Eight U.Va. Students, Most Recent Graduates, Receive Fulbright Scholarships

August 02, 2010
August 2, 2010 — Eight University of Virginia students, most of whom are recent graduates, have received Fulbright scholarships to study abroad. They will be going overseas to further their education in such topics as philosophy, biology, architecture, languages and art. 

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government designed to increase mutual understanding among people. The scholarship provides between $15,000 to $25,000 per recipient, depending on the country and the program. The scholarships generally cover tuition, research expenses, a stipend, some travel expenses and some health care benefits.

The eight U.Va Fulbright scholars are: Ben B. Schewel of Richmond; Lauren C. Howe of Earlysville; Allissia A. Gilmartin, of South Burlington, Vt.; Kiersten L. Luther of Pittsburgh; Leslie Cozzi of Chicago; Sarah Owens of Birmingham, Ala.; Meredith Haas of Charlottesville; and Jordan Matthews of Stratton Mountain, Vt.

"We are thrilled that a number of our students have been selected this year as Fulbright grantees," said Gowher Rizvi, vice provost of international programs. "At a time when universities are trying to become global, the Fulbright Program offers an invaluable opportunity for our students and faculty to broaden and deepen their understanding of the world. It also allows them the opportunity to share their own culture and expertise with others."

These graduates and students are among more than 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2010-2011 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

"The Fulbright program provides an unparalleled opportunity for international experience," said Lucy Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "U.Va.'s new Fulbright recipients made it through a very competitive process and each of them has in store a deeply meaningful experience."

The region will continue to benefit from the Fulbright scholars.

"Those who have had a Fulbright experience and return to our community enrich the University and the region," Rizvi said. "In Central Virginia, we have more than 270 returned Fulbright recipients, and have an active local chapter of the Fulbright Association. The University attracts a number of Fulbright students and scholars from a variety of countries each year. Their presence on Grounds enhances our diverse population and provides us with a window on the world."

This year's recipients represent a wide array of disciplines and fields of study.

• Ben B. Schewel, 23, received a master's degree in religious studies and will study philosophy in Belgium.

"This allows me to continue to develop my knowledge and thought, as well as providing me with an opportunity to expand my understanding of the contemporary movements of philosophy and theology," Schewel said. 

The son of Priscilla Burbank and Michael Schewel of Richmond, he plans to pursue his master's of philosophy degree at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. He wants to pursue a Ph.D. in the philosophy of religion and teach and write at a research institution.
"I study the philosophy of religion, focusing in particular on the schools of American pragmatism and phenomenology, though I also spend a good deal of time with the German Idealists and their dissenters such Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Marx," he said. "I am currently working on a philosophical account of the harmony between science and religion."

Aside from his Fulbright Award, Schewel has received a Belgian American Education Foundation Fellowship; the Kate Connolly-Weinert Prize for peace issues or women's studies; a U.Va. Summer Language Grant; a Children of Abraham Award for contributions to peace among the Abrahamic peoples; and an undergraduate research grant. He is an Echols Scholar, founder of the Interfaith Dialogue Community and president of the Bahá'í Student Association. He has made numerous conference presentations and is secretary of the Area Teaching Committee for the Bahá'ís of the Charlottesville area.

• Lauren C. Howe, 22, has completed her bachelor's degrees in psychology, with highest distinction, and German languages and literatures and will teach English as a foreign language in Germany.

"I studied abroad in Germany in 2008 and 2009 and fell in love with the country," Howe said. "I volunteered in some German middle school classrooms and gave presentations about life in the U.S., and was often the only American that the students had ever met."

The daughter of James Howe of Earlysville, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in social psychology and eventually work in academia. She is a member of the Raven Society, the Phi Sigma Pi co-ed honor fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa, and she volunteers with the International Students and Scholars Program.

• Allissia A. Gilmartin, 22, graduated with a bachelor's of science degree in biology with high honors, a bachelor of arts degree in global health and a minor in French. She will conduct research on how the hepatitis C virus infects human cells at the lab of Dr. Felix Rey, director of the Department of Virology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

"My Fulbright project will not only provide invaluable research experience and an opportunity to work with some of the most pre-eminent infectious disease researchers in the world, but will also allow me to interact with researchers from throughout the world who have come to work at the Institut Pasteur," Gilmartin said. "I also look forward to volunteering with an organization such as the Croix-Rouge Française or Médecins sans Frontières while in Paris. My hope is that these cross-cultural experiences will aid my future work as a physician and researcher in the developing world."

The daughter of Gregory and Judith Gilmartin of South Burlington, Vt., she plans to obtain a medical degree in infectious diseases and "work toward the development of vaccines and drugs to treat diseases that disproportionately affect people in the developing world."

She has received a Richard D. Katz Symposium first prize, a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, a Baireuther service-learning award and is a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda and Phi Eta Sigma member. She has been an Education Abroad peer adviser and participated in Alternative Spring Break in Puerto Rico and Haiti.

• Kiersten L. Luther, 22, has completed the requirements for a bachelor of arts degree in German language and literature and is currently a fifth-year student at U.Va.'s Curry School of Education. She is studying to teach German and English as a second language at the secondary school level, and she will be an assistant English teacher at a bilingual German and Italian school in Berlin.

The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Luther Jr. of Pittsburgh, she plans to be a language teacher.

"Since I plan to teach German, I want to be sure that I know as much about the language and culture as possible," she said. "When I applied for a Fulbright, I knew that spending another year completely immersed in the language and culture would push me to achieve this goal. Another reason I applied is because I like the idea of being an 'ambassador' and representing the United States. I feel that I have a lot to share and a lot to learn."

She is a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority; the Mahogany Hip-Hop Dance Troupe; Freedom Without Walls; the Women's Leadership Development Program; the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Eta Sigma. She has participated in the U.Va. Dance Marathon, AmeriCorps Jumpstart, U.Va. Days on the Lawn and IES Study Abroad.

• Leslie Cozzi, 29, a sixth-year art history graduate student, will be working in Italy to complete her dissertation on contemporary Italian women artists.

"This scholarship is essential in allowing me to complete my dissertation research," she said. "I look forward to the opportunity to spend nine months in Italy."

The daughter of Albert Cozzi and Maria Cozzi of Chicago, Cozzi plans to pursue a career in museum curatorial work. She completed her undergraduate work at Yale. She is a Jefferson Graduate Fellow, former president of the Art History Graduate Association and a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows. She is also a student member of College Art Association.

• Sarah Owens, 22, who received a bachelor of arts degree in English, with a minor in Spanish, will be a teaching assistant in Turkey.

"This scholarship is an opportunity for me to bridge cultural connections and serve as a representative of my country, my school and my family," she said. "I always knew that I wanted to be involved in cultural conversations, and so I decided I wanted to teach English abroad after I graduated. 

The daughter of Jean and Tom Owens of Birmingham, Ala., Owens sees many possibilities for her future.

"My future is pretty much an open book, and I don't think I would want it any other way," she said. "I can see myself pursuing medical school, graduate school in public health or an array of other topics. After my teaching experience is complete in Turkey, I may decide education is the right path for me."

Owens was an Echols Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Peer Health Educators, Global Public Health Society, Science Scholars, Golden Key, Kappa Delta sorority and the Order of Omega Honor Society. She performed undergraduate research in the Pharmacology Department at the U.Va. Medical Center and she was the director of and a four-year volunteer at the Madison House Medical Services Program.

• Meredith Haas, 23, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in government and a master's in public policy from U.Va.'s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She will teach for a year in Malaysia.

"I applied for a Fulbright to experience life abroad, understand and immerse myself in the education system of another country, make an impact and experience something entirely new," she said. "Living and teaching for a year in a fairly remote region of Malaysia will hopefully push me intellectually, socially and personally."

The daughter of Elizabeth Jones and John Haas of Charlottesville, Haas plans a career in education policy.

"I am particularly interested in primary and secondary education as it relates to international development, as well as special education in international/alternative settings," she said.

Haas is a member of the Raven Society, Virginia Ambassadors and the Batten Council and worked as an English as a second language tutor at Madison House. She was an intern in the Washington, D.C., public school system and for the Center for Politics; worked for Teach for America as a campus coordinator, a mentor for the Young Women Leaders Program and a class facilitator for Multicultural Education.

• Jordan Matthews, 22, graduated with a bachelor of science degree in architecture, with a minor in architectural history, and will be researching the transformations of public space in the Turkish-Ottoman-Byzantine cities of Istanbul, Bursa and Iznik.

"Architecture is the perfect merger of science, environmental considerations and creative energy," Matthews said. "I have always been fascinated by Turkish architecture, so I am excited to finally have the opportunity to experience it firsthand.

The daughter of Scott and Gigi Matthews of Rumson, N.J. and Stratton Mountain, Vt., she plans to attend graduate school for architectural design and to perform architectural preservation and restoration in New Orleans.

Matthews was president of Architecture School Design Council, the student council for the School of Architecture; a racing competitor for the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team; the public relations chair for Freedom By Design, a volunteer design/build group through the American Institute of Architecture Students; a teaching assistant for Architecture 1010 and 1020; a member of Phi Eta Sigma and a participant in Universitas 21 Summer School 2009. She is a recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

The Fulbright Program is primarily funded by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, with indirect support 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.

Establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator 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.