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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



CONTACT: Steve Witmer, News Bureau director, 217-333-1085

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Ten University of Illinois students have been offered student Fulbright grants to pursue international educational, research and teaching experiences this coming year. These students and young alumni will be sharing their distinct Illinois experiences with others throughout Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build international relations to solve global challenges. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program’s establishment. Based on their academic and professional achievement, as well as their demonstrated leadership potential, approximately 1,900 U.S. citizens will travel abroad for the 2016-17 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The recipients:

Avanti Chajed, of Champaign, Illinois, has been offered a Fulbright grant to pursue a master’s degree in education at the University of Turku in Finland. After graduating from Illinois in May 2013 as a James Scholar honors student with a B.S. in education, Chajed spent a year in India as an English teacher and curriculum consultant. She has held teaching positions at Northview Intermediate School in Rantoul, Illinois, and Martin Luther King Elementary school in Urbana, Illinois. Chajed is fascinated to explore how educational policies in Finland have resulted in Finnish students being ranked among the top in the world. Upon her return to the U.S., Chajed hopes to use her Fulbright experience to help develop curricula to reduce learning gaps for lower income students in local school districts.

Melody Chua, of Vernon Hills, Illinois, will pursue a master’s degree in flute performance at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste in Switzerland. Her main project there will be to develop an electroacoustic flute and create multimedia performances with the instrument by collaborating with musicians, visual artists and dancers in the community.  Chua graduated as a Chancellor’s Scholar and Bronze Tablet Scholar from Illinois in May 2016 with double bachelor’s degrees in flute performance and music technology. She also will perform this summer at the Montréal Contemporary Music Lab and the Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab as one of four fellowship recipients. She plans a career as a flute performer, pushing for greater electronic advances in flute repertoire, and also as an educator of both standard and contemporary performance practices.

Scott Cinel, of Elmwood Park, Illinois, has been offered one of two Fulbright grants to Panama. He plans to explore the fall armyworm’s response to various levels of bat ultrasound with scientists from the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. After entering Illinois in the Division of General Studies, Cinel earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences as a James Scholar honors student. He was awarded a Bronze Tablet in May 2014 before embarking on his master’s degree in entomology, also at Illinois. He previously conducted master’s level research for a semester in Panama through the aid of a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellowship.  Cinel plans to earn a Ph.D. and teach and conduct research on integrated pest management.

Lauren Colby, of Morton, Illinois, will undertake a 12-month Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Thailand, where she will assist local instructors in teaching elementary or high school students.  Colby previously spent a gap year in Thailand as a Rotary Youth Exchange student before matriculating at Illinois. As an undergraduate, Colby studied the impact of education on development during a summer in Ecuador and later sought to address English language learning difficulties for Chinese speakers.  She earned a B.A. in May 2014, graduating with highest distinction in global studies and James Scholar honors.  Colby spent the past 18 months teaching English as a second language in the adult education program at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois. She is preparing for a career as a global advocate for accessibility to education, especially within the context of ESL.

Carol Grzych, of Glenview, Illinois, has been offered a Fulbright as an English teaching assistant for nine months in Poland. She will be placed at a Polish university teaching specialized English in scientific and business fields.  Grzych graduated with a B.S. in chemical engineering in May 2016 as a Chancellor’s Scholar. She received a full tuition award to attend Illinois as a Stamps Scholar and was accepted as a member of the campus Hoeft Technology and Management Program, which brings top students from engineering and business fields together for cross-disciplinary learning. After a Fulbright year honing her intercultural communication skills, Grzych will work as a global management trainee with AB InBev, where she hopes to build an international management career.

Regina Hinders, of Champaign, Illinois, is planning to participate in the Fulbright Student Program as an English teaching assistant in Mexico this fall. After beginning at Illinois in the Division of General Studies, Hinders graduated with a double major in Spanish and psychology in May 2014. She has worked as a Spanish tutor, as a substitute teacher at Central High School in Champaign, and as an English teaching assistant in Barcelona, Spain.  Hinders seeks to utilize her social justice involvement and artistic abilities to further connect with individuals while in Mexico. After teaching under the Fulbright, Hinders hopes to pursue a career teaching Spanish at the high school level.

Morgan Hollie, of Chicago, has been offered a Fulbright grant to study the role of women in the Y'en a Marre movement, a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists who allied to support political change in Senegal.  Hollie graduated from Illinois in May 2015 with a B.A. in global studies. She spent the spring semester of her senior year studying abroad in Senegal as a David L. Boren Scholar, and was awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship for her studies of Wolof. While abroad, Hollie gathered data for her senior thesis regarding how Senegal and Mali respond differently to conflict. Upon returning to the United States, Hollie plans to continue her formal education on West Africa and ultimately work for the United States Agency for International Development.

Sheila Park, of Chicago, plans to embark on a Fulbright grant to South Korea as an English teaching assistant. She will live with a host family and teach conversational English to middle and high school students.  Park graduated with high honors from Illinois in May 2015 both as a James Scholar and an Illinois Promise Scholar, earning a bachelor’s in advertising and a minor in teaching English as a second language. At Illinois, Park taught conversational English through the Intensive English Institute and supported fundraising efforts for the College of Media and University of Illinois Foundation. She also studied abroad for a summer in Korea with a Gilman Scholarship.  Park hopes to pursue further studies at the intersection of social identity, education and youth empowerment within underprivileged communities and Asian-American families.

Ruchi Tekriwal, of Lakeville, Minnesota, has been offered a Fulbright English teaching assistantship to Jordan for the 2016-17 academic year.  Tekriwal graduated from Illinois in August 2015 with a B.A. in linguistics. As an undergraduate, Tekriwal studied abroad for a summer in Oman with a Critical Language Scholarship, a semester in Morocco, and an academic year in Jordan, for which she was awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship. She has previously taught English in Jordan and served as an English conversation partner with the Intensive English Institute at Illinois. After her Fulbright, Tekriwal plans to pursue a master's degree to learn more about refugee issues and migration in the Middle East before seeking employment with an international aid organization.

Jamison Watson, of Emmetsburg, Iowa, will conduct renewable energy research at China Agricultural University in Beijing. With the Fulbright, he plans to test a new method to upgrade the quality of biocrude oil produced from swine manure. A graduate from St. Olaf College with a bachelor’s in chemistry, Watson will graduate from Illinios in August 2016 with a master’s in agricultural and biological engineering. He previously received a Critical Language Scholarship to fund two months of Mandarin study in Xi'an, China, during summer 2015. Beyond his research pursuits, Watson has been active as the executive director of the Innovation Immersion Program; in fall 2015 he led groups of international consultants to provide technical expertise for companies worldwide. After his Fulbright year, Watson plans to work toward a Ph.D. at Illinois before seeking to improve the environment through employment with an organization such as the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center.

The Fulbright program is administered at Illinois by the National and International Scholarships Program, which works with undergraduates and recent alumni, and the Office of External Fellowships, which assists current graduate students applying for the grant. More than 70 Illinois faculty and staff with geographic and programmatic expertise review student application materials and conduct interviews of candidates.

“This year’s Illinois grantees confirm that opportunities under the Fulbright program truly are open to a wide variety of individuals,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program. “The 10 University of Illinois applicants offered Fulbright grants include graduating seniors, master’s candidates and recent alumni who come from our colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Education; Fine and Applied Arts; Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Media.”

 “Winning a Fulbright grant requires not only scholarly excellence but also adaptability, maturity and integrity,” said Ken Vickery, the director of the Office of External Fellowships. “This is why the Fulbright program is held in such high esteem the world over.  Fulbright scholars promote international goodwill by serving as cultural ambassadors as well as by their exemplary research and teaching.”

Applications are open for students interested in pursuing studies, fine arts, research, or English teaching assistantships under the Fulbright for the 2017-18 academic year.