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  • Fulbright 2020 Winners

10 UofSC Students Named Fulbright U.S. Student Finalists

Record-number of applicants, record-making year: UofSC announces Fulbright U.S. Student Program Awardees

With a record-breaking 40 applicants, the University of South Carolina is proud to announce that ten bright ambassadors have been selected as Awardees for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. This is the university’s 19th consecutive year of success, and this year the Finalists will be sent to nine different countries to pursue graduate studies or teach English.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Fulbright’s mission is to keep us connected. Through cultural exchange students and communities learn from one another and build relationships across borders. UofSC’s 2020 Fulbright Awardees will be continuing a vibrant tradition of ambassadorship. Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided this opportunity to more than 380,000 participants- all of whom were chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential.

This year our 2020 Fulbright Finalists are:

  • Catharine Aretakis, Study Grant, Netherlands
  • Samuel Breazeale, English Teaching Assistantship, Kyrgyzstan
  • Austin Coale, English Teaching Assistantship, Vietnam
  • Alexandra Fleury, English Teaching Assistantship, Indonesia
  • Maddox McKibben-Greene, Study Grant, Taiwan
  • Daniel “Jake” Harrington, English Teaching Assistantship, Latvia
  • Emily Herd, English Teaching Assistantship, Estonia
  • Christina Nielsen, English Teaching Assistantship, Spain
  • Kati Russ, English Teaching Assistantship, Indonesia
  • Alexandria Thompson, English Teaching Assistantship, Germany

In addition, three students have been named Alternates: Madison Finley, Paige Huffman, and Gwendolyn Walker.

Our finalists display a colorful set of accomplishments and experiences. UofSC’s Fulbright Advisors were tasked with the job of helping them craft an application that showcases their unique stories. Dr. Jeff Persels, Associate Professor of French, serves as our longest serving committee member. Dr. Myriam Torres, Clinical Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Arnold School of Public Health), Fred Myhrer, Professor of Physics, Laura Kissel, Professor and Director (School of Visual Art and Design), and Lucy Spence, Associate Professor (College of Education) rounded out the 2019 committee. Supporting Fulbright applicants is an interdisciplinary campus-wide effort. This year, the Fulbright advising team was assisted by 56 faculty and staff across campus with on campus interviews for each applicant.

2020 has been a record-making year in more ways than one. Despite the challenges and uncertainties for international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our awardees are eager to begin building ambassadorial relationships across the world when the conditions are safe. We wish all our scholars a safe and fruitful Fulbright journey.

2020 Fulbright Finalists

Catharine Aretakis is a 2020 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College with majors in History and English and a minor in Jewish Studies. Aretakis was awarded a Fulbright study grant to the Netherlands. In addition to Fulbright, Aretakis was awarded the Ceny Walker Undergraduate Fellowship for her research on Afro-Germans during the Holocaust (which she conducted in Germany). Aretakis has received the Sura and Henry Wengrow award for Jewish Studies as well as the Magellan Mini-Grant and Exploration Grant. She also served as the historian for Phi Alpha Theta at UofSC. Aretakis hopes to become a historian of Holocaust history and a professor at a university.

Samuel Breazeale will be traveling to Kyrgyzstan to complete a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. He is a 2018 graduate from the Arnold School of Public Health with a major in Public Health and a minor in Russian. That same year, Breazeale won the State Department Critical Language Scholarship for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Breazeale is a currently working towards his Master of Arts from the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan, with anticipated graduation in May 2022. His current career goal is to research social health disparities in the former Soviet Union, and to utilize his skills in journalism and translation. For Breazeale, becoming an English Teaching Assistant for Fulbright is “an opportunity to bring career opportunities, access to new media, and an understanding of my own culture to Kyrgyz students, as well as a way to engage with and understand Kyrgyz society to a degree that wouldn't be possible from United States.”

Austin Coale will be a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Vietnam. He majored in Experimental Psychology with a Business Administration minor. As a McNair Scholar and 2020 South Carolina Honors College graduate, he received the Service Leadership Award for his contributions the campus community. Coale is a member of Phi Delta Epsilon, Delta Tau Delta, and Phi Beta Kappa. He also served as a GroupX Manager and Instructor for University of South Carolina’s Campus Recreation. In addition to service at UofSC, Coale worked in Colorado for Overland Summers (a summer program) as a trip leader. Applying for Fulbright helped Coale visualize his life in the next five to ten years. He says that “the applications are so specific and ask you to know a lot about your future that it facilitates some tough introspection.” Coale plans to attend medical school after completing his Fulbright year.

Alexandra Fleury is 2017 graduate with a dual degree in English and Finance from the University of South Carolina. She was named a finalist for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia. During her time at UofSC she was recipient of the Freeman Scholarship, Darla Moore Study Abroad Scholarship, and Monte Castello di Vibio Art Scholarship. She was also awarded the Magellan Grant to do research in Europe. Fleury is a writer, artist, and dancer and plans to attend graduate school in the future.

Maddox McKibben-Greene, 2020 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College, has been awarded a Fulbright study grant to Taiwan. While at UofSC, Greene completed a dual degree in Multimedia Journalism and Global Studies. They served as a Resident Mentor, chaired the UofSC Mental Health Ambassadors Program, was the former News Editor at the Daily Gamecock, and worked as an International Desk Intern for CNN. Greene was also awarded the Gilman International Scholarship in 2018, and they were a member of Phi Beta Kappa. They are pursuing a career as an international human rights journalist and grant writer for an NGO. McKibben-Greene encourages other students to apply for a national fellowship, saying that it is “easy” to feel intimidated by the process. “I learned that I am good enough and that there isn’t really one universally ‘right’ way to compete for a national fellowship.”

Jake Harrington is both honored and excited to have been granted a Fulbright award. He’s been awarded an English Teaching Assistantship to Latvia. His decision to apply stems from his family’s Latvian heritage. “My desire to participate in a Fulbright ETA in Latvia was sparked by combination of my thirst for adventure and new experiences with my desire to further explore my Latvian heritage (my maternal grandmother is a Latvian immigrant).” Harrington is a Geological Sciences major, Statistics minor and 2020 graduate from the South Carolina Honors College. At UofSC, Harrington worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Dr. Jennifer Pournelle’s lab where he conducted sedimentary analysis and studied historic climate variations of southern Iraq. He also completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at University of Hawaii at Manoa, funded by the National Science Foundation. Harrington is a recipient of the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, Alumni Scholars Scholarship, SURF Grant, and the Stephen Taber Undergraduate Award in Geosciences. He hopes to earn a master’s degree in Coastal Hydrology or Coastal Oceanography.

Emily Herd graduated May 2020 with a Political Science degree from the South Carolina Honors College. Herd minored in general education, business administration, and Spanish. She will be putting her skills to work as an English Teaching Assistant in Estonia through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Herd participated in the Washington Semester Program in 2019, where she interned full-time at the Education Trust, a national nonprofit for education equity. Her Honors College thesis compares preprimary education funding in Estonia and South Carolina. This experience will further her career goals. “Receiving a Fulbright grant means that I can continue learning and growing past graduation, prior to starting my career. I hope to broaden my understanding of the world and gain lifelong skills and knowledge.” After her time with Fulbright, Herd plans to continue to use her ambassadorial skills in the public sector on education policy.

Christina Nielsen is a Capstone Fellow and 2020 graduate with leadership distinction in research from the University of South Carolina. Her degree in Public Heath is coupled with minors in Spanish and Neuroscience. She has been awarded an English Teaching Assistantship to the Canary Islands through the Fulbright US Student Program. She is looking forward to this experience very much. “I am excited to learn about the history, culture, and natural environment of each of these unique islands. In my teaching assistant role, I hope to gain lasting relationships and skills that will serve me throughout my professional and personal life. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences through social media and by writing letters to friends while abroad.” At UofSC, Nielsen was awarded the Magellan Apprentice Grant and served as a Resident Mentor. In addition to Fulbright, Nielsen is a recipient of various scholarships including the Gilman International Scholarship. Nielsen was nominated in fall 2019 for the Marshall Scholarship and was awarded both an Outstanding Senior Award and a President’s Award in spring 2020. She hopes to be a healthcare professional in the future.

Kati Russ is a 2020 graduate of the South Carolina Honors College with a degree in English as well as minors in business administration and women and gender studies. She was named a finalist for an English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia. Russ is the president of Women LEAD, she has conducted undergraduate research at the Darla Moore School of Business, and she served as an Honors Ambassador. Russ has the goal of earning a PhD in English and becoming a professor.

Alexandria Thompson graduated May 2020 from the South Carolina Honors College with a degree in Music Education (focusing on Choral) and a Vocal Performance Certificate. She will be traveling to Germany to complete an English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Thompson is the President and Co-Founder of Black Honors Caucus for the South Carolina Honors College, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is the recipient of several music and academic scholarships, and her goal is to become a music educator with a Master’s in Music Therapy.

 2020 Fulbright Alternates

Madison Finley is a 2020 graduate from the South Carolina Honors College with majors in International Business and Economics. She also minored in Political Science and Islamic World Studies. She was named an alternate for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program study grant to Israel. As an undergrad at UofSC, Finley was an active member of Sigma Omega Upsilon International Business Fraternity, the Gamecock Consulting Club, Phi Beta Kappa, and Bridges for Enterprise. She was a Palmetto Fellows Recipient and wrote her honors senior thesis on the economic and political effects of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement on Palestinians in the West Bank. Finely hopes to practice international law in the Middle East in the future.

Paige Huffman graduated Magna Cum Lade May 2018 from the South Carolina Honors College. Huffman’s Public Health degree is supported by her minors in Political Science and Criminal Justice. She has been named an alternate for a study grant to the Netherlands. While at UofSC, Huffman received the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship and the Folds of Honor Scholarship. Outside of campus, she worked for Montgomery Willard law firm, interned at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office in the Post-Conviction Relief Unit, and worked as a legislative monitor with Capitol Information Affiliates at the South Carolina State House. Her honors senior thesis explored police interactions with mentally ill subjects. Huffman currently works as a paralegal in Georgia and volunteers for Feminist Women’s Health Center. She is slated to go to law school and start a career as a health policy analyst.

Gwendolyn Walker is a 2020 South Carolina Honors College graduate with degrees in Russian and Global Studies with a minor in Russian and Eurasian Studies. Walker was named an alternate for the Russian English Teaching Assistantship program.

These students and others seeking nationally competitive fellowships were assisted by National Fellowships and Scholar Programs. For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or other national competitions, contact National Fellowships and Scholar Programs at 777-0958, or visit us online at www.sc.edu/nfsp.


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