Eight U.Va. Scholars Receive Fulbright Awards

May 14, 2012 — Eight University of Virginia scholars – four graduate students, three undergraduates and an alumnus – have received Fulbright Scholarships to study abroad.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a federally sponsored international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding among Americans and people of other countries. The U.Va. awardees are among more than 1,700 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2012-13 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

"The Fulbright Program provides a tremendous opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange," said Katherine V. Walters, assistant director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "It serves such an important role in global cooperation, understanding and tolerance. Lynn Hedlund, who advises the graduate student applicants, and I are really excited for the U.Va. recipients – it is a very competitive process and the year promises to be an enriching experience."

This year's winners are:

  • John Jacob Nay, 22, of Midlothian, a fourth-year environmental thought and practice and philosophy double major, with a minor in global sustainability, in the College of Arts & Sciences, who will study environmental policies in Canada.
  • James F. "Jef" Pierce, 32, of Richmond, a Ph.D. candidate in religious studies, concentrating on South Asia, in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, who is working on a dissertation, "Embracing the Goddess: Narrative Expressions of the Feminine Divine in the Devīpurāṇa," and will study in India.
  • Rachel Schmidt, 22, of Chicago, a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, who will research ceramic water filtration methods in rural areas of South Africa.
  • Rachel Lim, 22, of Burke, a fourth-year English literature and American studies major in the College, who will teach English in South Korea.
  • Kyle Rudzinski, 27, of McLean, a 2007 graduate of the College and 2008 graduate of the Curry School of Education, who will study energy policy in Chile with the Economics and Business Department at La Universidad de Chile; Solar Chile, a startup company; and the Renewable Energy Center, funded by the Chilean government.
  • Christine Meng, 21, of Raleigh, N.C., a fourth-year student majoring in music and English literature in the College, who will work as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.
  • Nathan Hedges, 31, of Dallas, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, who will study corruption in Benin, West Africa.
  • Dominic Di Zinno, of Los Angeles, a third-year graduate student in religious studies in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, who will research an ancient Tibetan thinker in Nepal.

The Fulbright Program receives its primary funding from the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, with indirect support coming from participating governments, host institutions, corporations and foundations. Grant recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.