18 Villanovans Win Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2024-25

Six Villanovans were selected as alternates and 10 earned recognition as semi-finalists


18 Villanovans Win Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2024-25

VILLANOVA, PA. (May 28, 2024)The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board have announced the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for 2024-25, with 18 Villanova University students and alumni receiving the competitive grant. In addition to the 18 award recipients, six Villanovans were selected as alternates and 10 earned recognition as semi-finalists.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, offering students grants to conduct research, study and teach abroad. Villanova has been listed among the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Students for more than a decade—a list highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education. From 2016-23, nearly 150 Villanovans have received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards.

"As Fulbright Students, these outstanding Villanovans will make a significant impact and foster positive engagement with global communities through their research and teaching," said University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti, PhD. "Our entire community congratulates the Villanova students and alumni honored by this esteemed program, along with the committed faculty and staff who guided them throughout the selection process."

18 Villanovans Win Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2024-25

Fulbright recipients meet, work with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction in the classroom, field, home and in daily tasks. These experiences allow the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website to learn more.

The Fulbright competition at Villanova is open to all current undergraduate, graduate, professional students and alumni, and is administered by the University’s Center for Research and Fellowships (CRF). Students and alumni create an application for the fellowship program under the direction of the CRF team—which provides both one-on-one consultations and group support throughout the application process, including conceptualization of projects, writing and revising proposals, and interview preparation and practice.

Villanova students and alumni interested in applying for external awards, including the Fulbright, should visit the CRF website for more information.

Villanovans awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2024-25 include:

Joseph Adams, Jr. '24 CLAS, of Marshfield, Mass., graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Political Science. During his time at Villanova, Joseph participated in the International Social Justice Documentary program for two years, where he produced five award-winning documentaries in both Kenya and Brazil focusing on women's rights, disability in education, and cultural preservation. He held leadership roles as the president of Lambda Pi Eta, vice president of Villanova Television (VTV), and also contributed as a facilitator and volunteer tutor for the service learning community. Joseph was an opinion columnist for The Villanovan, a New Student Orientation counselor, and a member of the media team for NOVAdance. In addition, he interned at FRONTLINE PBS and Alkemy X in post-production roles. Joseph plans to pursue a career in the film industry following his Fulbright year.

Bobbie Alicea ‘23 CLAS, of King of Prussia, Pa., graduated magna cum laude in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Culture with minors in History and Asian studies. During their time at Villanova, Bobbie was an active member of the Villanova Cheer team and also participated in Athlete Ally, a student-athlete led group that focuses on supporting and highlighting queer and trans athletes in college sports. Bobbie will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan, where they are excited to share their passion for culture and community with their students.

Madeline Barber ‘24 CLAS, of Cedarburg, Wis., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Comprehensive Science and minors in Global Health and Business. Madeline was a member of the varsity volleyball team and served as a co-representative to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) on behalf of the program. Her interest in health science extends beyond the classroom, and she had the opportunity to collaborate with communities in Panama and Peru as a medical intern for VAW Global Health Alliances. She also conducted research for an entrepreneurial College of Engineering partnership, served as a physical therapy aide, and researched legislative and regulatory health issues in government affairs. Madeline is looking forward to her English Teaching Assistantship in Spain, where she plans to volunteer for a health promotion organization that aims to increase access to care for marginalized communities.

Amanda Beck ‘24 CLAS, of Lititz, Pa., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Comprehensive Science and a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. Amanda was involved in various leadership roles at Villanova, including serving on the New Student Orientation steering committee, being the vice president of the Mental Health Advocacy and Awareness organization, and chairing campus climate and health promotions within the Student Government Association. Outside of campus, she participated in service opportunities such as CCATE, RUIBAL, the PALS camp for adults with Down Syndrome, and the Nuestra Clínica substance abuse/mental health clinic. Amanda conducted microbiology thesis research on the expression and functionality of S. Typhimurium curli genes and also engaged in research within the emergency departments of the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) and Jefferson Hospitals in Philadelphia, Pa. After completing her Fulbright Grant, Amanda intends to attend medical school and utilize her teaching experience to promote public and community health within English and Spanish-speaking populations.

Emma Blenke '24 CLAS, of Darien, Conn., graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in Business, Ethics, and Peace and Justice. During her time at Villanova, Emma held several leadership roles, including secretary of Blue Key and campus activities chair on the Admitted Student's Day committee. She also dedicated her time to volunteering as a tutor for Northern Children's Services and ACLAMO, and was an active member of the pre-law society. Additionally, Emma gained valuable experience through internships at three non-profit organizations focusing on social justice, election reform and gerrymandering prevention, immigration legal services, and combatting sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Her semester abroad in Sydney, Australia inspired her to apply for the Fulbright Program, and she will commence her Fulbright Grant in the Czech Republic in August 2024, where she will work as an English Teaching Assistant.

Mitch Colonna ‘24 VSB, of Bethesda, Md., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Business Administration with majors in Finance and Chinese Studies, as well as a minor in Philosophy. Studying Chinese language and culture through the Global Interdisciplinary Studies department inspired Mitch to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan. At Villanova, Mitch was involved with Villanova’s Finance Group and Chinese Culture Club and won the 2024 Greater Philadelphia Asian Studies Conference award for his research on Chinese Real Estate. Following his Fulbright, he plans to pursue a graduate degree and work in foreign policy.

Kate Cook, ’23 CLAS, of Washington, D.C., graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Comprehensive Sciences and a minor in Computer Science. While at Villanova, Kate participated in various service and advocacy programs, including RUIBAL and tutoring. In the summers, she worked as an English language assistant in southern Thailand, where she developed her skills in teaching ESL, patience and leadership. Currently, Kate is working as a website interface coordinator in Sydney, Australia, and she is thrilled about the opportunity to use her technology knowledge and passion for education as a recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Thailand.

Annie Cowen ’22 VSB of New York City, N.Y., graduated from Villanova in 2022 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy and International Business and a minor in Peace and Justice. During her time at Villanova, Annie held several leadership positions, including serving as the president of the Accounting Society, working as a producer for Villanova’s Social Justice Documentary course (Last Letter Films), and acting as the corporate relations chair for Villanova’s Relay for Life chapter. In addition, Annie was inducted into the Betta Gamma Sigma Honor Society and was a VSB Global Leadership fellow. In 2019, she studied abroad at the University College of Dublin, Ireland, and in 2022, she was honored with the Bartley Medallion for Excellence in Accounting.

Jenna Fazio ‘24 COE, of Hemlock, N.Y., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and minors in Business, Biomedical Engineering, and Humanitarian Engineering. At Villanova, Jenna participated in Engineering service-learning trips in Cambodia, Laos and India. These experiences ultimately inspired her to apply for a Fulbright grant, where she hopes to establish sustainable practices in communities abroad. Jenna held several leadership positions as an undergraduate, serving as the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), president of IEEE Engineering in medicine and biology, president of the Honors Society for IEEE Eta Kappa Nu, and as the service and outreach chair for the Society of Women Engineers. She also was a CEER peer mentor and volunteered for events in the College of Engineering. Outside of the classroom, Jenna has extensive service experience and participated in RUIBAL, Community Outreach of Villanova, Special Olympics and NOVADance. During her Fulbright year, Jenna will continue her studies at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, where she will obtain a master's degree in Sociotechnical Systems and Sustainability Transitions.

Cristina Green ‘24 VSB, of Berwyn, Pa., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and International Business along with minors in Business Analytics and Spanish Studies. At Villanova, Cristina was a Global Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to integrate global leadership experiences throughout her undergraduate experience. This included studying and working in Singapore as an intern for a FinTech startup and participating in a study abroad experience in Seville, Spain. These experiences fueled Cristina's passion for cultural exchange and motivated her to apply for a Fulbright Grant. On campus, Cristina was active as a VSB ambassador and with ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America). She will continue to build her career in Mexico City as a marketing/international business intern and take courses related to international business at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

Anthony McCarthy, CLAS '24, of Media, Pa., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and minors in physics and mathematics. As an undergraduate, Anthony studied with Villanova faculty members, researching accreting white dwarfs in collaboration with the NASA Delaware Space Grant Consortium. This research opportunity, along with his independent interest in Korean society and passion for cultural connection, inspired him to pursue astronomy research in South Korea through the Fulbright program. Anthony is excited about studying galaxy clusters at Seoul National University and aims to use his Fulbright year to further explore his interest in the Korean language.

Shealyn Murphy, ‘24 CLAS, of Manasquan, N.J., graduates in May with a  Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Arts in  Spanish Language and Literature, along with minors in Latin American  Studies and Sustainability Studies. At Villanova, Shealyn was a co-chair of the Student Sustainability Committee and a peer mentor in the Department of Geography and the Environment. In 2022, Shealyn participated in a study abroad program focused on indigenous sustainability in Mérida, Mexico, which inspired her to apply for a Fulbright ETA in Mexico.

Kaitlyn Parrinello ‘24 CLAS, of Long Island, N.Y., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics, a Bachelor of Arts in Italian, and a minor in Physics. Kaitlyn conducted research at Villanova under the guidance of professors Scott Engle, PhD, and Joey Neilsen, PhD. She furthered her academic pursuits during a summer in Trieste, Italy, where she performed research on behalf of a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics. Kaitlyn is a recipient of a Fulbright Research Grant and is looking forward to researching gamma-ray astronomy. After completing her Fulbright, she plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Astrophysics.

Chrissy Polakiewicz '24 CLAS of Middlesex, N.J., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science. Chrissy was actively involved at Villanova, serving as president of the University's chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta and as a co-chair of the Villanova Service-Learning Community. In 2023, she received the Villanova Undergraduate Research Fund (VURF) to assess the potential spread of radioisotopes due to Hurricane Ida flooding. During her Fulbright year, Chrissy will evaluate the impacts of radiation in Bali's waterways and along tourist beaches resulting from nuclear dumping into the ocean. In addition, as a recipient of the Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA), Polakiewicz will spend three months familiarizing herself with the Indonesian language and culture at a local university.

Natalie Schirmacher ‘24 CLAS, of San Diego, Calif., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies and Spanish Language and Literature, along with minors in Peace and Justice, Political Science, Naval Science, and Arab and Islamic Studies. Natalie was a member of the Naval ROTC program and served as the editor of the Belle Air Yearbook while at Villanova. She also dedicated her time to volunteering for Savvy Giving by Design and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, both based in her hometown of San Diego. Natalie is the recipient of the Fulbright-Tampere University Graduate Award at Tampere University in Finland, where she will pursue a master's degree in Peace, Mediation, and Conflict Research. Her interest in this field was sparked during her time overseas in Amman, Jordan, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. While in Finland, Natalie will continue her research on the overlap of state violence and community healing under the guidance of Dr. Elise Feron.

Nick Wiggenhorn ‘24 CLAS, of West Deptford, N.J., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Service & Administration, with a minor in Criminology. During his time at Villanova, Nick held several leadership positions including president of Model UN, vice president of Mock Trial, and member of the Faith and Scholars Program. He also engaged in volunteering opportunities through Community Outreach of Villanova and LEVEL. Additionally, Nick served as a resident assistant, worked at Villanova’s Legal Clinic and University fitness centers, and completed a congressional internship with Senator Pat Toomey. Nick was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant for Spain, where he would have taught English and coordinated Model UN activities for students. However, Nick decided to decline the award in order to further his education as a law student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gavin Woodin ‘24 CLAS, of Holden, Mass., graduates in May with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Spanish Studies and minors in Global Health, Latin American Studies, and Peace & Justice. Gavin was actively involved in campus organizations during his time at Villanova. He held leadership positions as the fundraising chair of Villanova Club Swim, chair of the Student Government Association’s election commission, and was a member of Blue Key. In addition, he volunteered at the Charles Widger School of Law immigration clinic and worked as a Spanish language tutor in the Learner’s Studio. Gavin also pursued research as a member of Dr. Samantha Chapman’s lab, where he studied the effects of mangroves on coastal wetlands in northern Florida. He also had the opportunity to study abroad in Cádiz, Spain in 2022 and is looking forward to further exploring the Spanish-speaking world during his Fulbright.

Liam Woods, ‘23, of Milford, Conn., graduated in 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Political Science. Committed to continuing his family's tradition of valuing education, Liam embarked on a post-graduate career as a science teacher at St. Andrew Academy in Bridgeport, Conn., teaching in the same city as his father. During his undergraduate years, Liam was a dedicated member of the club curling team, achieving two top-5 finishes at the USA Curling College National Championships. He was also actively involved in Model UN and took part in Villanova Student Theater’s Spring 2023 production of Treasure Island, playing the role of Grandma Hawkins. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Liam will teach English at the Hellenic-American Educational Foundation at Athens College in Psychiko, Greece. Following his Fulbright experience, he plans to pursue graduate studies, leveraging his cultural experiences in the birthplace of Western philosophy as a foundation for a career in college-level teaching.


Villanovans recognized as Fulbright U.S. Student Alternates are:
Caroline Colgan '24 CLAS, Communication and Spanish Language and Literature; English Teaching Assistantship in the Slovak Republic
Sarah Harris '19 CLAS, Communication and History, Study-Research in Turkey
Gemma Krautzel '24 CLAS, Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience; English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic
Erin Neilsen '23 CLAS, English; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Mariana Noble '24 CLAS, Political Science; Study-Research in Italy
Alice Wu ' 24 CLAS, Chemistry; Study-Research in Germany

Villanovans recognized as Fulbright U.S. Student Semi-Finalists are:
Luis Berrios-Hayden '24 CLAS, Environmental Science; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Sabrina Carter '18 CLAS, Communication; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Grace Dwyer '24 CLAS, Communication and Gender and Women's Studies; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Paisley Hahn '24 CLAS, Criminology and French and Francophone Studies; English Teaching Assistantship in France
Olivia Lawlor '24 CLAS, Political Science and Spanish Language and Literature; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Caroline Leary '24 CLAS, Communication and Spanish Language and Literature; English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
Brownyn Mogck '23 CLAS, Biology and Humanities; Study-Research in Hungary
Anthony Nuccio '24 CLAS, Computer Science and Political Science; English Teaching Assistantship in Italy
Frances Steadman '20 FCN, Nursing; English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia
Sebastian Wojnar '11 CLAS; Communication, Study-Research in Poland

About the Fulbright Program: Since its establishment in 1946, the program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbrighters address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 84 who have received Pulitzer Prizes and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit our website.