Fourteen University of Iowa students and alumni were chosen from about 10,000 Fulbright Award applicants nationwide to serve as representatives of the U.S. Department of State in 11 countries during the 2023-24 academic year. The students will teach English abroad, serve in local community organizations, enroll in graduate studies at cutting-edge universities, and conduct research.
“The UI and International Programs are once again delighted by Iowa’s success in this year’s Fulbright competition,” says Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs, which oversees the university’s Fulbright programs. “The range of disciplines covered underscores the unyielding commitment of our university to maintain Iowa’s preeminence as a standard bearer in global education.”
This year’s awardees come from disciplines as different as speech language pathology, English and creative writing, political science, history, education, and anthropology, says Karen Wachsmuth, Fulbright program advisor.
“One-third of them are first-generation students, and many are already multilingual and ready to take on the challenges of living in a new country and learning its culture,” says Wachsmuth.
The UI is consistently named a top-producing institution of Fulbright students nationally. More than 100 UI students have received awards to more than 30 different countries in the past seven years, supported by faculty and staff mentors with world region and country expertise.
The Fulbright Program is designed to increase understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries by providing participants the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
“This will be my first substantial professional experience abroad,” says 2023-24 Fulbright awardee Amna Haider, who graduated from Iowa in 2022. “I want to pursue internationally oriented work that will provide aid to and consultation for victims of conflict. Fulbright will offer me a diplomatic platform where I can grow and tap into an international advocacy network that is present within this field.”
Iowa’s continued Fulbright success shows how many remarkable students the university attracts, says Bill Reisinger, UI Fulbright faculty mentor and professor of political science.
“For me and the other UI faculty and staff who assist, it is a pleasure helping them showcase their readiness to succeed and what great representatives of the U.S. they will be,” Reisinger says.
In addition to the guidance and support of professors and mentors, Fulbright finalists also cite their experiences at Iowa for sparking their curiosity in the world. For many awardees, this will not be their first time traveling abroad.
“My semester in Germany opened up a new world for me both academically and in introducing me to areas of study I had never really considered,” says 2023-24 Fulbright awardee Lee Sailor, of Rolfe, Iowa. “I had never been outside North America or traveled on an airplane before. More than anything else, studying abroad was the experience that pushed me to pursue this Fulbright grant.”
Kyler Johnson, of West Des Moines, Iowa, the recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship to Brazil in 2022, credits his friendships and professors for their guidance and inspiration.
“I want to continue the legacy of the professors and mentors who have helped me explore the world from Iowa City throughout the past four years,” says Johnson. “At the end of four years, it is fruitful to know how large my community has grown to be here at Iowa.”
Sam Boucher, a PhD candidate in history, also was the recipient of a Stanley Award for International Research in 2022, a grant he says played a large role in his decision to pursue a Fulbright.
“By going to Berlin, I realized the importance of finding the right archives and the need for a hands-on approach to my methodology. This inspired me to pursue a Fulbright to build connections with local communities rather than solely finding sources in archives.”
The Fulbright program is administered at Iowa through International Programs under the guidance of Wachsmuth. Students interested in applying for the 2024-25 Fulbright program should make an appointment to learn more about the application process. The deadline for the 2024-25 awards is Sept. 1.
This year’s recipients are:
Sam Boucher, of La Habra, California, is a PhD candidate in history. With his Fulbright Study/Research grant to Paraguay, he will conduct research comparing the success of the cooperatives of the German Mennonite communities and indigenous Paraguayan Mennonite communities.
Olivia Dunn, of Waverly, Iowa, will receive an MA in linguistics in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Morocco, she will teach English and offer free language tutoring for women and children through a knitting club.
Eleanor Hildebrandt, of Des Moines, Iowa, will receive a BA in journalism and mass communication and a BS degree in global health studies in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Germany, she will teach English and develop a community project focusing on American literature.
Amna Haider, of Omaha, Nebraska, received a BA in international relations and philosophy from Iowa in 2022. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Turkey, she will teach English, promote multicultural activities, and organize a philosophy/debate club.
Charlotte Hilker, of Des Moines, Iowa, will receive an MA in speech language pathology from Iowa in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Kosovo, she will teach English and conduct an English conversation club.
Kyler Johnson, of West Des Moines, Iowa, will receive a BA in English and creative writing in May 2023. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Brazil, he will teach English and establish a writing center and publication featuring student writing, art, and translation.
Katherine Kustes, of Bettendorf, Iowa, will receive a BA in social work in May. With her Fulbright Community-Based Combined Award to Austria, she will teach English, take coursework at a university in Austria, and pursue a community-based project at a refugee women’s counseling center in Vienna.
Rebecca Lara, of West Liberty, Iowa, will receive a BS in English and creative writing in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Spain, she will teach English and host a weekly creative writing workshop and film club.
Ashley Lie-Atjam, of Bettendorf, Iowa, will receive a BS in neuroscience in May. With her Graduate Study Fulbright/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Award, she will pursue a master’s degree in neurosciences at Vrije Universiteit and participate in two research internships focused on Alzheimer’s disease.
Laura McDowell, of Kalona, Iowa, will receive BAs in linguistics and Spanish in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Turkey, she will teach English and organize a hiking club.
Guilherme Pinho, of LeClaire, Iowa, will receive BAs in political science and German in May. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Germany, he will teach English and host a club on American car culture.
Lee Sailor, of Rolfe, Iowa, received a BA in political science from Iowa in 2021. With his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Kosovo, he will teach English and conduct a research project examining Kosovo’s efforts in cultural promotion.
Lizzie Shockley, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, will receive a BA in anthropology and Spanish in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Mexico, she will teach English and volunteer with a local food bank.
Dawn Thomas, of Chicago, will receive an MAT in secondary English education in May. With her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Israel, she will teach English, share her African American culture, and facilitate poetry workshops.
In addition, two semifinalists from Iowa were named as alternates for 2023-24:
Laura Evans, of Ames, Iowa, graduated from Iowa in 2022 with a BS degree in neuroscience.
Jake Goldwasser of Edgemont, New York, will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in creative writing.