Published May 6, 2022
Seven UB students and alumni have won Fulbright awards, the prestigious national scholarship competition for grants to study, research and teach abroad, a success rate equaling UB’s best-ever year for these “global citizen” Fulbright scholars.
“For 75 years, the Fulbright program has forged intellectual and cultural bonds around the world,” says Patrick McDevitt, Fulbright program adviser, associate professor in the Department of History and a 1993 Fulbright grantee to New Zealand.
“This year’s results equal our best ever,” notes McDevitt, who recognized the contribution of Megan Stewart, director of UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, whose office was essential for UB’s banner year in Fulbright winners. “UB’s success in the Fulbright is both a testament to our growing international orientation as a university and an integral part of our future development.
“As returned Fulbrighters go on to become leaders in their fields,” McDevitt says, “they carry with them an awareness of their status as global citizens, thanks to their experiences of living, learning and teaching abroad.”
The seven awards are further evidence to back up UB’s aspirations of becoming one of the country’s top producing universities of national and international scholarly honors, none more important than the Fulbrights, according to McDevitt and Stewart.
Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright grants are awarded to nearly 8,000 students and scholars each year. It covers airfare to the country where winners study 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.
“Our goal is nothing less than to eventually become one of the top producers of Fulbright grants in the country,” McDevitt says. “Our student body is a font of amazing individuals who could win many, many Fulbrights if we could just connect with them.”
UB’s Office of Fellowships and Scholarships approved 20 Fulbright applications this academic year, recommending 12 to the national committees, according to McDevitt and Stewart. Of these 12, seven received awards.
The seven students include current students and UB alumni, all of whom applied for their Fulbright awards through the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships.
Callie Camodeca-Schmitz. A graduating senior in classics and history, Camodeca-Schmitz won a study grant to the Netherlands. She will attend Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam for a one-year master’s program in classics and ancient civilizations.
Camodeca-Schmitz cites as an important personal quality that she is a communist and has organized pride marches with the Workers’ World Party in Buffalo. “Alternatively, I am a big fan of creative writing in Latin,” says Camodeca-Schmitz, owner of two cats, Hugo and Eurus. “I also enjoy camping and going for walks in the wilderness.”
Elizabeth Kubiniec. A 2021 UB alumna who majored in Spanish, Kubiniec earned an English Teaching Assistantship to Mexico. Kubiniec has deferred her acceptance to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for a year to take the Fulbright. “Some folks might find it a bit disjointed/unusual to read that I studied Spanish in undergrad, will be doing an English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright and then attending medical school,” Kubiniec says.
She says she hopes to apply her Spanish studies and Fulbright experience to a medical career that treats patients’ cultures as advantages in promoting their best health status.
Sophie May. A graduating senior in political science and French, May won an English Teaching Assistantship to Latvia. An aspiring diplomat, May also is UB’s first recipient of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, which she will defer for a year to take the Fulbright. May plans to pursue a degree specializing in U.S. national security pertaining to Eastern Europe, Russia and Eurasia. She hopes to intern at an embassy abroad and will attend graduate school at Georgetown.
The recipient of a 2022 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, May is founder and president of the UB French Club, vice president of the Political Science Association and a college ambassador for the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. She has also interned at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the Hudson Institute, the Joint Baltic American Committee and the National Defense University.
Kathleen Naughton. A doctoral candidate in the Department of English and part of the Poetics Program, Naughton won a U.S. Fulbright student research grant to Canada at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, working with faculty member Jeff Derksen.
Naughton is the author of the chapbooks “Study” (Above/Ground Press, 2021) and “A Second Singing” (forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press, 2022). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, Bennington Review and Michigan Quarterly Review. She is working on two collections of poems: “Debt Ritual” and “the real ethereal,” a finalist for the 2021 Nightboat Poetry Prize and the 2021 Autumn House Press Book Prize under the title “Hour Song.”
Naughton is a publicist and assistant editor at Essay Press, editor and project manager at the HOW(ever) and How2 Digital Archive Project (launching in 2022), and founder of Etcetera, a web journal of reading recommendations from poets.
Brianna Porter. Currently a third-year doctoral candidate in anthropology, Porter won a research grant to Thailand. Her study will be based in Chanthaburi, where she will carry out ethnographic fieldwork to learn about the complexities surrounding shrimp aquaculture certification and the management of environmental challenges.
Porter is a member of the Global Scholars Program, an initiative to recognize students who structure their learning and work around developing a more comprehensive global world view through study abroad and foreign language proficiency. Porter is also the recipient of the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship for Thai language learning.
Vice president of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association, Porter is also a red belt in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art derived from judo, boxing, aikido and karate. She started practicing it in January 2020 to learn a practical form of self-defense, and says she enjoy the principles of respect and self-discipline that it teaches its practitioners.
Pemba Sherpa. A 2020 alumna who double majored in psychology and social sciences interdisciplinary-legal studies, Sherpa won an English Teaching Assistantship to Nepal. Sherpa was raised in Nepal along with her siblings, and lived for two years in a hostel in the capital city of Kathmandu to receive better schooling. Her mother and grandmother continued to live in the mountain village of Sanogumela, where Sherpa later attended school. At age 9 and about to enter second grade, she and her family immigrated to the U.S., where her father had settled before the rest of the family arrived.
During winter break of her senior year at UB, Sherpa, accompanied by fellow UB graduate and Nepal native Hemanta Adhikari, returned to Sanogumela and her former school. As part of an experiential program they called “Scholars of Tomorrow,” the two women fundraised online to collect winter jackets, shoes and school supplies. After arriving at Lukla Airport, they walked four hours in wintry weather to deliver these materials to Shree Janasewa Basic Secondary School.
Sherpa says she found her academic purpose when she participated as a sophomore in the annual Global Innovation Challenge sponsored by UB’s Community of Excellence for Global Health Equity. She and her team developed United Youth, a mentoring program that pairs newly arrived refugee high school students with former refugees.
David Tallents. A 2020 alumnus who double-majored in political science and mathematics, Tallents won an English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic. His desire to teach English in the Czech Republic stems initially from his interest in European political culture and his career goals of serving as a foreign service officer and possibly in academia. Tallents has experience teaching a broad range of topics, from math to politics, and is a TEFL-certified instructor. Tallents also has served as an Americorps volunteer.
He currently is finishing his master’s degree in political science at McGill University in Montréal, where he specializes in European politics and the EU.
“His decision to pursue a MA at McGill in Montreal and study abroad in Lille demonstrated to the (Fulbright nominating) committee that he was able to combine a cosmopolitan world view with a firm grounding in his place of origin,” according to his campus committee evaluation form. “This combination will serve him well, as both an ETA and representative of the U.S. Furthermore, as an aspiring FSO, this experience will serve as important training for his future in the diplomatic world.”
Tallents also is an avid piano player.