State Dept. to Honor UNC for Number of Fulbright Recipients

The U.S. Department of State this month will recognize UNC as among the universities that produced the largest number of Fulbright scholars in the 2022–23 cycle.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awarded grants to 16 Carolina students and graduates during that time period.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the U.S. government’s international educational exchange initiative. It allows graduating seniors, master’s students, doctoral candidates and recent graduates to conduct a research or study project they have created, or serve as an English teaching assistant, in one of more than 160 countries, according to UNC’s Fulbright Student Program website. At UNC, the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs manages the program.

The Fulbright Program was established more than 75 years ago and is among the largest and most diverse exchange programs in the world. It was created to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. The Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board select recipients based on their academic and professional achievements and records of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will hold the recognition event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 21. Heather Ward, associate provost for global affairs, will represent the University.

“The reason UNC students are competitive Fulbright applicants comes down to Carolina’s rich menu of global education opportunities — the Global Guarantee,” said Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and a former U.S. ambassador. “With excellent faculty developing globally oriented courses, an expansive study abroad program and on-campus opportunities such as the Diplomacy Initiative, a global mindset is accessible and integral to Carolina students’ education no matter what they study.”

Having a global education, Stephenson said, means students develop skills in collaborative problem-solving, working across differences to achieve shared goals, communicating persuasively to diverse audiences, cultural awareness, adaptability and more, all of which align with Fulbright’s mission.

Stephenson added that advisers on campus guide students through the application process, which helps increase the number of UNC Fulbright recipients.

The 2022-23 cycle of Carolina Fulbright recipients ranged from graduating seniors to doctoral candidates in multidisciplinary fields, including English, history, public policy and public health, according to UNC’s global affairs department.

Fulbright alumni have included 40 heads of state or government, 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners and 78 MacArthur Fellows, commonly referred to as “Genius Award” winners.

“Thanks to the visionary leadership of these institutions, administrators and advisors, a new generation of Fulbrighters — changemakers, as I like to say — will catalyze lasting impact on their campus, in their communities and around the world,” said Lee Satterfield, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

UNC’s recognition as a top-producing Fulbright institution demonstrates that Carolina students leave the University “well prepared to enter the world as tomorrow’s leaders,” Stephenson said in the University newsletter, The Well.

UNC’s 16 Fulbright winners for the 2022-2023 cycle and their awards are:

  • Megan Busbice ’22, an English teaching assistantship in Spain
  • Mehal Churiwal ’21, a grant to conduct research in Uganda on environmental drivers of pediatric hydrocephalus
  • Bailey Fernandez, a doctoral student in English and art history, a grant to conduct research in Austria
  • Jaqueline Gu ’22, an English teaching assistantship in Taiwan
  • Maura Kitchens ’22, an English teaching assistantship in Germany
  • Mary McCall Leland ’20 graduate, an English teaching assistantship in Argentina
  • Valerie Nguyen ’22, a grant to conduct research in the Netherlands
  • Timothy Purvis ’22, a grant to conduct research in Jordan
  • Emma Ray ’22, an English teaching assistantship in Spain
  • Kobe Spells ’22, an English teaching assistantship in the West Bank
  • William Thomason ’20, an English teaching assistantship in Colombia
  • Dalvin Tsay, a doctoral student in history, a grant to conduct research in Taiwan
  • Amanda Ullman, a doctoral student in city and regional planning, a grant to conduct research in Colombia
  • Kiera Whalen ’19, an English teaching assistantship in Germany
  • Alyssa Worthem ’22, an English teaching assistantship in Mexico
  • Joyce Yao ’20, an English teaching assistantship in Taiwan

The 2023-24 award cycle is closed, and Fulbright officials are in the process of selecting the winners. “The semifinalists have been notified, and we have a very strong representation of Carolina semifinalists,” said Emmy Grace, program manager for global education. The 2024-25 award cycle opens on campus in April and closes in September, Grace said. Interested students and graduates can read more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on its website and complete the Fulbright U.S. Student Program interest form.

— Laurie D. Willis ’86

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