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Fulbright in Focus: 13 CLAS Students Earn Fulbright Awards for 2018-2019

Fifteen Villanova University students and alumni earned awards from the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program for grants taking place in 2018-2019—13 of whom were from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This marked the largest single-year number of Fulbright awardees in Villanova University’s history.

The students’ Fulbright assignments placed them in countries across the world, doing research and jobs in a variety of disciplines—leaving them well-positioned to launch their careers.

Nicholas Azulay

Fulbright in Focus: Nicholas Azulay ’18 CLAS

Azulay graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and minors in Peace and Justice and English. A member of Villanova Pastoral Musicians Executive Board, Azulay also served on the board of the College Democrats, as a local program host of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival, and as a Cinematographer and Editor at Villanova Television. Azulay spent summer 2017 studying in the Czech Republic, and he returned there as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Upon completion of his Fulbright year, he intends to pursue a career in the field of international development.

Lily Haddad

Fulbright in Focus Lily Haddad ’18 CLAS

Haddad is passionate about strategies to decrease school dropout rates in Morocco, a country that she loves. She has already spent a summer there interning at the Azrou Center for Community Development and running a summer camp for students. That experience—combined with her Villanova studies—makes her particularly well suited for her Fulbright assignment, a research project titled “Non-Formal Education and Combatting School Attrition in Morocco.”

Haddad graduated this past spring with a double major in Political Science and Arab and Islamic Studies, with a minor in Arabic Language and Culture. “All of my classes at Villanova have contributed to my learning and gaining a global viewpoint,” she says. She singles out her “Law in the Middle East” class with Catherine Warrick, PhD, associate professor, Political Science, as her most memorable academic experience. “We were able to delve deep into the issues of law, study the political ramifications and, as a small class size, cater some topics to our personal interests,” she says.

After her Fulbright year, Haddad plans to pursue a career in international development, possibly with a concentration in education policy and women’s rights.

Kaitlyn Irwin

Fulbright in Focus: Kaitlyn Irwin ’18 CLAS

Irwin’s Fulbright year is a homecoming of sorts. She spent the fall of her junior year in the Spanish city of Cadiz—a memorable, immersive experience that sparked her desire to return to Spain. Her Fulbright assignment sends her back there to teach English—a position that aligns not only with her interest in the country, but also her career aspirations. Irwin graduated this past spring with a bachelor’s in Psychology and a bachelor’s in Spanish Language and Literature, as well as a minor in Education. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy and aspires to be a pediatric occupational therapist working with Spanish-speaking patients.

While in Spain, Irwin plans to continue to develop her skills in Spanish and working with children. She is pursuing shadowing experiences with occupational therapists to further her knowledge of OT in that country—giving her real-world experience.

“I will be able to gain an international perspective on my future career and serve as a cross-cultural advocate for occupational therapy.”

Brian King

Fulbright in Focus: Brian King ’18 CLAS

King graduated with a bachelor’s in Psychology and Theology and is using his Fulbright award to teach English in India. From serving on the Student Government Association and the CLAS Diversity and Inclusion committee, to mentoring students through organizations on and off campus, King has thrived as a leader and an educator during his tenure at Villanova. With a passion for Education—both in practice and policy—King plans to pursue a career in the field and is thrilled to start in India.

“I look forward to sharing my experiences and perspectives with my community members in India. And I am certain my understanding of education—especially as it relates to student and personal development—will be shaped by the relationships I forge abroad and the insights shared with me,” he says.

Aida Mohajeri

Fulbright in Focus: Aida Mohajeri ’17 CLAS

It was a project from her Introduction to Disability Studies course that sparked the idea for Mohajeri’s Fulbright proposal. The project was to develop an accessible, inclusive event for students of all abilities, and Mohajeri is using her Fulbright award to research how laws are implemented for students with different abilities in the United Arab Emirates.

“The application of knowledge from the classroom to daily life was not unique to this project—it defined my CLAS education,” she says.

Mohajeri graduated with a double major in Arab and Islamic Studies and Political Science, as well as three minors in Arabic Language and Culture, Peace and Justice and Honors. In her career, she aspires to raise awareness for disabilities and ensure accessible education for students of all abilities through policy, so she's thrilled to begin her Fulbright assignment.

“It has been my dream to find a career path that combines the Middle East, different abilities and advocacy, and I am humbled to fulfill this goal through Fulbright,” says Mohajeri.

Mackenzie Niness

Fulbright in Focus: Mackenzie Niness ’18 CLAS

Mackenzie was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in the Netherlands, where she also plans to study the Dutch prison educational system. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminology and as a Villanova undergraduate volunteered as an educator and advocate in two prisons. A student-athlete on Villanova’s Swimming and Diving team, she was twice named a Big East Conference Academic All-Star. In 2016 she was a participant in the Fulbright US-UK Summer Institute at the University of Bristol. Upon return to the U.S. she plans to pursue a career in prison education reform.

“My most memorable academic experience as a CLAS student was being a teaching assistant for Dr. Kelly Welch’s Race, Crime and Justice class,” Niness says. “I really enjoyed teaching and working with students in a subject that I am passionate about.”

Evelyn Semenov

Fulbright in Focus: Evelyn Semenov ’18 CLAS

Semenov graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies and is using her Fulbright award to teach English in Malaysia. While at Villanova she served as a General Chemistry teaching assistant and a Special Olympics medical volunteer. An aspiring physician, she also studied abroad in South Africa, where she learned about the history and healthcare struggles of communities surrounding Cape Town.

“Villanova provided me with a flexible liberal arts and sciences education which enabled me to explore my vast academic interests and have experiences that engaged me in helping others learn,” Semenov says. “The world of healthcare is filled with constant education and learning, whether it involves teaching patients about health or continuing to learn about medicine from colleagues and scientists. By serving as an ETA in Malaysia, I will have the unique opportunity to not only educate others, but also learn from my students and local host communities about Malaysian culture and practices.”

Chayla Sherrod

Fulbright in Focus: Chayla Sherrod ’18 CLAS

Sherrod is using her Fulbright research award in Namibia, Africa to investigate the impact of inadequate environmental justice and growing urbanization on the success of Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resource Management Programme. With a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and career aspirations to practice environmental law, it’s an ideal opportunity for Sherrod—and her passion for this research began at CLAS.

“Under the advising of Dr. Stephen Strader, I conducted a research project that tied my environmental studies interest and my political science knowledge,” she says about her senior project analyzing the physical and socioeconomic vulnerabilities of mobile home residents in Alabama during tornado season.

“Having the opportunity to bridge the gap between two fields that excite and interest me, was the most fulfilling and rewarding undergraduate experience.”

Milan Smoak-Booker

Fulbright in Focus: Milan Smoak-Booker ’18 CLAS

Smoak-Booker graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. She has completed several service and leadership assignments during her undergraduate education, including the MLK Day of Service Committee, the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service, Villanova Sexual Violence Awareness Club and Alpha Kappa Alpha. She is using her Fulbright award to teach English in South Korea. Upon completion of her Fulbright year, Smoak-Booker intends to pursue a career in education policy.

Ana Song

Fulbright in Focus: Ana Song ’18 CLAS

Song is spending her Fulbright award year in South Korea, completing a research project “Oral Health Care for People with Mental Health Disorders in South Korea.” Song’s research is heavily influenced by her career aspirations, as she plans to pursue dental school and is passionate about mental health advocacy for the marginalized. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, a concentration in Peace and Justice and minors in Psychology and Spanish—leaving her well prepared to take the next steps in her research and career.

“The liberal arts curriculum has given me the opportunity to pursue a breadth of disciplines. In particular, the Center for Peace and Justice Education has given me the tools to critically think about my social identities and how they manifest in the community and world in which we live.”

Laura Spence

Fulbright in Focus: Laura Spence ’18 CLAS

Spence’s Fulbright assignment perfectly positions her for the hands-on experience she needs to launch her career in Eurasian foreign policy. She’s particularly interested in how the Soviet satellite states transitioned out of the USSR, both politically and culturally, and her assignment is in Moldova.

“Moldova is geographically positioned between Russian and European influences, so I'm really looking forward to getting my feet on the ground and learning from the people around me.”

Spence is an English teaching assistant there—a position she’s had before in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Spence graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and Classics and a minor in Political Science. She says learning the literature, history, philosophy and theology of Western civilization provided her with a rigorous and coherent liberal arts education.

Brynn Sundberg

Fulbright in Focus: Brynn Sundberg ’18 MS

Sundberg graduated with a master’s in Chemistry. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, with a minor in Chemistry, from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She traveled to Amsterdam and Leiden in the Netherlands to begin her project titled “Characterizing Synthetic Organic Pigments for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.” Upon return to the U.S., Sundberg plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Chemistry as part of a career in art conservation.

Sabrina Verleysen

Fulbright in Focus: Sabrina Verleysen ’18 CLAS

Verleysen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Spanish Language and Literature. She has served as a Community Interpreter for the Villanova Law Clinic, as an Executive Board Member for the LIFT student mentorship program, and as a volunteer with both the MLK Day of Service and the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service. Verleysen was previously selected as a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow in 2017. She is spending her Fulbright year as an English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia. Verleysen intends to pursue a career in public policy and international relations.