Campus News

Six UB students, one alum win prestigious Fulbright grants

From left, Jenny Simon, Stanzi Vaubel, Paige Melin, Ashley Cercone, Mariangela Perrella, Hanna Santanam, Madeline Elminowski.

UB's 2019-20 Fulbright Award recipients and alternates. From left, Jenny Simon, Stanzi Vaubel, Paige Melin, Ashley Cercone, Mariangela Perrella, Hanna Santanam and Madeline Elminowski. Not pictured: Haleigh Morgan and Matthew Straub. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published April 26, 2019

“Our goal is nothing less than to eventually become one of the top producers of Fulbright grants in the country. Our student body is a font of amazing individuals who could win many, many Fulbrights if we could just connect with them.”
Patrick McDevitt, associate professor of history and adviser
UB's Fulbright Program

Six UB students and one alumna have won Fulbright awards, the prestigious national scholarship competition for grants to study, research and teach abroad in 2019-20.

Five of UB’s winners received English Teaching Assistantships, placing them in educational institutions in their host nations to serve as teachers’ assistants. The other two won research grants, the traditional award opportunity where recipients design their own projects and work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutions of higher education.

The seven Fulbright winners are joined by two alternates. The success UB students had in this year’s Fulbright class was an important step in UB’s aspirations of becoming one of the country’s top-producing universities of Fulbright winners, according to UB administrators and professors overseeing the program.

“I’m thrilled that UB had such a successful year,” says Patrick McDevitt, Fulbright program adviser, associate professor in the Department of History and a 1993 Fulbright grantee to New Zealand. “The Fulbright is a life-changing program for the grantees.”

Eleven students applied for the English Teaching Award to nine different countries: Colombia, Germany, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Romania, Rwanda and Senegal, according to McDevitt. A dozen students applied to study and research abroad in eight different countries: Canada, Germany, Greece, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Topics to be studied include archeology, textile conservation, education, bio-engineering, environmental studies, history, installation art and performance art, McDevitt says.

“This was a record number of applicants for UB and resulted in a record number of awards.”

“Megan Stewart in the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships and I are currently recruiting potential applicants for the next cycle of Fulbright,” McDevitt says. “We hope to broaden our pool of applicants to include students from every school at UB and to grow the program.

“Our goal is nothing less than to eventually become one of the top producers of Fulbright grants in the country,” he says. “Our student body is a font of amazing individuals who could win many, many Fulbrights if we could just connect with them.”

Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright Scholarships are awarded to nearly 8,000 students and scholars each year. The scholarship covers airfare to the country one is studying in and a stipend to cover housing expenses. It was proposed by Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1945 as a way to promote peace and friendship among all the nations of the world.

“When we created the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships in 2016, our goal was to increase the number of UB students applying for nationally and internationally competitive fellowships and scholarships,” says Elizabeth A. Colucci, director of UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships.

“The partnership among our office, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of International Education has been instrumental in our ability to reach students. Fellowships and scholarships is a collaborative effort, and it is working!” Colucci says. “Megan Stewart, assistant director, has been doing a wonderful job on the awards that send students abroad, including Fulbright, Critical Language and Boren. Pat McDevitt and Megan are a wonderful team, and I couldn’t be happier.”

The students winning English Teaching Awards are:

  • Paige Melin, a 2013 graduate of UB and a member of Phi Beta Kappa who also holds an MA from the University of Maine. Melin applied for the Fulbright award through UB's Fulbright program. She currently works as the education coordinator for Explore Buffalo and as a teaching artist for the Queen City Home School Collective and Young Audiences of Western New York. Melin will travel to Senegal, where she hopes to use her background in poetry and translation to connect with her students.
  • Haleigh Morgan, a senior English major at UB, will travel to Malaysia. Morgan has worked as a camp counselor for the Saranac Lake Youth Program, a tutor at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center in Buffalo and a writing tutor at UB. Morgan’s ultimate career goal is to teach English at the secondary level. She looks forward to spending the year learning Malay and building lasting connections with her host community.
  • Hanna Santanam, a senior anthropology and English double major with minors in global gender studies and Asian studies. She will spend her Fulbright year in India. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Santanam previously studied in India in the summer of 2017, thanks to a Critical Language Scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Jenny Simon, a senior who is studying linguistics, education and English. She will spend her Fulbright year in Mongolia. Simon speaks Mandarin and has traveled extensively in China. She received a Critical Language Scholarship to China in 2018.
  • Matthew Straub, a senior studying architecture and earth systems science. Straub has been awarded an English Teaching Assistantship in Germany. He is a UB Presidential Scholar and active community volunteer, who has worked at the Tool Library in North Buffalo and Grassroots Gardens of Western New York. In addition to teaching English, Straub hopes to form a Design Club at his host institution to help students engage with their built environments.

The two students receiving research grants are:

  • Ashley Cercone, a doctoral student in anthropology. She will travel to Turkey to analyze early Bronze Age ceramics from archaeological sites along the Great Caravan Route, which linked Mesopotamia to the Aegean world. Her project will be among the first to employ cutting-edge analytical technologies, namely laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and portable X-ray fluorescence (p-XRF), on Bronze Age ceramics in Turkey. She earned a BA in classics and anthropology from UB in 2016.
  • Stanzi Vaubel, a doctoral candidate in media study. She holds an MFA from UB and a BA from Northwestern University. She will travel to Montreal to work with Canadian researchers creating large-scale collaborative performances that unite a wide variety of communities into a week-long festival. Vaubel is founder, director and co-producer of the Indeterminacy Festival (2016-present). She has been a cellist with Juilliard Pre-College, and has collaborated with the Watermill Center, the Long House and Carnegie Hall. She also has earned commissions with the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Burchfield Penney Arts Center, KANEKO, Chicago Public Radio, New York Public Radio, Third Coast Audio Fest, Free City Fest and Public Space 1.

Additionally, two students were named alternates: Mariangela Perrella is an alternate for a research grant to the United Kingdom and Madeline Elminowski is an alternate for an English Teaching Assistantship to Colombia.