UMass Amherst Claims ‘Sweet 16’ Fulbright Awards

Fulbright globe logo

AMHERST, Mass. – This year a campus record 16 Fulbright scholarships have been awarded to University of Massachusetts Amherst students to study, research or teach English in other countries for one year.

“It’s a happy coincidence that 16 students won in 2016,” says professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, director of the UMass Office of National Scholarship Advisement. She added, “For these students, it’s a terrific opportunity; for UMass it’s recognition for the high quality of education our campus provides.”

UMass Amherst has earned recognition as a “Top Producing Institution” from the Fulbright Program for the past two years.

Beginning this month, these Fulbright scholars will be on four continents, with seven grantees teaching English, eight conducting research and one enrolling in a graduate studies program. Of the year’s recipients, seven are undergraduates, seven are graduate students and two are alumni.

UMass is sending its first Fulbright researchers to Kosovo and Romania, and a Fulbright English teaching assistant to Brazil for the first time. Multiple students will be heading to China, Russia and Germany.

Canaan Asbury will travel to Germany to teach English in North Rhine-Westphalia. Asbury earned a master’s degree in history with a focus on German history in 2016. He is a licensed airplane pilot and hopes to enter a doctoral program after the Fulbright year.

Alexander Bogdan will travel to Romania to investigate the role of environmental exposures on cervical cancer in Romanian women. He hopes to help physicians with accurate disease prediction and informative clinical recommendations. Bogdan earned bachelor’s degrees in public health sciences and in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2015. He completed a master’s degree in biostatistics this month.

Maegan Boutot will combine her previous research with her love of the Russian language to conduct a public health project in Russia on dating culture and sexual health in university-aged Russian and foreign students. Boutot earned a master’s degree in epidemiology in 2016.

Rachel Carrillo will spend the year teaching English at a university in Morocco where she hopes to encourage students to explore American culture and identity. Also a Gilman Scholarship recipient, Carrillo later plans to apply for a foreign affairs fellowship and eventually join the U.S. Foreign Service.

Erica Johnston will return to Germany, where she studied for a year, to teach English to high school students in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The 2015 graduate earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and in German and Scandinavian studies, as well as a certificate in international relations.

Rebecca Kanter will be the first UMass Amherst graduate to teach English in Brazil under the Fulbright program. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Kanter previously studied in Brazil, where she taught English to young students. 

Jakob Lengacher will return to Harbin, China, where he spent his junior year. He will continue his senior thesis research on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at Heilongjiang University exploring the organization’s viability as a vehicle for renewable energy development in Central Asia. Also a Boren scholarship winner, Lengacher earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature in 2016.

Sorelle Mbakop will go to the University of Auvergne in France to complete a master’s degree in sustainable development in developing countries and countries in transition. The 2015 graduate earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental and natural resource economics and in journalism, and has been working as an urban business initiatives analyst.

Arya Mohanka will travel to South Korea to teach English. She graduated in 2015 with a self-designed bachelor’s degree in population studies and a certificate in Asian and Asian American studies. Since then she has been traveling and teaching English in Sichuan Province, China, to gain experience for her Fulbright year.

Brendan Moore will teach English in Malaysia. The 2016 graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in resource economics and completed an honors thesis on safer alternatives to toxic flame retardants used in dormitory furniture.

Adam Pepi will travel far above the Arctic Circle to Tromsø, Norway, to research the population dynamics of two moth species in northern Scandinavia. Pepi earned a bachelor’s degree in forest ecology and conservation in 2014 and a master’s in organismic and evolutionary biology in 2015. He currently works as abiological control research assistant and after completing his Fulbright year will enter a doctoral program to study the effects of climate change on the dynamics of native coastal woolly bear caterpillars.

Bryn Rothschild-Shea will travel to Logroño, Spain to teach English at an elementary school. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders. Since then she has worked at a school for students with autism. After her Fulbright year Rothschild-Shea intends to continue in the field of education as a speech-language pathologist.

Kyle Sweeney will conduct research at the University of Mitrovica in Kosovo to examine how the country prepares for and manages droughts. As an undergraduate, Sweeney completed an internship in American Samoa and spent time living among the Cree people in northern Quebec. He graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources conservation.

Steven Tagle will spend the year in Greece studying English translations of Greek myths, conducting qualitative interviews with young people and rewriting Greek myths about monsters and monstrous acts in response to the country’s financial and refugee crises. A published writer, Tagle earned a master of fine arts in English in 2016.

Lauren Woodard will travel to Vladivostok, Russia, to research how Russia’s migration policies intersect with other initiatives to develop post-industrial post-Soviet cities. She has studied Russian civilizations and lived in Russia as well as Kazakhstan. In 2015, she was awarded a master’s degree in anthropology.

Rebekah Zimmerer will head to the Joensuu campus of the University of Eastern Finland, where she will compare forest landowners in Finland to those in the U.S. and examine the role of women in forest ownership and management throughout Finland. Zimmerer is pursuing a master’s degree in forest resources and arboriculture.

Established 60 years ago by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide. Since its inception, more than 300,000 U.S. and foreign scholars have participated in the program, teaching, studying and researching while also engaging in activities to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations.