Slovenian Fellows 2019

Meet The 2019 Slovenian Fellows

Alexandra Klesin


Alexandra Klesin graduated from Mount Saint Mary College in December of 2018 with her BA in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. She is currently the Project Development Coordinator for a new Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Program at The Mount. Along the way, Alexandra has found that her passions lie in helping adolescents who struggle with mental illness succeed both in their everyday lives and academically. After the ASEF fellowship, she desires to continue her education and pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. This summer, Alexandra will assist Prof.Dr. Valentina Hlebec on an international research and innovation project called “Me-We” at The University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences. “Me-We” stands as an abbreviation for psychosocial support for promoting mental health and well-being amongst young carers in Europe (me-we.eu). Young carers are adolescents who become the primary caretakers for a parent or sibling with a mental/developmental disorder.

Alexandra sees this fellowship as an incredible opportunity to not only strengthen her research skills but to strengthen her ties to her Slovenian heritage, too. She is grateful to visit her grandparents’ home and walk through the streets of Ljubljana, immersing herself in all that Slovenia has to offer. In her downtime, Alexandra loves to write, especially poetry. She hopes to fill her journal this summer with riveting stories she can share with friends and family. When she is not writing, she is probably reading. Alexandra also enjoys working out, yoga, and playing volleyball. Typically, you can find her sitting somewhere scenic, eating a cupcake.

Annika Rose Gačnik


Annika Gačnik is a Master’s candidate in Food Studies, an interdisciplinary field of food policy, business, and culture, at New York University. A native Californian, Annika has worked extensively in food production and distribution, including in urban agriculture, fisheries research, winemaking, and the grocery industry. She received her B.S. in Molecular Environmental Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. When not studying food, she enjoys spending time in the ocean and the garden. As an ASEF Fellow, Annika will research under Dr. Tanja Kamin at the University of Ljubljana. Supported by this fellowship, Annika aspires to effect social change in food systems in order to elevate human rights and enhance sustainability. Annika is fortunate to have previously visited Slovenia, where she reconnected with her paternal relatives and traveled with her family, including her sister Michaela - a 2018 ASEF fellow. Annika is extraordinarily grateful for this opportunity to deepen her understanding of her heritage and form new, meaningful connections with her colleagues and peers.

Robert Lunka


Bobby Lunka is a first-year pediatric dentistry resident at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry where he is also pursuing his master’s degree. He obtained his B.A. in biology at the University of Virginia, where he also completed a general practice residency after completing dental school at VCU. Later, Bobby went on to complete oral and maxillofacial surgery internships at Jacobi Medical Center/Beth Israel Hospital and WVU School of Dentistry. His passion involves improving his skills and knowledge in caring for children with special healthcare needs. The research Bobby is currently working on involves the use of virtual reality glasses to improve dental experiences for children with autism. Born to a Slovenian father, Bobby frequently visits the family farm and enjoys spending time with his relatives and exploring the country. He proudly identifies as a true Slovenian since he recently summited Mount Triglav. He is excited to explore the health, educational and research organizations at the University of Ljubljana. A fellowship through ASEF would allow him to learn, appreciate and compare how Slovenia’s higher education institutions conduct research and clinical work, specifically how Slovenian health professionals care for children and special needs patients. In his spare time, Bobby enjoys kitesurfing, winemaking, playing guitar and riding his motorcycle. He is very grateful for the opportunity ASEF has provided him and he will continue promoting all that Slovenia has to offer to his colleagues back home!

Thomas Fitzsimmons


Thomas Fitzsimmons is a visual communicator with a passion for multimedia. Thomas will bez interning at Studio Siposh doing video production and working alongside filmmakers and aerial cinematographers. Thomas has studied communication and graphic design and plans to attain a master's degree in Theology in the future at the Pontifical Atheneum of Sant Anselmo in Rome. Thomas hopes to learn valuable skills that will set him apart in the cinematography world, he is excited for the opportunity to create multimedia content in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and plans to maintain a long-lasting relationship with ASEF long after he leaves. Thomas is excited since this is his second time visiting Slovenia. His first time was in 2016 during a visit he had while living in Europe for a study abroad semester in Italy. Thomas had the chance to visit family in Slovenia and met his Slovenian cousins and had the chance to walk the same streets in Ljubljana as his Grandmother and Grandfather did before they immigrated to the United States. Thomas is often found running, he has ran two marathons in the states, and plans to do his third somewhere in the EU, Thomas also loves and drone videography, photography, editing video, and calling his 82 year old grandmother and teaching her tips and tricks on how to use her iPhone.

Thomas McDonald


Thomas is PhD student in Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Born and raised in South Carolina, he holds an MBA in International Business and has worked in Japan, Germany, Latin America, and the US. At Stanford, he researches how works of literature and film have anticipated economic and social crisis during the 20th century. He is studying Slovene in order to more deeply understand the case of the former Yugoslavia. An advocate for foreign language learning, he has studied various languages and fluently speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian.

Tina Rozman


Tina Rozman is currently entering her third year at the University of Cincinnati. She is studying nursing and is also a cadet in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). She is at the top of her ROTC class and has been on the academic Dean’s List each semester of college. Tina is a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles, Student Nurse Association, and multiple volunteer organizations. Last summer, the Army provided her the opportunity to study Russian at the University of Pittsburgh and this summer she will go to Airborne School. Tina will be completing a fellowship at DEOS Trnovo, a nursing home, with her mentor Biljana Vojvodič. She looks forward to being in a nursing home, since she gained plenty of experience with her elderly grandparents. She is immensely interested in functional medicine, an alternate form of medicine that seeks to improve health, especially chronic illness, through holistic and root cause treatment. Tina’s grandparents, both maternal and paternal, were from Slovenia and her Slovenian heritage has molded her entire life. She speaks Slovenian fluently, is a member of the dance group Folklorna Skupina Kres, and sincerely values the influence of Slovenian culture in her background and the legacy her grandparents crafted for her. She is excited to see where her family was born and experience the well-known Slovenian love and generosity that the country is famous for, including sights such as Lake Bled, the castles, and mountains. She is also thrilled about the discoveries she will make as she studies with her mentor. Some of her hobbies include volunteering, playing piano and violin, and she hopes that she may be able to put her great interest in bees to use in Slovenia. A fun fact about Tina is that her brother performed with his vocal group “Mi Smo Mi” several years ago in Slovenia.

Sean Voelk


Sean Voelk is a fourth year undergraduate student in the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, where he is majoring in Finance. Sean was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His great grandfather was born in Slovenia and he is extremely grateful for this opportunity to learn more about Slovenia and participate in this program. Sean’s extracurriculars mostly involve music. He hosts KSCU’s music and talk show Slightly Social, broadcasting in the Bay Area and other places in California. He is also a writer for the KSCU blog, mainly covering topics related to hip-hop and hip-hop culture. On the weekends you can often find Sean hiking or otherwise enjoying the outdoors.

Tatiana Marusic


Tatiana Marusic is a general physician, graduated from the Buenos Aires University, and currently a fourth year pediatric resident at “Ricardo Gutierrez Children’s hospital”. She was born and raised in Argentina, but all her grandparents were born in Slovenia and they taught her their values and culture. The critical global refugee situation and low access to health assistance is one of Tatiana’s greatest concerns. Consecuently, she is going to work with Primoz Jamšek at Slovenian Filantrophy, an humanitarian organization. She will join a program that offers better accessibility of health services for people in vulnerable position, working directly with the refugees and provide them medical care. She is convinced that this experience will challenge her to a new level where she will grow from a professional perspective and from a personal one as well. In her free time she enjoys outdoor activities, like hiking and scuba diving. She consider herself a nature lover, she cant wait to visiting the beautiful Slovenian landscapes!

Rachel Krevh


Rachel Krevh graduates from Xavier University in May, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. She will be attending Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in the fall, to begin to pursue her career as a physician. Rachel has done prior research at Xavier University about the oxidative mechanism of Copper Amine Oxidases, and at University of Cincinnati’s National Science Foundation research program, where she studied the anti-fouling properties of carbon nanotube-fiber electrodes. Rachel is excited for this fellowship opportunity in Slovenia because it will help her learn about more medically-related topics before she starts medical school and becomes a physician. Rachel’s career interests as a physician are dermatology, oncology, and primary care. In addition to the medical research this summer, Rachel is interested in exploring the different regions of Slovenia, spending summer evenings by the river in Ljubljana, meeting other fellows and citizens in the area, and continuing to learn the Slovenian language. Previously, Rachel has been to Slovenia three times: with her Slovenian language school in 2007, to visit relatives in 2014, and to participate in a two-week Slovenian language program at the University of Ljubljana in 2015. It has been four years since she has last been to Slovenia, and she is excited to see her relatives and the beautiful country again. She is also excited to hopefully have a full conversation in Slovenian by the end of the summer. In addition to learning about science and medicine, Rachel also enjoys going on frequent walks around her town, hiking and going on bike rides, meeting new people, and trying new foods. A fun fact about her is that she has a small tattoo of Triglav, and she starred in a music video in Greece.

Dylan Ellis


Dylan Ellis is an undergraduate Chemical Engineering student at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. He has always loved problem solving and been fascinated by biology, and hopes to utilize his studies to combat issues in health and sustainability. This summer, he is thrilled to be able to continue this pursuit of engineering at the interface of living systems through ASEF's Fellowship. In addition to developing professionally, he is extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity to immerse himself in his Slovenian heritage, and to be able to share all he learns upon returning from the fellowship. Dylan's hobbies include reading, sports, music, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.

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