, 61 Nobel Prize Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 76 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors.