This year’s nine student and three faculty Fulbright winners, along with 13 deferred awardees from 2020–21, will teach and conduct research in more than a dozen countries around the world during the 2021–22 academic year.
The nine new University of Iowa students and alumni from a range of creative, academic, and scientific fields were chosen from more than 11,000 students nationally to receive a prestigious Fulbright award to conduct research, teach English, or undertake creative projects abroad in 2021–22.
Additionally, three UI faculty members (Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program; Marian Muste, a research engineer and adjunct professor in the College of Engineering; and Jane Gilotti, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and 13 deferred Fulbright awardees from 2020–21 are scheduled to go abroad in 2021–22.
Fewer Fulbright awards were issued this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and deferrals for awards given for 2020–21.
For the sixth consecutive year in 2020–21, the UI was named a top-producing institution of Fulbright students nationally. During that six-year period, nearly 100 UI students received awards to more than 30 different countries, supported by faculty and staff mentors with world region and country expertise. The UI tied for 12th place in the country nationally for its 24 winners in 2020–21.
“The UI and International Programs are especially proud of this year’s Fulbright recipients, as their awards display patience and determination in the face of COVID-19,” says Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs, which oversees the university’s Fulbright programs. “These newest members of the UI Fulbright family were undaunted by the obstacles imposed by the pandemic and their persistence was rewarded in prestigious placements to teach and conduct research all over the world. We wish them every success as the latest ambassadors of Iowa’s commitment to global education.”
The Fulbright competition is administered at Iowa through International Programs under the guidance of Fulbright Program Advisor Karen Wachsmuth. Students interested in applying for the 2023–24 Fulbright competition should make an appointment to learn more about the application process. The deadline for the 2023-24 competition is Sept. 1, 2022.
For the past year, these Fulbright finalists have been encouraged by advisors, nominated by professors, and supported by those who have witnessed their academic dedication and service to the community to take a crucial step forward in applying to represent their country as citizen ambassadors.
Brant Walker, a Dubuque, Iowa, native who graduated from the UI in spring 2021, says the exceptional mentorship and support he received at the UI made all the difference in his application process for a 2021–22 award.
“I became friends with many wonderful human beings during my four years at the UI, and I would not be the person I am today without their unconditional support,” says Walker. “And of course, without the help of Karen Wachsmuth and the rest of the Fulbright mentor team, my application would have not been the same. This was a team effort.”
“Fulbright provides a life-changing opportunity,” says UI Fulbright faculty mentor and professor of political science Bill Reisinger. “Everyone who applies comes away having learned a lot about themselves and what they can achieve. UI students benefit from the in-depth knowledge of Fulbright Advisor Karen Wachsmuth, who is backed up by several dozen faculty and staff from across the university ready to help students with their applications. We think Iowa students represent the best features of America, and clearly the Fulbright program agrees.”
Of this year’s nine awardees, two students—Kathleen Maris Paltrineri and Megan Lenss—were awarded a Fulbright to Norway. Both Cedar Rapids, Iowa, natives, Paltrineri and Lenss are the first two UI grantees to Norway in the history of the program.
“I am so excited about this opportunity because it will allow me to grow personally and professionally,” says Lenss, who will be collaborating with the Norwegian Polar Institute as a part of an initiative to create a marine-protected area in the Weddell Sea. “Professionally, this will allow me to experience scientific research in a new way and find out if it is really something I want to do forever. It will also allow me to meet a team of scientists working in a field that I think I want to work in, which will give me great connections moving forward into a PhD and a future career.”
The Fulbright program, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. It is designed to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries by providing participants the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
This year’s recipients include:
Marisol Contreras, of San Diego, California, is a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at the UI. With her Fulbright Study/Research grant in chemical engineering to Germany, Contreras will be working with a research group at the Jülich Research Center in North Rhine-Westphalia investigating the environmental impacts associated with renewable hydrogen production.
Sarah Day, of Vermillion, South Dakota, received an MA in rehabilitation and counselor education from the UI in 2018. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Montenegro, Day will teach English in a high school or university setting in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Dilon Gonçalves, of Chicago, Illinois, received a BA in journalism and mass communication from the UI in 2019. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Estonia, Gonçalves will provide the students with support on their English skills and learn about Estonian culture.
Julia Conrad, of Brooklyn, New York, received an MFA in literary translation from the UI in May 2021 and an MFA in nonfiction writing in May 2020. With her Fulbright Arts/Creative Writing award to Italy, Conrad will conduct research for a biography about Sicilian writers and teach writing/translation workshops in Palermo, Italy.
Sarah Schlosser, of North Canton, Ohio, received an MFA in book studies from the UI in May 2021. With her Fulbright Study/Research grant in Book Arts to India for 2021–22, Schlosser will work with craftspeople at the Kumarappa Institute of Hand Paper Making to study traditional methods of natural dyeing.
Brant Walker, of Dubuque, Iowa, received a BS in mathematics and economics from the UI in May 2021. With his Fulbright Study/Research grant in economics to Germany, Walker will work with researchers at the University of Mannheim to study the effects of European Union policies on climate change.
Kathleen Maris Paltrineri
Kathleen Maris Paltrineri, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received an MFA in literary translation from the UI in May 2021. With her Fulbright Study/Research grant in Translation to Norway, Paltrineri will translate an anthology of contemporary environmental poetry.
Katarina Newcamp, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a BA in political science from the UI in May 2021. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Kosovo, Newcamp will teach English and organize a triathlon club at a local university.
Megan Lenss, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a BS in geoscience from the UI in May 2021. With her Fulbright Study/Research Arts grant in oceanography to Norway, Lenss will work with a team at the Norwegian Polar Institute seeking to create a marine-protected area in the Weddell Sea.