The University of Iowa

In the news: UI graduate heads to Amsterdam with Fulbright Grant

June 28th, 2018
Martin Wolgen

By Brooke Clayton, The Daily Iowan

When Martin Wolgen went to UI Lecturer Jordan Smith for help with the process of applying for a Fulbright Grant, “he honestly had everything worked out,” Smith said. “That’s one of the more impressive things about Martin, he is very self-motivated.”

That motivation has paid off, and Wolgen will attend Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam starting in the fall, working toward a graduate degree in theology and religious studies while he researches the Dutch Reform Movement through the 20th century to the present in the place where it occurred — and the place where some of his ancestors come from.

When Martin started college, he wanted to double-major in history and anthropology, but a one semester hour seminar class with Smith in the Religious Studies Department changed that. Four years down the line, he’s now a graduate with a major in history and two minors, one in anthropology and one in religious studies.

“A lot of people don’t think about religion the way I do,” Wolgen said, clarifying that this shouldn’t be taken as an offense.

“People’s religious beliefs shape culture, but culture also shapes our religious beliefs,” Smith said. “[Martin] was very interested in the relationship between religion and culture.”

Wolgen is originally from Orange City, Iowa, a community of people stitched together by religion.

“I’ve always lived in an environment where religion and society were almost one and the same,” Wolgen said. “Your social circle was very determined by where you went to church.”