University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students and graduates continue to be recognized in their pursuit of study, teaching, and research abroad. Fourteen Volunteers have been selected for 2022–23 Fulbright student awards. Three students were named alternates.
In partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide, the Fulbright US Student Program offers opportunities to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals. More than 2,200 Fulbright awards are earned by US students annually, giving them the opportunity to study, conduct research, exchange ideas, and investigate critical issues facing the world from a global perspective.
As they carry out their grant-funded work, students will work with, live with, and learn from the people of their assigned host country.
“UT student scholars continue to establish our Volunteer community and university as a top institution for producing Fulbrighters and being a leader in higher education for study, research, and teaching,” said Amber Williams, vice provost for student success. “We are honored to celebrate these Vols as Fulbrighters and student scholars who exemplify the Volunteer spirit.”
Meet the Recipients
Ashlyn Anderson, of Franklin, Tennessee, is a senior with an interdisciplinary major in food security and public health nutrition through the College Scholars Program.
Anderson will be going to Mexico through the US–Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange as an English teaching assistant. She looks forward to learning more about the complex food history of Mexico from her students and engaging in the host community through gardening and art projects.
Gabriella Bellot, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in political science with minors in English and journalism.
She will be working as an English teaching assistant at a local university in Colombia.
“I am most excited to be in the classroom,” said Bellot. “I can’t wait to engage with students and collaborate as we learn from each other. I’m looking forward to furthering my love for learning and being able to support others.”
Sara Burnette, of Mount Carmel, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in biology with a minor in public health.
Burnette will be working as an English teaching assistant at a university in Mongolia.
She is excited for the opportunity to connect with colleagues and students in Mongolia and participate in cultural exchange. She is grateful for her professors and mentors who provided help and guidance throughout the application process.
“This award offers an unparalleled opportunity for my personal development as a global citizen,” said Burnette. “I’m incredibly grateful to represent UT and my Appalachian community internationally.”
Megan Engle, of Farragut, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in English, political science, and French.
She will be going to Belgium to complete a master’s in political science.
Her proposed dissertation will examine the relationship between Belgian electoral policy and sociopolitical conditions facing women in minority lingual groups.
Engle said she is excited “to have the opportunity to have a prolonged language immersion experience.” She is also looking forward to diving into the culinary and arts scene in Brussels.
Saylar Epperson, of Maynardville, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in political science with a concentration in law and court.
Epperson received an English teaching assistantship and will be teaching at a local high school in Levoča, Slovakia.
She will also be continuing her research on how school funding affects voter turnout as a supplemental project. Epperson looks forward to immersing herself in the country for 10 months and learning about the similarities and differences between the US and Slovakia.
Katherine Fulcher, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is a 2021 graduate with dual degrees in political science and Hispanic studies.
Fulcher received a Fulbright grant to attend Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
She will carry out her thesis research and complete a master’s degree in human geography with a specialization in European borders, identity, and governance.
“My ultimate goal is to eventually apply lessons from European border collaboration to the US–Mexico border. Receiving this grant will give me the opportunity to learn from and work with global scholars in critical border studies and live in a country and region where these policies are carried out daily,” said Fulcher.
Hannah Geerlings, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a second-year master’s student studying English.
She will be teaching English at a university in Romania while working on a research paper about public memory in Romanian museums.
“I’m most excited to learn more about international education, as I hope to teach English internationally. I also focused on Central and Eastern European history as an undergraduate, so I’m excited to spend time in a country that I’ve studied before but have never actually visited,” said Geerlings.
Hyunkyung Aileen Lee, of Queens, New York, is pursuing a master’s in secondary education.
Lee hopes to gather materials and data on how to best serve communities of transient students whose education has been interrupted by war, immigration, refugee status, or other circumstances. Her ultimate goal is to create an open-source curriculum available across the country.
“To win this award is incredibly exciting personally because I love any opportunity I have to travel and interact with academics in other countries,” said Lee. “My passion is teaching and serving minority student populations, so getting the chance to do that and help develop curriculum to help those students have some stability during uncertain times is something I am very grateful for.”
Timothy Meidl, of Knoxville, is a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology and philosophy.
Meidl will be going to Taiwan on a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. He is interested in partnering with environmental programs in Taiwan that promote the protection of open spaces, such as national parks, and species. Meidl plans to guide Taiwanese students learning English in an exploration of the southern Appalachian Mountains through personal photographs and anecdotes, culminating in an individual research project for students.
“I am excited for the adventure at hand and the people I will meet,” he said.
Cullen Sayegh, of Farragut, Tennessee, is a 2019 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
Sayegh will be attending graduate school at the Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy.
He hopes to work with local community groups in Ivrea to restore several former Olivetti buildings and develop a master plan for sustainable long-term redevelopment of the city’s former industrial zone.
“I have always wanted to pursue graduate school abroad,” said Sayegh. “The opportunity to develop my foreign language skills and analyze the built environment from a distinctly non-American perspective always excited me. I’m really excited to experience and sketch Italian architecture and urbanism firsthand.”
Niamh Schumacher, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is a December 2021 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in food science.
Schumacher received a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Rwanda. She is excited for the opportunity to pursue her passions for cultural exchange and education
“I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience interning as a nutrition educator in Rwanda with the UTIA Smith International Center in 2019,” said Schumacher. “I fell in love with Rwanda during my internship, so I feel like I am coming home.”
Juliana Upchurch, of Lebanon, Tennessee, is a senior studying reproductive health care from an interdisciplinary perspective through the College Scholars program.
Upchurch will be completing a master’s in the history and philosophy of medicine, science, and technology at the University of Toronto.
While in Toronto, she will work with indigenous midwifery clinics to better understand obstetric care practices for nonbinary populations.
“It means a lot to me to have received this award because it provides me with the financial support necessary to pursue my education and work to make a difference in obstetric international health,” said Upchurch.
Anita Voorhees, of Knoxville, is a 2019 graduate with Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and psychology. While pursuing these degrees, she minored in Italian and studied abroad in Urbino, Italy. She went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in English: Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics from UT, graduating last May.
Voorhees will be working as an English teaching assistant at an Italian secondary school in southern Italy.
“I learned during my study abroad that I love the Italian culture, language, and food,” said Voorhees. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach in Italy for nine months, and I think it will be the adventure of a lifetime.”
The 14th student offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship has declined the award.
The three students designated alternates will receive awards if placements become available during the coming months. UT had 63 students apply for the Fulbright award and 37 semifinalists.
“UT students continue to be nationally competitive applicants, and the Fulbright culture on campus grows every year,” said Laura DeFurio, acting director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. “Every year I look forward to working with students from all corners of campus as they plan their Fulbright applications: one morning I may be talking with an architecture student about a midcentury factory built in Italy and in the afternoon with an education major about second-language acquisition strategies in high school classrooms.”
UT students and recent graduates interested in the Fulbright and other nationally competitive awards can visit the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Fulbright page to learn more about the UT campus application process, which begins with a meeting with URF staff and attendance at Fulbright essay writing workshops, led by Laura De Furio and RK Fauth, URF’s senior writing consultant.
The Fulbright Program also awards grants to US scholars, teachers, and faculty to teach and conduct research overseas. Interested UT faculty can contact Alan Rutenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org, in the Office of Research and Engagement.
In addition to the overseas placement of students from the United States, some 4,000 Fulbright students and scholars come to the US annually from other countries to study, lecture, conduct research, and teach foreign languages.