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Updated: Eight UMBC students win prestigious Fulbright Scholarship

Eight UMBC students have been declared recipients of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship for the 2018-2019 year.

The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. cultural exchange program and was founded in 1946 by former U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright in an effort to promote international peace during World War II. It is funded primarily through an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Direct and indirect support is also provided by governments, host institutions and corporations in many foreign countries.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries worldwide and enables students and rising professionals to excel in international graduate study, advanced research and primary to post-secondary school teaching, in order to “facilitate cultural exchange… in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity and intellectual freedom.”

Each year, more than 11,000 graduating seniors, postgraduates and young professionals apply for the opportunity to receive a Fulbright U.S. Student grant nationwide. Out of these applicants, 1,900 are selected as Fulbright Scholars. This year, UMBC had 33 of their own apply, with eight making the cut as Fulbright recipients.

Strong candidates undergo a rigorous application process. Applications are open from March until early October, and decisions are made in March of the following year. The year-long process requires most applicants to go through several stages including creating a personal statement, selecting a host country and assembling a statement of grant purpose.

Brian Souders, Associate Director of the International Education Services, stated that the process was very competitive, but that what makes an applicant stand out is their commitment to enhancing cultural relations and commitment to their project, which he personally saw in all of the following eight UMBC recipients.

Sophia Lopresti, a senior global studies major and intercultural communication minor, will be teaching English in Indonesia. She is a Sondheim Scholar and has done volunteer work in Nicaragua, Panama and Indonesia for the Global Brigades program as part of her dedication to helping immigrants there and improving healthcare access around the world.

Morgan Chadderton, a senior Russian and French two-language major with a minor in politicial science, will be an English Teaching Assistant in Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the Honors College and a Humanities Scholar. Chadderton reacted to her win, saying that she was “super excited” to be a Fulbright scholar and calling it “an amazing and truly rewarding experience” where she hopes to learn just as much as she teaches.

Manisha Vepa, a senior global studies and economics major, will be teaching English at the secondary school level in South Korea. She is also a member of the Honors College and a Sondheim Scholar. Vepa said that she hoped to be “more informed about Korean history and culture” and develop close relationships so that she may “share American culture inside and outside of the classroom.”

Flora Kirk, a senior ancient studies major and political science minor, will be based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she will be researching imagery and use-wear patterns of Roman coins in ancient Dacia. Kirk is a Humanities Scholar and has a concentration in Roman history and archaeology. She will be affiliated with the Archaeology department of Babeș-Bolyai University and said, “I am interested in the kinds of imagery/propaganda the Roman emperors put onto the coinage sent to this province.”

Jessica Willis, a 2017 linguistics major alum, will be teaching English in Sri Lanka. She was a member of the Modern Languages and Linguistics Departmental Honors Program and is currently serving as a Maryland Conservation Corps Volunteer.

Kelly Daughtridge, a master’s historical studies 2017 alum, will be teaching English in Macedonia. She pursued both her BA and MA in history at UMBC and was a former Dresher Center Graduate Student Research Fellow in Fall 2016 for her thesis on women’s monuments in early-modern England.

Morgan Zepp, senior English and global studies double major, will teach English in Lithuania. She is a Humanities Scholar and has experience tutoring and mentoring Baltimore students. She has also studied abroad in Peru and described study abroad programs as being “one of the most important experiences in [a person’s] life.”

Marc Schultz, a senior political science and global studies major, will participate in a Mandarin language learning program in Harbin, China, and later conduct research regarding urban planning policies in Chengdu, China. He has studied Mandarin Chinese for most of his academic career, and previously did study abroad at the Harbin Institute of Technology to study languages critical to national security.

On the significance of the Fulbright Program, Lopresti said, “I think it’s really important that people meet Americans that are not necessarily representatives at the national level. We are more than just our past,” adding that she and her fellow recipients are eager to contribute and learn from the communities around them.