Management alum among six to receive Fulbright awards

Disorn Kwunchaithanya, BS ’20, received an English Teaching Award to Thailand


Published May 21, 2024

“From its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has been at the forefront of efforts to spread international goodwill and cooperation. ”
Patrick McDevitt, associate professor of history and Fulbright program adviser

Six UB students and alumni have won Fulbright awards, the prestigious national scholarship competition for grants to study, research and teach abroad.

“From its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has been at the forefront of efforts to spread international goodwill and cooperation,” says Patrick McDevitt, Fulbright program adviser, associate professor of history and a 1993 Fulbright grantee to New Zealand.

McDevitt says UB is proud to have a long history of contributing to the Fulbright program by sending some of the university’s brightest graduates overseas to represent the university and the nation.

Students who win these awards often have “life-changing experience” he says, “and build relationships that will stay with them for the remainder of their lives.”

McDevitt says UB submitted 15 applications, nine of which were recommended to the national committees. He also recognized the pivotal support and contributions from UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, citing in particular director Megan Stewart.

The Fulbright recipients:

Peggy “Pegi” Bakula. A UB doctoral student in linguistics, Bakula will document masalai stories in Yil, a Torricelli language of Papua New Guinea. She will conduct field work in the country, considered the world’s most linguistically diverse, with more than 800 languages belonging to approximately 30 language families.

The objective of Bakula’s project is to document aspects of the cultural heritage of the Yamari people narrated in Yil, their traditional language. While all features of cultural heritage will be chronicled, the focus of the documentation is the Yamari’s masalai stories. The masalai are spirits who hold specific associations with people (clans, descent lines) and places (villages, garden areas, wild bush). Masalai are a component of traditional faith systems in Papua New Guinea before Christianization. By documenting the Yamari masalai stories, their traditional beliefs and language are preserved for future generations.

Bakula is a recipient of a SUNY Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship (2018-22) and a College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship (2022 and 2023). She plans to pursue a career in academia.

Public health student Reem Berman (right) speaks with her teammate, Interdisciplinary Degree Program student Dalanda Jalloh, about their work.

Reem Berman. Berman earned a bachelor’s degree in public health in 2020 and a master’s in public health in 2023. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Award (ETA) to Saudi Arabia.

Berman says she was motivated to apply for the ETA to Saudi Arabia after witnessing the power of the English language during a visit to the country. She has worked with college students in a variety of capacities, including collaborating with UB’s Experiential Learning Network to lead undergraduates in a virtual project with a non-profit in Kenya.

Berman also has served as a venture coach, supporting student entrepreneurs. She has taught workshops to groups of 200 students, and has also assisted children with reading through a local public library. She hopes to help create a classroom environment where students are open to sharing their viewpoints. 

Berman is a winner of won both the WNY Prosperity Fellowship and a Blackstone Launchpad Fellowship.

Leah Cabarga.

Leah Cabarga. Cabarga, who received an undergraduate degree in 2023 and master’s degree in education in 2024, both from UB, is the recipient of an ETA to Montenegro.

Cabarga says she decided to pursue an ETA because of her interest in education and a desire to learn more about other cultures to inform her career in teaching. She has worked as a writing consultant at UB’s Center for Excellence in Writing, meeting with many students who speak English as a second language (ESL). Cabarga has tutored in the Buffalo Public Schools and worked as a substitute teacher in suburban school districts. 

She is a recipient of a Daniel Acker Scholarship (2019-23). After completing the Fulbright grant, Cabarga hopes to teach grades 5-12 in Buffalo.

Cameron Kowalczewski. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from UB in 2022, Kowalczewski earned an ETA to Taiwan.

A published poet, Kowalczewski says he pursued a Fulbright ETA because of his experience with education and language learning. He has tutored Somali Bantu refugees in the city of Buffalo, as well as non-native English speakers in Germany. 

His future plans include pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in linguistics.

Disorn Kwunchaithanya. A 2020 graduate from the School of Management with a BS in business administration, international business concentration, Kwunchaithanya received an English Teaching Award to Thailand.

Kwunchaithanya says he strongly believes in the power of English education and is currently pursuing a master’s in education with a focus on teaching adolescents with disabilities at the Banks Street College of Education in New York City. Kwunchaithanya has classroom experience as a special education teacher in New York City public schools and volunteered at a day care center for more than two years.

He plans to work toward a PhD degree in sociology and eventually an academic career.

Liza Wilson.

Liza Wilson. A master’s student in geology, Wilson earned a research grant to study “Rapid Deglaciation and Changes in Volcanism and Seismicity: Sólheimajökull Case Study” in Iceland. Wilson will be working on the ISVOLC: Effects of climate change induced Ice-retreat on Seismic and VOLCanic activity project at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences in Reykjavik, under the supervision of Freysteinn Sigmundsson.

Her research will center on the relationship between glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) caused by glacial retreat and changes in seismic and volcanic activity.

Wilson received the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship (2019-21) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Killam Undergraduate Fellowship (2019), awarded by Fulbright Canada.

After completing the Fulbright, Wilson plans to begin doctoral work studying volcano-ice interactions and climate change.