Brock Schardin came to the University of South Dakota as a biology major. He graduated from USD last December with an M.A. in Spanish Education. Why the drastic change from the labs to a foreign language?
The 2012 Fulbright Scholar, who completed his B.A. in Spanish in May 2010 at USD (he ended up with a minor in biology), is currently teaching in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas where he also did his student-teaching in his final semester at USD. Schardin admits that his love of Spanish was pure happenstance and that, as a freshman, he was merely taking a course to fulfill his humanities requirement for graduation.
"Interestingly, the course was taught by a native Uruguayan who was teaching at USD on a Fulbright grant herself," said Schardin, who calls Marion, SD, home. "After taking Spanish 101, I decided I enjoyed it and decided to take 102 the following semester, which is where I met my future mentor and adviser, Teresa Piper, who taught the course."
Following two more semesters of Spanish, Schardin convinced his parents to let him study abroad, which is what he did the summer after his sophomore year in Sevilla, Spain. While in Sevilla, Schardin fell in love with both the language and the culture. That's when he knew it was time to make a change to his career path. It's a process, he believes, that's already paid off – even without the Fulbright grant.
"While at USD, I was active in my role as president of the Spanish Club for three years," said Schardin, the son of Brad and Vicki Schardin, also of Marion, SD. "Through the Spanish Club, I participated in Jolley Elementary School's Beyond School Adventures afterschool program, presented two bilingual plays and hosted many cultural activities each year."
Outside of his involvement in Spanish Club, Schardin is very active on the USD campus, particularly service-learning and community service. In graduate school, he was a leader on Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL) trips to Memphis, TN. and the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in central South Dakota. Other organizations he has been involved with at USD include Adopt-a-Grandparent, Big Pal/Little Pal, Program Council, TOMS Campus Club and he served as a community advisor in Norton Hall. Additionally, he worked at the Vucurevich Children's Center for three years and taught supplemental instruction for both Spanish 101 and 102 for two years.
When he's not busy on campus, Schardin enjoys being outdoors as much as possible either running, cycling or snowboarding. He also loves making music. As drummer and a founding member of the piano-rock band Avian Sunrise (along with four other USD students), Schardin played and recorded with the band for almost three years in college. However, two years ago Schardin was forced to part ways with the band in order to devote more time to his academic gig.
His parents are Black Hills State University alumni but he and his siblings have strong ties to USD. Schardin's older sister, Andrea Flyger, received both her bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of South Dakota, and their younger sister, Cara, is completing her sophomore year at USD.
"I also had several friends who attended USD at the time I began college," added Schardin, who plans to teach secondary Spanish in a nontraditional setting, including a charter school or alternative school, once he returns from Spain. "The sense of community that I felt at USD and in the community of Vermillion will never be forgotten or replaced and both have played a very important role in bringing me to where I am today."
According to Susan Hackemer, associate director, USD Honors Program, Schardin made the most of his time as a USD student because he realized immediately that getting involved was important.
"Brock has a knack for recognizing good opportunities and for making the most of everything he does," she explained. "At USD he instinctively understood the need to supplement his studies with experiences that would prepare him for classroom realities. The variety and sheer number of things he accomplished set him apart. Brock is a student superstar who is approachable, humble and loved by students, staff and faculty alike."
Sponsored by the United States Department of State, the Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to increase a mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. The Fulbright Program also provides funding for students, scholars and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary, and secondary schools. Schardin is the recipient of an English Teaching Assistantship for the region of Madrid, Spain. The experience will immerse Schardin in the Spanish language and culture more deeply but, at the same time, he will be instructing in English. He is USD's 14th Fulbright recipient since 1998.
"One of the main goals of the Fulbright program is to increase mutual, multicultural awareness," he explained, "and this will be a great opportunity for me to grow in my knowledge and understanding of the Spanish culture and language as well as to be a positive spokesperson for my country."