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Setting a new record for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 19 students have been offered Fulbright US Student Program awards for the 2018–19 academic year to study, research, and teach in cities around the world.

In its history UT has had 77 student Fulbright recipients, with its first in 1959. This year, UT had 52 Fulbright candidates and 27 semifinalists, and 19 students have already been offered awards—all single-year records for the university. UT also has a student designated as an alternate who could still receive an award. A year ago UT had what was then an institutional best of nine Fulbright recipients, preceded by four (2016), four (2015), and two (2014).

“There is definite Fulbright momentum at UT,” said Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, which works with students as they apply for prestigious awards such as the Fulbright. “The quality of our student candidates—their ideas, their energy, their curiosity about the world—and these results have us comparing favorably with top research universities across the country. That would not be possible without a campus-wide network of faculty and staff who support students’ efforts to really stretch themselves in and out of the classroom. I think the Fulbright competition is bringing out the best of UT.”

The students offered awards are:

Rena Abdurehman, of Memphis, a senior in biochemistry, and cellular and molecular biology. She will go to Argentina to study the use of aquatic duckweed as a robust, low-cost means of wastewater purification and look at whether the plant could be effective in reducing the prevalence of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. “With this opportunity, I hope to combine my passions for science, humanity, and health in preparation for my future role in the medical field,” she said. At UT, Abdurehman been part of the EAP Summer Research Institute and appeared in a recent #UTellOurStory video with her research mentor, Professor Barry Bruce.

Jacqueline Adams, of Chattanooga, a May 2017 Chancellor’s Honors Program graduate in psychology with a minor in political science. She will go to Hungary to do research on how to encourage Budapest residents to adopt technology to limit home energy use. “My studies in Budapest will shape my future career, as I hope to create and implement environmental policy that promotes diplomacy and collaboration across countries,” she said.

Carolyn Barnes, of Knoxville, a senior in chemistry and a member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program. She will go to the Czech Republic to study the dynamics of pancreatic cells involved in insulin release. “I am excited to experience the Czech Republic by being immersed in the culture while also pursuing research that I find really interesting,” she said. In summer of 2017 Barnes was a DAAD RISE Scholar at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Kimberly Bress, of Melbourne Beach, Florida, a senior majoring in neuroscience and mental health as a College Scholar. She will spend the year researching the etiology and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease at the Centro Alzheimer de la Fundación Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. “The experience of living and conducting research in Madrid through the Fulbright Program will combine my interest in science with my love for Spanish in an incredible way,” said Bress, who is a Haslam Scholar and was honored as a Torchbearer. Bress was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in 2017.

Tiana Castillo, of Nolensville, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in communication studies with a minor in religious studies. She will travel to Vietnam for an English teaching assistantship. “Words cannot express the joy I feel in regards to this opportunity to return to Vietnam and teach English,” said Castillo, who spent the summer of 2016 in Da Nang, Vietnam, studying Vietnamese language and culture and serving as a volunteer English teacher.

Stephen (Alex) Crockett, of Jamestown, Tennessee, a senior in food science and technology, will be working on his master’s degree in agriculture and rural development at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Crockett, a Haslam Scholar, said he plans to study the interactions between the global agriculture industry, rural community development, and the quality of health care and rural livelihood. He expects the experience “will help shape my future career aspirations to serve as a medical doctor working with nonprofit organizations and government agencies in rural and underserved communities in the United States and around the world.” Crockett was previously a national finalist for the Truman Scholarship.

Savannah Dixon, of Memphis, a May 2017 Chancellor’s Honors Program graduate in architecture and Hispanic studies. Dixon has been offered a 10-month English teaching assistantship in Guatemala in a school for upper-level postsecondary students. “I am still in shock that I was chosen for this incredible opportunity after two years of hard work and research,” Dixon said.

William (Dillon) Dunn, of Hermitage, Tennessee, a senior in architecture and a member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program. He will be doing research in Indonesia on the ancient and contemporary architecture of Java through the theme of pilgrimage to investigate how buildings accommodate religious traditions and respond to sociocultural, economic, and ecological change. Last year, he received an Aydelott Travel Award, which allowed him to travel through Europe and Asia to study the architecture of religious structures. He said he’s excited “to return to Indonesia to connect with some of the kindest people and richest cultures that I have ever encountered.”

Derek Galyon, of Athens, Tennessee, a December 2017 graduate in political science with minors in religious studies and Africana studies. He will work on his master’s in international security and conflict studies in Ireland at Dublin City University. Galyon will focus on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. “This is an incredible opportunity that will aid me in achieving my professional goal of earning a PhD in political science,” he said.

Tamra Gilbertson, of Fargo, North Dakota, a doctoral student in sociology. She will do dissertation research by studying the economic and environmental impact of coal extraction and exports in Colombia. “The goal of a transition away from fossil fuel dependence rests on wrestling with questions of equity regarding where fossil fuels are extracted, who profits, and at what costs, especially regarding large-scale extraction such as coal mining in Colombia.”

Brennan Hicks, of McEwen, Tennessee, a December 2015 graduate in microbiology. He has been awarded an English teaching assistantship in Brazil. “I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to represent my alma mater and my country as a cultural ambassador in Brazil  . . . while sharing my love of language learning with Brazilian students.”

Miranda Johnson, of Harrisburg, North Carolina, a senior in anthropology and Hispanic studies. Johnson will research dental modification practices observed in a specific set of human remains from the Jicáro site in the Nicoya Region of Costa Rica and compare them to contemporary pre-Columbian groups. “This time last year I was receiving letters of rejection from different graduate programs that I had applied to, but with the support of my advisors, family, and friends, I stuck around to complete a second degree and apply for this opportunity. I cannot put into words my gratitude to everyone who helped me get here. I also cannot stress enough the importance of not letting rejection get you down but using it to further fuel your fire to succeed,” she said.

Yuki Minami, of Baltimore, Maryland, a senior in modern foreign languages and literatures focusing on Japanese language and world business. A student veteran, Minami will go to Japan to research the role of Japanese women under the imperial government from 1910 to 1945. “I hope my selection for the Fulbright will be an example of hard work and dedication—that a person’s dream ultimately does pay off, even if you are from the bottom of society. Sometimes it takes extra steps to break through the challenges in life, but that extra work makes ordinary people extraordinary.”

Miles Ownby, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a senior in biosystems engineering and a Haslam Scholar. He will work on his master’s degree in chemical engineering at the Université Laval in Canada. He will be studying nutrient recovery via anaerobic digestion and water resource restoration. “I’m fulfilling my dreams of language immersion and acquisition, environmental stewardship, and the opportunity to be a cultural ambassador for the United States,” he said.

Katie Plank, of Knoxville, a May 2017 graduate in ecology and evolutionary biology. A transfer student who minored in Chinese, Plank will spend 11 months as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan. “Ever since I first studied abroad in Taiwan, I’ve been dreaming about going back for a longer period of time, and being selected for a Fulbright has made that hope a reality.” In summer of 2017 Plank was a Critical Language Scholar in China.

Avanti Rangnekar, of Knoxville, a senior in economics and a Haslam Scholar. She will work with a hospital in India on a health economics research project that seeks to better understand how factors such as culture and tradition motivate consumption in the informal health care sector. “Receiving a Fulbright to India not only grants me the ability to experience firsthand the rapidly evolving Indian health care system, but it also gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture that contributes significantly to my identity as a South Asian American,” she said.

Trent Sanders, of Anchorage, Alaska, a master’s degree student in English literature and textual studies. He will go to Romania on a creative arts grant. “I will write a play on Romanian Christian exiles fleeing persecution in the 1950s from Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu,” he said. “Receiving the Fulbright made life complicated, in the best possible way, and as a writer, I thrive inside of the complicated.”

Joseph Wilson, of Springfield, Illinois, a master’s degree student in English, with a focus on rhetoric writing and linguistics, is the assistant director of English as a Second Language and a graduate teaching associate. He teaches cross-cultural composition at UT. Wilson will be an English teaching assistant in Kazakhstan and will also be studying Kazakh and conducting research on multilingual student writing. “The Fulbright will afford me an incredible opportunity to teach and research in a region with a long history of linguistic diversity and adaptability as well as developing lasting relationships with Kazakhstani people outside of the major metropolitan areas of the country.”

Conny Zhao, of Knoxville, a senior majoring in music with a concentration on music and culture and minoring in Chinese. She will travel to China on a creative arts grant to study Mongolian long-song performance at Inner Mongolia Arts University. She will be working on a concert series, musical album, and educational website to disseminate traditional Mongolian music to a wider audience.”The Fulbright gives me a unique opportunity to immerse myself in so many diverse languages and musical traditions,” she said. “Not only will I be able to learn more about my own culture as a Chinese American, but I will also be able to study a completely different and underrepresented culture in China.”

In addition, Christopher Neal, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a senior majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program, is a Fulbright alternative for a study and research grant to Germany and could be offered a grant at a later date.

UT students and recent graduates interested in the Fulbright should visit the ONSF Fulbright page and meet with ONSF staff to learn more about the Fulbright Program and the UT campus application process, which begins with a brief preapplication due May 14.

Contact:

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)