Bios of Villanova's 32 Fulbright U.S. Student Grant Recipients

The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board recently announced the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for 2019-2020. This year, 32 Villanovans won the prestigious award—marking the largest single-year number of Fulbright awards in the University’s history.

Below are bios for the 32 Villanovans awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Grants:

  • Valeria Alvarado (’19 CLAS), of Houston, Texas, will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. She has served as an Executive Board Member for student organizations such as History Society and Villanova’s Feminist Society. Her social justice work has been highlighted by the Anne Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership, Huffpost, and Latina Magazine. After spending a year studying abroad in Serbia and Rwanda, she will return to Serbia to complete a Fulbright year as an English Teaching Assistant. Upon return to the U.S., Alvarado intends to continue her studies by eventually earning a PhD in History.
  • Dana Avolio (’19 CLAS), of Westchester, N.Y., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, specializing in Rhetorical Studies, with minors in Philosophy and Political Science. She has pursued independent research in Philosophy, which she will use towards completing a thesis this fall. Avolio will begin her Fulbright award in Malaysia in January 2020, working as an English Teaching Assistantship with secondary school students. Upon returning, she will begin a graduate degree in Philosophy and Rhetorical Studies upon her return to the U.S.
  • Alex Balawejder (’19 CLAS-Master’s), of Drexel Hill, Pa., will graduate this summer with a Master of Arts in History. Balawejder, a U.S. Army veteran, received his undergraduate degree from West Chester University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He will spend a year as an English Teaching Assistant in the Slovak Republic where he will teach at a Technical School in Modra. Balawejder looks forward to experiencing the level of cultural and linguistic immersion from his time abroad and will pursue a PhD in History upon his return to the U.S.
  • Sarah Baranik de Alarcón (’19 CWSL), of Trout Run, Pa., and Vina del Mar, Chile, will graduate this spring with a Juris Doctorate degree. She is the President of the International Law Society and a consultant with UNICEF. Baranik has spent her law school career dedicated to advocating for asylum seekers through HIAS PA and the CARES Clinic at the law school. Before law school, she lived in Chile and the U.K. She will spend her Fulbright year researching Brazil’s Migration Law. Upon her return to the U.S., she will work in immigration advocacy.
  • Kathleen Blehl (’18 VSB), of Oradell, N.J., graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing and a minor in English. Eager to learn about global business and sustainability, Blehl spent the summer of 2015 in the Czech Republic, the summer of 2016 in China, the 2016-17 academic year in Italy, and has traveled to 25 other countries. Upon her return from Italy, she was named an IES Global Citizen of the Year Finalist for her sustainability advocacy, placed second at the Villanova Student Entrepreneurship Competition, and was actively involved in Villanova’s Student Sustainability Club. After graduation, Blehl served as a volunteer English teacher in Ukraine, where she will return as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Following her Fulbright year, she will complete graduate study in Urban Education to prepare for a career in teaching and public speaking.
  • Mackenzie Bowden (’20 COE-Master’s), of Halifax, Mass., is a first-year graduate student in the Sustainable Engineering program with a concentration in international development. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, with minors in biochemical engineering and sustainability studies, also from Villanova University. Bowden has worked on international service projects in India, Indonesia and Madagascar through the Villanova Engineering Service Learning program. She will spend her Fulbright year in Indonesia to study Bahasa Indonesia via a Critical Language Enhancement Award and conduct a research project titled, “Rural Utilization of Alternative Feedstocks for Anaerobic Digestion.” Upon her return to the U.S., Bowden intends to pursue a career in sustainable international development.
  • Claire Carey (’19 CLAS), of Oak Park, Ill., will graduate this Spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, with minors in Spanish and Sociology. She has served as a participant and leader for Villanova Service and Justice Experiences, was a volunteer tutor in Philadelphia, and served as a leader for the Special Olympics’ Volunteer Coordinator Program. Carey spent the fall of her Junior year studying in London while working for a Member of Parliament. She will teach English at a University in Brazil. Upon completion of her Fulbright year, Carey will pursue a career in civil rights law.
  • Margaret Carter (’19 CLAS), of Alamo, Calif., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish. She has held leadership positions in multiple performing arts organizations at Villanova and is a writer for Villanova Television (VTV). Carter studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland and Cádiz, Spain and will return to Spain as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Galicia.
  • Ellie Cayer (’19 CLAS), of Arlington, Mass., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Interdisciplinary Studies, with a concentration in Latin American Studies and a double major in Spanish Language and Literature. She has been a coxswain on the Women’s Rowing team all 4 years at Villanova and served as two-year captain. Cayer was also a chair of the Villanova Day of Service Committee and an office assistant in the Office of the President. This past summer, she served as an intern at the Inter-American Foundation in Washington D.C., working on grassroots funding and development in Latin America and the Caribbean. She will spend her Fulbright year in Colombia serving as an English Teaching Assistant in the city of Tunja. Upon her return, Cayer will attend graduate school in international relations and development, specifically focused on Latin America to pursue a career in this field.
  • Devin Creed (’19 CLAS-Master’s), of Westford, Mass., will graduate this spring with a Master of Arts degree in History. He holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and English from Hillsdale College. Devin will travel to Calcutta to complete intensive language training in Bengali through a separate award from the Critical Language Scholarship, and then will move on to New Delhi to conduct his Fulbright research on nineteenth century famine relief. Upon returning to the U.S., he will begin his PhD in History at Duke University.
  • Elizabeth Cullen (’19 COE), of Richfield, Minn., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, with minors in Peace & Justice and Theology. A Dean’s Meritorious Service awardee, Cullen served on the leadership team for Catholic Relief Services’ Student Ambassadors and has completed many international service trips through CRS with the Villanova Engineering Service Learning program. She has also led students at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, was a part of the Sophomore Service Learning Program, and was a Faith & Learning scholar. Cullen will spend her Fulbright year as an English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia. Upon returning to the U.S., she will pursue a career in international development.
  • Emily DiMatteo (’19 CLAS), of West Hartford, Conn., graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Honors and Economics, with a minor in Political Science. A tour guide on campus through the Blue Key Society, DiMatteo served as a volunteer tutor in West Philadelphia and as a member of the Special Olympics Committee. She has also played saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, DiMatteo will teach English at a secondary school in the Czech Republic. Upon her return to the U.S., she will pursue a career in public policy and international relations.
  • Angeline Gacad (’19 CLAS), of Cleveland, Ohio, will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Latin American Studies. Gacad served as president of the Multicultural Greek Council. She taught English in Chile while studying abroad this past summer. Gacad is a member of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. and a child-care volunteer for the Laurel House. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she will teach English in secondary schools in Malaysia. Upon her return to the U.S., Gacad will pursue a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Global Health at the Brown School at Washington University in Saint Louis.
  • Madiah Gant (’19 CLAS), of New Haven, Conn., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Interdisciplinary Studies, specializing in Africana Studies and minors in Communication and Peace and Justice. Gant has produced two films during her time at Villanova University through the Social Justice Documentary Program. She will spend a year in Colombia teaching at a university in Villavicencio, Colombia. Upon her return she plans to pursue a career in film. 
  • Bridget Gile (’19 COE), of Morris, Ill., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. A Presidential Scholar at Villanova, Gile aspires to solve critical water resources challenges and become Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency Water Infrastructure Division. She interned at the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems, at AKRF Water Resources in Philadelphia, and at LyondellBasell in Illinois, and was a research fellow in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and at Virginia Tech. At Villanova, she was Vice President of the Villanova Environmental Group and President of Peers Enhancing Educational Resources for Students, a tutoring and mentoring program. Gile will enroll in Stanford University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD program as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.
  • Stephen Gironda (CLAS ’19-Master’s), of Long Branch, N.J., will graduate with a Master of Science degree in Psychology and Brain Sciences. He is a UN representative for the non-government organization Pathways To Peace, Vice President of the Graduate Student Council, and graduate assistant in Dr. Benjamin Sach’s Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Behavior Laboratory. Gironda will spend his Fulbright Award year in Rome, Italy, where he will complete a research project exploring the effects of stress, diet, exercise, and novel experiences on addiction susceptibility at the Santa Lucia Foundation. Upon his return to the U.S., he will pursue a PhD in Neuroscience at Wake Forest University.
  • Pablo Guzmán Ruiz (’19 CLAS), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. A 2017 recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, Guzmán spent nearly half a year abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Though he focused primarily on Tokyo, his travel throughout the island helped him develop a mixed media project elaborate enough to showcase his assimilation of Japanese culture and tradition. As a student of philosophy, he will keep true to his devotion to learn about people and culture by spending a year in Brazil as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Upon returning to the U.S., Guzmán will publish of his travel in Asia and South America.
  • Gillian Hixson (CLAS '19), of West Hartford, Conn., graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, a concentration in Writing and Rhetoric, and a minor in Business. A tutor at the Villanova Writing Center, Hixson was also a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Phi Omega, served as Communications Chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee, and was an active volunteer for Back on My Feet in Philadelphia. While studying abroad in the Netherlands in fall 2017, she had the opportunity to teach English to Dutch students. Hixson will spend her Fulbright year teaching English in Laos. Upon returning to the U.S., she will pursue a career in publishing, advocating for increased cultural and lingual diversity in books.
  • Jamilah D. Jones (’19 CLAS), of Philadelphia, Pa., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus in Cultural Studies. Through the Offices of Intercultural Affairs and Campus Ministry, Jones has served as a cultural ambassador on both Villanova’s campus and abroad. As dedicated Board Member of The Evoluer House and Sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., she has made the empowerment of young women of color her undergraduate career. Jones will use her Fulbright award to teach English in Brazil. Upon completion of her Fulbright year, she intends to pursue a career in Foreign Service and Education.
  • Sophia Lockwood (’19 CLAS), of Jefferson, Ga., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Peace and Justice Concentration. She has spent her time in a number of service organizations such as the Sophomore Service Learning Community. Lockwood is also an active member of ecumenical ministry and service through Campus Ministry. Through this opportunity, she co-founded the Agape Latte franchise on Villanova’s campus. Lockwood will spend her Fulbright year as an English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia. Following the completion of her Fulbright, she will pursue a master’s degree in Public History.
  • Nawnora Manosca (’19 CLAS), of Philadelphia, Pa., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in Peace and Justice. A Coca-Cola Scholar, Manosca has served as a writing tutor for the Center for Access, Success, and Achievement, worked as the Program Assistant to Villanova’s Initiative for Engaging Women, and was a Residence Assistant for two consecutive years. She spent summer 2018 interning as a Case Officer for Mission for Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, S.A.R. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Manosca will teach English in higher education in Brazil. Upon completion of her Fulbright year, she intends to pursue a career in publishing.
  • Jubilee Marshall (’19 CLAS), of Washington, D.C., will graduate this spring with an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in History, a concentration in Peace & Justice, and minors in Political Science and Economics. A founder of the Villanova Feminism Society, Marshall also served as captain of the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Team, an editor and contributor for Polis Literary Magazine, a tutor at the Villanova University Writing Center, and the senior communications fellow at the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest. Marshall spent summer 2017 studying in the Czech Republic, where she will return as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Upon completion of her Fulbright year, she intends to pursue a graduate degree in the field of Public History.
  • Victoria Martin (’19 CLAS), of West Hartford, Conn., will graduate this spring with an independently designed major in Education and Social Justice, and a minor in Counseling. She has been involved in a variety of service opportunities on campus, including RUIBAL, Caritas, and the Sophomore Service Learning Community. Martin has also served as a mentor for first-year students through the Leadership Learning Community. Additionally, she studied abroad in South Africa during the fall semester of her junior year. Martin will use her Fulbright award to teach English in Laos. Following the completion of her Fulbright year, she will pursue a career in education policy.
  • Lucy Minicozzi-Wheeland (’19 CLAS), of Villanova, Pa., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Interdisciplinary Studies: Russian Area Studies and minors in Ethics and Communication. While studying at the University, she worked as a Russian language peer tutor for The Learners’ Studio and the Villanova Athletic Department and as a Digital Video Technician for UNIT. Additionally, she served as the Russian Club Secretary for 2018-2019, and volunteered on the Ethics program’s Diversity Committee. As an Olga Foltz Memorial Scholarship recipient, she spent the summer of 2018 in an 8-week intensive immersion program at Middlebury College’s School of Russian, winning the award for Most Outstanding Progress in her level. During her Fulbright Award year in Ukraine, she will conduct diplomacy and defense policy research at the Odessa Center for Nonproliferation at Odessa I.I. Mechnikov University, as well as at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
  • Lars Moeller (’18 CLAS), of Placerville Calif., graduated in May 2018 with a degree in Political Science and Economics. Moeller served as a volunteer tutor in Philadelphia schools and was a writer for The Villanovan. He spent summer 2017 in the Czech Republic and will return there as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. When Moeller returns from his Fulbright placement, he will attain a teaching credential and teach high school history.
  • Briggs Mroz (’18 CLAS), of Elmhurst, Ill., graduated in the Spring of 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Communication specializing in Media Production. Mroz competed as a member of Villanova’s Division 1 Rowing Team for four years, being recognized as a CAA conference honoree. On the crew of two student documentaries addressing social justice issues while at Villanova, Mroz has since worked on an environmental documentary, Current Revolution, and on a multitude of commercials following graduation. She will spend a year in Taiwan as an English Teaching Assistant. Upon return to the U.S., Mroz will continue to pursue a career in media production.
  • Yvonne Nguyen (’19 CLAS), of Bridgeport, Conn., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Peace and Justice Studies and a minor in Theology. A leader of United Students Against Sweatshops and Villanova Student Labor Action Movement, Nguyen also volunteered in Philadelphia through Community Outreach of Villanova, RUIBAL, and the Sophomore Service Learning Community. Nguyen participated in the Summer 2017 U.S.-U.K. University of Bristol Fulbright Summer Institute. In Spring 2018, she studied abroad in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as a Gilman Scholar and Insight into Diversity Scholar and was selected as a 2018 Truman finalist. A reporter for The Villanovan, Nguyen also worked in the Center for Peace and Justice Education and interned as a Summer 2018 Union Scholar through AFSCME and Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife program. She will travel to Hamilton, Canada to earn a master’s degree in Labour Studies at McMaster University. Upon her return to the U.S., she will pursue a career in the field of international labor rights.
  • Elizabeth O’Brien (’19 CLAS), of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, will graduate in May with a degree in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. O’Brien was also named as one of Villanova’s Falvey Scholars for her undergraduate research. She is a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity and has served as the Panhellenic President and the Phi Sigma Tau Philosophy Honors Society President. O’Brien completed ecological research over the course of three summers in Alberta, Canada, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico, respectively. She will use her Fulbright Research award to the Philippines to conduct a project titled “Replant, Regrow, Repeat? Mangrove Rehabilitation Success and Local Sustainability Impacts.” O’Brien will enroll in graduate school to study environmental science and ethics upon her return to the U.S., after which she will pursue a career in environmental research.
  • Sydney Riley (’19 CLAS), of Seattle, Wash., will graduate this spring with an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy, with a minor in Humanities. While at Villanova, Riley has worked to promote girl’s education internationally by cultivating partnerships with national nonprofits on campus, also working with education more locally as a tutor at Cristo Rey High School in Philadelphia. Internationally, Riley has studied European Politics in Copenhagen, Denmark as a Connelly-Delouvrier International Scholar and has worked at an international trade organization in Washington, D.C. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she will teach English in secondary schools in the Czech Republic. There, Riley plans to continue investigating the questions of individual and national identity that she has evaluated in her undergraduate honors thesis. Upon completion of her Fulbright fellowship, she intends to pursue further education in political philosophy.
  • Katherine Sepulveda (’20 CLAS-PhD), of Raymond, Maine, is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Villanova University who researches the phenomenology of the body and the encounter of phenomenology with religion including its relationship to healthcare ethics. Sepulveda received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s in Theology from Boston College. She was a funded participant in the 2018 Mellon Mays-Social Science Research Council Proposal Writing and Dissertation Development Seminar. Sepulveda was previously awarded Mellon Mays-Social Science Research Council Predoctoral Research Grants in academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 toward professional development and independent research.
  • Carolyn Silipigni (’19 VSB), of Chappaqua, N.Y., will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Business Analytics and a minor in Spanish. She served as President of the Villanova Marketing Group and facilitated Fourth Hour for the Sophomore Service Learning Community. Additionally, she is a VSB Ambassador and VSB Peer Advisor. Silipigni spent the spring semester of her first year studying and working in London. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she will teach English in secondary schools in the Slovak Republic.
  • Mary Spillane (’18 COE), of Trumbull, Conn., graduated last spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. While attending Villanova, she produced 3D printed models of the St. Thomas of Villanova Church for faculty, students and staff. As a four-year member of the Villanova Women’s Varsity Swimming team, Spillane received recognition from the Big East Conference as an Academic All-Star during the 2017-2018 season. She also actively participated in the Villanova Pastoral Musicians and Villanova University Tech Crew. Spillane is currently employed by Harris Corporation as a Mechanical Design Engineer and is approaching her one-year work anniversary.