William & Mary has a demonstrated history as a top producer of Fulbright student awards. This year, the university’s global reach has been confirmed once again as 13 recent graduates and alumni affiliated with the university received the highly selective grants; three additional graduates were selected as alternates.

The Fulbright U.S. Student program is an international academic exchange program designed to increase international understanding and collaboration. Applicants are evaluated based on academic performance, experience and training, linguistic proficiency and extracurricular activities.

Since 1949, W&M has produced more than 200 Fulbright awardees in addition to this year’s recipients.

W&M’s student Fulbrighters for the 2024-2025 academic year are Victoria Baltes ’24, Gabriella Cao ’21, Brigid Cryan ’22, Anna Fisher ’24, Tara Kerr ’24, Aleksandr Kuzmenchuk ’24, Olivia Olson ’23, Janet Palmer ’24, Sapana Satyal ’24, Rose Shafer ’24, James Storen ’22, Rachel Vasan ’24 and Charlotte Walters ’24.

Additionally, Sean Nguyen ’24, Izabella Martinez ’24 and Erin Spalding M.A.Ed ’24 have been selected as alternates and may be promoted to finalists if additional funding becomes available.

The Fulbright Program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. and more than 160 countries worldwide. Fulbright fellowships and scholarships provide opportunities for students, educators, professionals and scholars to teach English, pursue graduate study or conduct research in locations around the globe.

The principal source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation from U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, alumni, corporations and foundations in partner countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. 

This year, 10 of W&M’s recipients received English Teaching Assistantships for locations in Germany, Laos, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic and Papua New Guinea. Two other awardees will conduct research in India and Australia, respectively, and one alumna will pursue a master’s program in Ireland. If more funding becomes available, the three alternates will teach English in Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Thailand.

Meet of few of this year’s recipients

Tara Kerr ’24

Tara Kerr ’24

Kerr, a self-designed marine biology and conservation major, will travel to James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, to study reef restoration on the Great Barrier Reef and test whether citizen science can effectively assist in restoration efforts. 

“I am very excited because the project combines my two passions: coral conservation and citizen science,” she said.

Kerr’s project is inspired by citizen science research that she performed at W&M’s Institute of Integrative Conservation last year.

“My Fulbright research will include a lot of diving and field work,” she said. “I will be manually removing macro algae off of coral reefs and researching its viability, while facilitating citizen science trips to do the same thing.”

Kerr will also create a methodology to replicate this type of coral restoration.

“I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to pursue this dream through Fulbright,” she said.

Aleksandr Kuzmenchuk ’24

Aleksandr Kuzmenchuk ’24

Kuzmenchuk, an international relations major and data science minor, received a Fulbright grant to conduct research in New Delhi, India. His interest in India developed through his cultural heritage. Discussions around the dinner table in his home often included Indian culture, languages and political issues.

“Especially with my uncle and grandfather, I made a habit of diving deeper into hard questions about Indian politics, many of which have become research interests,” he said. “Also, after taking South Asian Politics and other government courses which featured Indian political issues, I’ve been drawn to India as a democracy and rising global power.”

Kuzmenchuk explained that his work at AidData and the U.S. Department of State had increased his interest in “how information, social beliefs and rhetoric impact democracies in subtle but important ways.”

His proposed research in New Delhi seeks to understand the “civilizational ethos” of India and will include an in-depth study of the religious ethics and political philosophy within the records of India’s second president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and interviews with political figures in Delhi to gain an understanding of how they view India’s current democracy, its Hindu character and its heritage.

“The aim of the overall project will be to offer a novel insight into the ideological undercurrents of India’s short but storied history since independence and help add some nuance to a definition of Indian democracy usable for the rest of the world,” said Kuzmenchuk.

Charlotte Walters ’24

Charlotte Walters ’24

Meanwhile, Walters, who double majored in German studies and environment & sustainability, will travel to Saxony, Germany, to participate in the Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant Program.

Walters stated that her interest stems from the positive impact that her language teachers have had on her academic and personal development. She hopes to inspire other students to enjoy learning languages to the same degree that she does and is eager to gain experience with German culture.

In true Fulbright fashion, Walters also intends to take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided by her host country. To that end, she plans to become involved with local environmental organizations to learn about German environmental policy.

“I am particularly interested in sustainable agriculture, urban design and green infrastructure,” she said. “As Germany is known for these things, I am excited to get involved during my Fulbright and take what I learn back to the U.S. for a career in environmental policy.”

Current students and recent alumni interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholarship should contact the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

, Research Writer