ME Student Receives Fulbright Award

May 12, 2017

Contact: Amy Hewes
College of Engineering

ME Student Receives Fulbright Award

Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering Student Receives Fulbright Award to Study in Slovenia

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Daniel Ansorge, a Cal Poly mechanical engineering student and music minor, has been awarded a Fulbright student grant to study a unique family of string instruments in Slovenia this fall.

For Ansorge, who grew up in Elk Grove, California, his selection for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program was the culmination of a longtime interest in tinkering coupled with a love of music. In Slovenia, he will study the tamburitza, a family of lutes that originated in Croatia and spread to other parts of the former Yugoslavia around the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“I hope to become engaged in Slovenian culture by fully learning the language and coming to a greater understanding of the music and those who play it,” said Ansorge, whose great-grandparents immigrated from the modern-day Slovenian and Croatian regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

“I loved figuring out how things are made and how I could make them on my own,” Ansorge said. “This led me to mechanical engineering, because we study the mechanics and physics behind how things work — a subject I had been pursuing in my own time without knowing it.”

Ansorge, who only needs to complete his senior project this spring before he graduates, will research the historical use of the tamburitza and its place in present-day Slovanian culture. He hopes to meld his passion for music and his mechanical engineering education to pursue a career as a musical instrument engineer when he returns.

“Getting a Fulbright is a life-changing experience,” said Dr. Ken Habib, professor of ethnomusicology and director of Cal Poly’s Arab Music Ensemble, in which Ansorge has also participated. Habib mentioned the Fulbright program to Ansorge in a music course and advised him during the application process.

“An investigation into an instrument — particularly one that has plenty of resonance with tradition and connotations with local culture — is an excellent, focused way of looking into the culture of the larger region,” Habib said.

Three Cal Poly students, including Ansorge, have been selected as Fulbright recipients in the past few years: Trisha Huynh received an English Teaching Award in 2014 for work in Malaysia, and 2012 graduate Scott Leinweber received an award in 2015 to study architecture in Denmark.

“One of the hallmarks of the Fulbright program is the focus on mutual understanding and cultural exchange,” said Cari Moore, director of the Cal Poly International Center and the campus Fulbright Program adviser. “Working with Cal Poly students on the Fulbright process is a highlight of my job and is an affirmation that we are preparing our students to be positive forces in the world.” 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program promotes cultural exchange through individual interactions and community engagement. The grant provides transportation, room, board and incidental costs.

Ansorge’s cousin, Kimberly Pugel of Grass Valley, California, also applied for this year’s program. While she was not selected, a professor with whom she was coordinating on her application offered her a position on a graduate school project at the University of Colorado Boulder. Pugel is now helping that university’s effort to better understand how to improve the sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in the developing world.

“At Cal Poly, I regularly and deliberately challenged myself to take on roles that gave me the opportunity to think critically and holistically about how I used my engineering degree,” said Pugel, who graduated in December 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and a gender, race, culture, science and technology minor. She is now pursuing a doctorate in civil systems engineering.

“While Cal Poly’s Environmental Engineering program gave me an incredible technical background, my work with Engineers Without Borders and my mentors in the science, technology, and society program set me on a path to better understand the political and social factors that underlie all engineered systems,” Pugel added. “With this project, I aim to gain a critical, practical skillset in strengthening the broader systems that support equitable, resilient access to water and sanitation — internationally and domestically.”

More information about the U.S. Fulbright Student Program is available at


Photo: Mechanical engineering student Daniel Ansorge designed and built this guitar in high school.

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