|By Janet Sassi
Thirteen Fulbrights, seven National Science Foundation (NSF) research awards and a Morris K. Udall Scholarship stand out on the list of prestigious fellowships earned by Fordham graduates and undergraduates this year.
In all, 73 students won an impressive slate of awards, internships and scholarships for study at home and in more than a dozen countries, including Vietnam, Jordan, China, Belgium and Mexico. In another showing of Fordham’s increasing intellectual strength, three students were listed as finalists for two of the nation’s three premier academic fellowships: the Rhodes and the British Marshall (the third being the Gates-Cambridge scholarship).
“We are very proud of our students this year who have won numerous national and international awards, including our second Udall Scholarship and our very first Scientific Foundation of Ireland award,” said John Kezel, Ph.D., director of the University’s St. Edmund Campion Institute for the Advancement of Academic Excellence. “Clearly our students are following the advice of St. Edmund Campion to ‘attain the prizes your worth deserves.’”
The Fulbright awards set a new record at Fordham, up from last year’s record of 10 awards. With 22 finalists out of 43 applicants, Fordham’s showing was stronger, Kezel said, than that of many Ivy League schools. The Fulbright winners as of May 8 are:
• Anne Lieberman (FCLC ’09), to Thailand.
• Veronica Mollere (FCLC ’09), to Thailand.
• Jennifer Chang Li (FCLC ’09), to Korea.
• Gary Gabor, GSAS doctoral program, to Belgium.
• Keeran Murphy (FCRH ’09), to Korea.
• Paloma Gutierrez, GSAS International Political Economy and
Development program, to Mexico.
• Matt DeSoi (FCLC ’09), to Germany.
• Mark Nelson (FCLC ’09), to Vietnam.
• Anthony Cotton, GSAS and International Political Economy and
Development program, to South Africa.
• Allison Waid (FCLC ’09), to China.
• Jessica Mahlbacher (FCLC ’07), to Hong Kong.
• Madeline Felix (FCLC ’08), to Vietnam.
• Ali Musa (FCLC ’09), to Jordan.
Nationwide, Fulbright applications were up 15 percent this year, said Regina Plunkett-Dowling, Ph.D., who directs the Office of Fulbright and Graduate Fellowships.
“For our students to win 13 Fulbright Fellowships in the face of such competition is really a tribute to them, their incredibly hard work, and the support of the Fordham community—especially the faculty,” Plunkett-Dowling said, adding that four Fordham students still held places on the alternate list.
Waid, an international studies major whose Fulbright is “Independent and Unabashed: Young Rural Migrant Women Living, Working and Dreaming in Wuhan, China,” heads to China in December for what she described as “very timely research” on Chinese women between 18 and 25.
“The sacrifice of these peasant women is what is fueling China’s incredible growth, and it is important for their stories to be heard now. Things are changing very fast in China,” Waid said.
Also heading abroad are two Fordham students who earned National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Awards to study in underrepresented countries. Meriam Sassi, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center sophomore, will spend her junior year in two countries in North Africa; Fulbright recipient Ali Musa (FCLC ’09), won a Boren to study in Jordan.
Natural sciences also made a strong showing, with Fordham students earning seven NSF Research Undergraduate awards in biology, physics, mathematics and natural science. Kimberly Siletti, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center junior and a natural science major, earned the University’s first Scientific Foundation of Ireland award for undergraduate summer research. She will be spending the summer at a Maynooth, Ireland, lab studying phase transitions in human disease.
Twin sisters April Barnum (FCRH ’11) and Kimberly Barnum (FCRH ’11), each earned DAAD RISE summer research internships to Germany.
The importance of undergraduate research awards can’t be stressed enough, Kezel said. “Research opportunities for undergraduates are extremely competitive,” he said. “It’s the basis for any big-name fellowship application down the line.”
Living proof of that fact is Matthew Cashman, a biology major and Fordham College at Rose Hill junior, who researched forestry biodiversity last summer on a DAAD RISE internship. This year, Cashman, who maintains a 3.94 average, is one of 80 students nationwide to receive the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, given to students choosing careers related to the environment. Cashman, who served as president of the Fordham College Democrats, will be conducting research at Fordham’s Louis Calder Center biological field station this summer on urbanization’s effects on rivers and streams.
“Last year, the fellowship office helped me with the DAAD,” said Cashman, who hopes to merge his science background with political action on environmental policy. “And this year, the Udall. They are excellent in walking students through the process.”
In social sciences, John Howes (FCRH ’09), a political science and Spanish language and literature major, and Patricia Perez (FCRH ’08), an English major, each won fellowships to the city’s Urban Fellows program. The program consists of a one-year paid internship for the City of New York for graduating seniors, and is tailored to those interested in a career in public policy, urban planning or public service.
Lastly, three finalists for fellowships point to the future of Fordham’s intellectual strength: philosophy major Siew Kwok (FCLC ’09) was a finalist for the British Marshall Award, and philosophy/English major Paul Barker (FCRH ’09) and psychology major Anna Maria Oprescu (FCLC ’09) were both Rhodes Scholar finalists.
“The fact that we had three finalists in these very major awards is a very big deal,” Kezel said. “It speaks to Fordham’s tremendous strengths.”
The application processes for the Rhodes and the Marshall awards require extensive essays, several recommendation letters and in-person interviews for finalists. Barker, who graduated with a 3.98 average, said that the Campion Institute made a phenomenal effort to help him achieve his dream—to study at Oxford.
“They helped open all the doors,” said Barker, who plans to apply again for the Rhodes next fall.