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19 Villanovans Win Prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2022-23

18 Villanovans won prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2022-23

VILLANOVA, Pa. – The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has announced the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for 2022-23, with 19 Villanova University students and alumni winning the prestigious awards. In addition to the 19 award recipients, 5 other Villanovans were selected as alternates and 25 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 2016-21, 97 Villanovans received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards.

“Through research, teaching and engagement with communities across the globe, Villanova’s Fulbright Students use the knowledge and skills they gained at the University to ignite change around the world,” said University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti, PhD. “Congratulations to each of the Villanova students and alumni recognized by this prestigious program and to the dedicated faculty and staff who support our talented students throughout this process.”

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.

The Villanovans awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Grants for 2022-23 include:

Abigail Blay ’22 CLAS, of Newton, Mass., graduated in December 2021 with a Political Science and Spanish major as well as a Latin American studies minor. She will graduate in August 2022 with a master’s degree in Political Science. On campus, she was on Community Outreach of Villanova’s executive board, tutored English as a second language, and was a captain of Villanova Women’s Ice Hockey. Blay will begin her Fulbright award in Spain in September 2022, working as an English Teaching Assistant. Upon her return to the U.S., she plans to work in international policy research. 

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. While at Villanova, Blehl studied abroad in the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. For her work in Italy on sustainability advocacy, she was named an IES Global Citizen of the Year Finalist. After graduating in 2018, Blehl served as a volunteer English teacher in Ukraine. She then won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Zhytomyr, Ukraine for the 2019-2020 academic year. Blehl has since published a book of short stories documenting her experiences in Ukraine. Originally an applicant to Ukraine, Blehl will be conducting her Fulbright research grant in Georgia.

Nora Charidah ‘18 CLAS, of Long Island, N.Y., graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Sociology. Eager to start her career, she completed an AmeriCorps year of service with City Year New York, serving as a student success coach in a public elementary school in East Harlem. After her year of service, Charidah began teaching English Language Arts at Achievement First Aspire Middle School in Brooklyn, while simultaneously working towards her Master’s degree in Teaching with the Relay Graduate School of Education. In addition to her Master’s degree, she will earn her Certificate in Special Education from Relay. Charidah is excited to continue her work as an educator and begin her Fulbright award in Taiwan in 2022, working as an English Teaching Assistant. Upon returning to the U.S., Charidah intends to continue her work as an educator and special educator in New York City, empowering students of diverse backgrounds and identities to excel in and outside of the classroom.

Alexa Dang ’22 COE, of Broomfield, Colo., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, and minors in Business, Engineering Entrepreneurship and Theology. She participated in Engineering Service Learning projects in Madagascar, Tanzania and Cambodia, leading to her interest in service opportunities abroad. Dang has been involved in a variety of service opportunities on campus, including Special Olympics, Honors Peer Mentoring and Service Justice Experience trips. She ultimately declined the Fulbright to begin her career in technology consulting at Deloitte.

Kayleigh Giles ‘22 CLAS, of Hamden, Conn., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and Spanish with minors in Peace and Justice and Latin American Studies. During her time at Villanova, Giles has participated in several service learning experiences as an after-school tutor and classroom assistant. She spent the spring 2022 semester student-teaching Spanish 1 to freshman students at Archbishop John Carroll High School. Giles has served as the Undergraduate Representative for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for Villanova University’s Department of Education and Counseling. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she will teach English in secondary schools in Madrid, Spain. Upon her return to the U.S., Giles will pursue a graduate degree in Education to prepare for her career in teaching.

Emma Guilbault ’22 CLAS, from Norwalk, Conn., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an Honors degree. After completing a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Dr. Samantha Chapman’s ecosystem ecology lab during the 2020-2021 academic year, Guilbault is producing a senior thesis within the Biology and Honors programs, to be completed upon graduation. In her thesis, she is exploring the development of epicormic shoots in black mangroves in response to climate-change-induced poleward encroachment and warming. Guilbault was selected as a recipient of the U.S. Fulbright Student Grant Open Study/Research Award in the Czech Republic, where she would research freeze resistance in wintergreen herbs. While she ultimately chose to decline the award, Guilbault aspires to continue conducting research projects in plant science and plant ecology in the future. She will pursue an MS in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Science at Penn State University beginning in fall 2022.

Victoria Hamilton ‘22 CLAS, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Geography. She has been an athlete on the Women’s Rowing Team all four years at Villanova and a Resident Assistant in Villanova’s Office of Residence Life. Hamilton also is a member of the Phi Sigma Pi Honors Fraternity and served as an Executive Board member of My Sister’s KeepHer. In summer 2021, she was a research fellow in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Science. She is a recipient of the Fulbright Open Research Award in Canada; her project focuses on how climate change has affected the First Nations people in northern British Columbia. Hamilton will pursue graduate school at Columbia University’s Climate School as a Three Cairns Fellow this fall, where she will continue to advocate for environmental justice.

Tony Huerta-Apanco ’22 CLAS, of Albert Lea, Minn., graduated as a first-generation college student in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and a minor in French and Francophone Studies. Committed to doing work in diversity, equity and inclusion as well as representation, Huerta-Apanco spent his 2021 summer as a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at the University of Minnesota, studying and working with other policy professionals. As a senior, he holds various leadership roles as a Resident Assistant, Tour Guide and Student Representative for the CLAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Huerta-Apanco was selected for an English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic. He looks forward to enrolling in a master’s program at either UPenn or Harvard Graduate School(s) of Education to obtain the tools necessary for educational reform.

Agnes Hwang '20 CLAS, of Palisades Park, New Jersey, graduated with a degree in Political Science and Communication, and with a minor in Chinese. Hwang completed an internship in Shanghai, China, through the Freedman Foundation Scholarship and spent a semester studying in Copenhagen. During her time at Villanova, she served as a Teacher's Assistant at an elementary school in Philadelphia. Following her Fulbright Year, she will pursue a career in Foreign Services. 

Kyle Jaunich '22 CLAS, of Vermont, graduated in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. Jaunich's collegiate journey started in 2016 at the US Naval Academy, where, after major health issues arose, he was medically retired in 2018. After spending the Fall of 2018 sailing around the world with Semester at Sea, he transferred to Villanova in the fall of 2019 and developed a passion for organic synthesis. Jaunich is the recipient of a study grant to pursue a Master's in Drug Development and Discovery in New Zealand. He also has plans to pursue a Doctorate in Chemistry at Vanderbilt in order to continue to grow his knowledge base, research potential, and community engagement for the years ahead. 

Rachel Jennings '21 CLAS, of North Palm Beach, Fla., graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. At Villanova, Jennings was on the water polo team and studied abroad in Cadiz, Spain. Following her graduation from Villanova, she accepted a position at Morgan Stanley as an Operations Analyst. Jennings was awarded the Fulbright grant to pursue a Master's degree in Marketing Research and Consumer Behaviour from the IE University in Madrid.

Sydney Karpowich ’22 VSB, of Sugarloaf, Pa., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting, Business Analytics and International Business. During her time at Villanova, she served as an advisory board member for the Villanova School of Business Mentor Program, volunteered for Special Olympics and participated in the Sophomore Service-Learning Community. During her first year, Karpowich completed the Global Citizens Program through which she studied and worked abroad in Singapore. Her interest in international affairs inspired her to travel to Italy her second year to study business and culture in the Italian context. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she will teach English at secondary schools in the Slovak Republic.

Henry Kreisl '22 VSB, of West Hazleton, Pa., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with majors in Management Information Systems and International Business and a minor in computer science. He held leadership positions with the Outdoors Club and the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity during his time at Villanova. With a desire to continue the global learning he started by studying abroad in Singapore and Italy, he will head to South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Upon return to the U.S., he will start his business career in the technology industry.

Runa Annasdotter Neely ’21 CLAS-Master’s, of Umeå, Sweden, graduated in May 2021 with a Masters of Arts degree in Political Science. Neely received her a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Uppsala University, Sweden, in 2019. As an undergraduate, Neely spent a semester interning at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C. She is currently based in Brussels, Belgium, where she is working as a European Liaison Officer focusing on public health and alcohol related harm. Neely will spend her Fulbright Award year in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she will complete a research project exploring women’s political representation. Upon return to the U.S, Neely intends to continue her studies by eventually earning a PhD in Political Science.

Julia Nema '22 CLAS, of Philadelphia, Pa., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with minors in Sociology and Sustainability Studies. A Saint Martin de Porres Scholar, Nema is the first in her family to attend college. She served as a co-chair for Unitas weekend and was an active member of CLAS Ambassadors. Nema also worked as the Program Assistant for the Villanova Initiative for Engaging Women (VIEW) and was an undergraduate writing tutor in Villanova's Writing Center. She spent summer 2021 interning with the Philadelphia Justice Project for Women and Girls. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Nema will teach English in the Czech Republic. Following the completion of her Fulbright, she will pursue a master's degree in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kate Refolo ‘22 CLAS, of Shrewsbury, Mass., graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Interdisciplinary Studies: Cultural Studies and a minor in Philosophy. While at Villanova, Refolo took a teaching English course, which inspired her to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position. During her junior year, she studied abroad at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. Refolo’s study abroad experience inspired her to write her senior thesis about the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society. She looks forward to her time as an ETA and hopes to volunteer as an English tutor for North Korean refugees in South Korea. 

Gracie Smith '22 CLAS, of Arlington, Vermont, graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Chinese Language and Culture. She served on the Executive Board of Villanova Mock Trial and participated in several other clubs and organizations on campus, such as Polis Literary Magazine and Villanova Club Swim. She has substitute taught in her hometown in Vermont during break the past four years and was a Writing Center tutor at Villanova. She is excited to continue in a teaching role as an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan. Upon returning to the U.S., she will study law at William and Mary Law School.

Joseph Zinno ’22 COE, of Steubenville, Ohio, graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, minors in Engineering Entrepreneurship and Mathematics, and a concentration in Dynamic Systems. A Dean’s Meritorious Service awardee and the inaugural recipient of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Student Achievement Award, Zinno worked on an international service project in Madagascar through the Villanova Engineering Service Learning program, and also participated in a Student Justice Experience to Jamaica with Mustard Seed Communities. He was inducted into Pi Tau Sigma, the International Honor Society for Mechanical Engineers. Zinno was a New Student Orientation Counselor for three years, was involved with the Buddies program for four years where he served as a member of the Executive Board, and has served on the Engineering Student Council all four years. He was the recipient of two Innovation Fund Grants through the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to found and pursue his own venture. Zinno will spend his Fulbright year in Lahti, Finland, as a master’s student in the Industrial Design Engineering Programme at LUT University.

Note: There is one additional Fulbright US Student grant award recipient (from CLAS), who chose not to be publicized at this time.


Villanovans recognized as Fulbright U.S. Student Alternates are:

  • Natalia Antunez ‘22 CLAS, Biology, English Teaching Assistantship in Andorra
  • Gillen Curren ‘22 CLAS, Geography and Environmental Science, Study-Research in Ireland
  • Isaiah Kazunga ‘22 CLAS, History, English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia
  • Athena Lago ‘20 CLAS, Biochemistry, Study-Research in Spain
  • Elizabeth Malfaro ‘15 CLAS, Biology, Study-Research in Taiwan

Villanovans recognized as Fulbright U.S. Student Semi-Finalists are:

  • Camryn Allen ‘21 CLAS, Communication, English Teaching Assistantship in Rwanda
  • Idjatou Barry ‘22 CLAS, GIS: Africana Studies, Study-Research in Finland
  • Morgan Bendel ‘22 COE, Civil Engineering, English Teaching Assistantship in Poland
  • Ajibola Bodunrin ‘22 CLAS, Communication, Study-Research in Nigeria
  • Cecelia Bushway ‘22 CLAS, Political Science, English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic
  • Caroline Canally ‘22 CLAS, Biology, English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia
  • Katherine Canally ‘20 CLAS, Political Science, English Teaching Assistantship in Morocco
  • Annie Cowen ‘22 VSB, International Business and Accountancy, English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia
  • Damir Creecy ‘22 CLAS, Biology, Study-Research in New Zealand
  • Casey Del Guercio ‘22 CLAS, Spanish Language and Literature and Criminology, English Teaching Assistantship in Spain
  • Christopher DiLullo ‘22 CLAS, Communication and Spanish Language and Literature, English Teaching Assistantship in Andorra
  • Jadwiga Doney ‘22 COE, Sustainable Engineering, Study-Research in the United Kingdom
  • Grace Girard ‘22 CLAS, Political Science, English Teaching Assistantship in North Macedonia
  • Austin Glass ‘22 VSB, Economics, English Teaching Assistantship in North Macedonia
  • Catherine Hamilton ‘18 VSB, International Business and Marketing, English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia
  • Jae Eun Jang ‘22 CLAS, Political Science and Peace and Justice, English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia
  • William McCarthy ‘22 CLAS, Psychology, Study-Research in Australia
  • Hannah Medsker ‘22 CLAS, Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience and Humanities, Study-Research in Norway
  • Grace Pawelczyk ‘22 CLAS, Individually Designed Major: Chinese Language and Culture, Study-Research in Taiwan
  • Olivia Pfeiffer ‘22 CLAS, Economics and Humanities, Study-Research in Finland
  • Allison Porzio ‘21 CLAS, Political Science and Communication, English Teaching Assistantship in South Korea
  • Ailie Posillico ‘25 CLAS, Theology PhD, Study-Research in Germany
  • Caroline Sweeney ‘22 CLAS, English and Humanities, English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic
  • John Weinberger ’22 CPS, Information Systems and Technology, Study-Research in Finland
  • Gary Zeron ‘21 CLAS, GIS: Arab and Islamic Studies, English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia

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