Fulbright Scholar Carson Whisler
Carson Whisler ’17, is an economics major from Astoria, Oregon, who will be traveling to Indonesia to conduct research on “pay as you go” solar technologies.
When was your “aha moment” when you realized you could be a Fulbright candidate?
I took an honors course my sophomore year that was for students that were interested in applying for fellowships. Also through the Miller Center’s GSBF program, they talked about the Fulbright a decent amount. I thought about applying during my senior year, and going straight after, but I felt like I wasn’t ready, a few things weren’t coming together. I needed a little bit more time to process if it was what I actually wanted. But at the end of my senior year I realized that I actually did want to go for it. I felt it was a really good fit for me and the things I’m interested in.
I think my work through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship really played a big role in it, just because I got to explore a variety of different things and realized what actually interests me within the clean energy sector in developing countries, and then also just how much you have to write in the class, especially in a research context, and a report-style context. I felt like it really gave me a lot of the writing skills that I needed to succeed as far as actually presenting myself for the Fulbright and making sure I was being concise and really tight with my sentences but also packing a lot of information in too.
What sort of “high impact” experiences did you have at SCU and how did they prepare you for being a Fulbright?
I had the chance to do several fellowships within the context of what my research project is actually related to, so I had the chance to go to Indonesia which is actually my host country, for the Fulbright. And study the energy sector there for an internship with the global fellows program. And then I also had the chance to do some action research in the field through the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship.
Where did you observe SCU’s values most in this process?
I would say having the opportunity to discern and think about what role I can play in serving others in a way that is both meaningful to me and helpful to them. I had a lot of different classes within my time there that helped me reflect and find meaning in different experiences.
How would you describe the responsibility you were given as an undergrad at SCU?
For Global Fellows I was actually pretty lucky, and got my top (internship) preference which was with Indonesian Institute of Energy Economics. It was more like a traditional internship where they sort of gave me a few different projects to work on.
Global Social Benefit Fellowship was also fairly structured to begin with so we actually had our projects before we even started the courses related to it. But then when you get to the field and start performing research, you obviously have to do the deliverables that the social enterprise is asking for, but you also get a fair amount of flexibility in how you execute on that. People at Miller Center are willing to mentor you and help, but (you have to make decisions once you’re in the context of the country.)
I think they both had a decent amount of structure but they also lent themselves to getting your own experience, and sort of making projects your own, in their own ways.
What sort of support did you get along the way?
One that was really big for me was starting my sophomore year I took a class with Dr. Stephen Carroll, so he was somebody that really pushed me to think about communication and rhetoric and become a lot better of a writer and communicator in general. Keith Warner at Miller Center is another person who really took me under his wing. And pushed me in a lot of ways. Keith is somebody who in some cases knows what you’re capable of better than you yourself do and so he’s willing to push you to that limit and get the best out of you.
I learned a lot from the way Tanya Bunger in the Global Fellows program carried herself, as sort of a partner and as a global citizen. And then a lot of Miller Center staff. Thane Kreiner has been somebody that I can come to and ask for advice or help with something and he kept his door open all the time, even though he’s really busy. Mark Correnti who’s the director of impact capital at Miller Center, is somebody that has looked out for me throughout my career and given me a lot of really good advice and opportunities. Spencer Arnold who’s the director of operations at Miller Center, is somebody that I’ve stayed in touch with to this day and talked to a lot and someone who’s willing to give me advice whether it’s career or personal, or just somebody I can talk to about how I’m feeling on a day-to-day basis.
Michael Kevane, in the economics department, who sort of got me interested in field research and data and the different way that you can actually use data to not just track things, but also think about ways to improve systems. He gave me a ton of good advice on my application as well.
Dr. Leilani Miller helped push me to get my Honors thesis done and pushed me to the finish with the Fulbright too, There are just so many great people and I’m sure there are people I’m leaving out too. So just a really good network of people.So those are all just a big tribe and a group of different people that were really helpful to me. Both during my time there and throughout the application process and in my life in general.
At one point when we were doing customer interviews in a village, talking to the sarpanch, which is something sort of like the mayor of a village, and he was talking about how their lights had been cut out because the transformer blew, and the government wasn’t going to reinstall the transformer because some of the local officials wanted a bribe. And before they actually got connected to a solar micro-grid that could power their houses during the night, a few people actually died because snakes had basically gone into their houses and bit them and they weren’t able to see them or fend them off with a stick or anything like that. That was a pretty big moment for me, where I realized there are so many different things that come with energy that you don't really think about.
Talking with the CEO of ONergy, he talked about the different things you don’t think about, if you don’t have energy or if it stops at night. Having energy is just something that can improve your life in so many different ways. You might not think about all the different ways it actually impacts you—from your health, the small things you can do at night, like read, that you wouldn’t be able to do without it.