6 TU students named Fulbright semifinalists, most in university history

By Rebecca Kirkman on March 10, 2023

Candidates hope to deepen scholarship, cultural engagement in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, South Korea, Spain

Six Towson University students have been selected as semifinalists for the 2023–24 Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the most in TU history.

TU’s Fulbright candidates include four students applying to the English teaching assistant (ETA) program, one student pursuing graduate study and one student conducting independent research.

Administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program provides competitive, merit-based grants for individually designed study/research projects abroad or ETA programs outside the U.S. The program operates in more than 140 countries and awards grants in nearly all fields and disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, STEM fields and creative and performing arts.

The Fulbright experience builds on the opportunities offered through the Office of Study Abroad & Away

“Fulbrighters get to meet, work, live with and learn from the people of their host country, allowing them to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things and the way they think,” says Liz Shearer, director of Study Abroad & Away. “While Study Abroad & Away experiences allow students to broaden their global perspective during their time at TU, the Fulbright program empowers individuals to continue their path to becoming socially responsible, engaged citizens of the world.”

Finalists are chosen based on the candidate’s professional and academic record, language preparation, feasibility of their proposal and extent that the project will advance the Fulbright aim of promoting mutual understanding through engagement in the host community. 

Summer fellowship opportunity

Office of Competitive Fellowships & Awards Summer Fellowship: Leadership for the Public Good

Applications are open for the Office of Competitive Fellowships & Awards Summer Fellowship: Leadership for the Public Good. Applications are due March 24. Download the application (Word Doc)

Visit the CFA

The Competitive Fellowships & Awards office (TM 154) in the Undergraduate Research Center at 10 West is open for walk-ins and holds an open house on the first Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. beginning April 5.

TU had four student Fulbright award winners in the 2022–23 program cycle and was recently named a top-producing institution for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program. The university has had 20 Fulbright awardees since 1968. Twenty-one TU students and recent graduates worked with the Office of Competitive Fellowships & Awards (CFA) to apply during the 2023–24 application cycle.

“The Fulbright is a unique opportunity for students to expand on their research and teaching experience on an international level," says Mary Sajini Devadas, associate professor of chemistry and director of the CFA. “I always tell students to believe in themselves and that they can do it too. It's not just about winning, its also about the learning experience and being uncomfortable—pushing yourself beyond what you think you can achieve.”

The semifinalists encourage their peers to learn more about the program and not hesitate to apply if they are interested.

“My advice would be to give it a whirl,” says Kimberly Caceci ’23, an elementary education major pursuing an ETA grant in Greece. “Really invest in finding which country's grant program calls to you and follow that calling. The application process alone taught me so much about myself and who I want to be as a future educator, and in my book, that's a win in and of itself.” 

“Sometimes you are your worst enemy. Take the risk anyway,” adds Abigail Hernandez Herrera ’23, a graduate student in the school psychology program pursuing an ETA in Spain. “The worst that can happen is being told 'no.' But that one risk can land you a breathtaking experience in another part of the world, which will only help you grow in your personal and professional lives.”

Students interested in Fulbright or other postgraduate opportunities receive support in the preparation and application process from the CFA office at TU.

Samantha Frank ’22, ’23, a graduate student in the child life, administration and family collaboration program and a semifinalist pursing the ETA program in Spain, recommends students applying for the Fulbright program make use of the many resources available on campus. 

“Your adviser is always available for support, and the Writing Center is also a great resource for editing and brainstorming. Using Towson’s library and their databases for background information on your country is extremely helpful to understanding the context of the country you are applying to,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for support.”

Fulbright award recipients will be announced later this spring.

The upcoming Fulbright program application cycle began on March 1. Devadas encourages juniors, seniors and recent alums to contact the CFA if they are interested in applying.

Get to know TU’s Fulbright semifinalists



Kimberly Caceci ’23

Elementary education major
Fulbright program: ETA, Greece
Campus Advisor: Pamela Hickey, Department of Elementary Education

“At my internship last spring teaching literacy skills to third and fourth graders, I tutored a student who spoke Spanish, Arabic, Hindi and English. Teaching her literacy skills while also learning so much about her culture and upbringing completely opened my eyes and heart to this niche of education. I absolutely fell in love with linguistic diversity and the rich cultural diffusion that comes along with it. I felt compelled to teach English beyond the borders of the U.S., and Fulbright felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. If awarded the ETA grant, I plan to home in on additive bilingualism practices such as code meshing and circumlocution in the Greek classrooms.” 

woman posing in front of floral wall

Samantha Frank ’22, ’23

Child life, administration and family collaboration graduate student
Family and human services major, Spanish minor
Fulbright program: ETA, Spain
Campus Advisor: Study Abroad & Away Office

“An ETA position in Spain will give me an opportunity to utilize the teaching skills I developed teaching ESOL in Haiti and India while expanding my knowledge of the Spanish language. This experience will prepare me for my career as a future certified child life specialist, where I will educate young patients of varying backgrounds about their diagnoses and hospitalization. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I plan to create an afterschool workshop program to educate students on mental and emotional well-being.”

woman posing with rainbow

Abigail Hernandez Herrera ’23

School psychology graduate student
Fulbright program: ETA, Spain
Campus Advisor: Study Abroad & Away Office

“As a school psychologist, I am constantly working with students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. I have always strived to enhance my cultural competence as a practitioner to reach diverse student populations. What better way to do that than through a Fulbright ETA? With my background in school psychology and my experience teaching English abroad, I intend on providing learning opportunities for students by creating an afterschool club that focuses on the development of mental health coping strategies like mindfulness and self-awareness.”


Stuti Kamble ’23

Early childhood education major
Fulbright program: ETA, South Korea
Campus Advisor: Ashley Lucas, Department of Secondary & Middle School Education

“Fulbright offers an incredible opportunity for education majors like me to experience education in other cultures. I immigrated to the U.S. from India at a very young age. Being raised in India exposed me to underserved communities and their struggles in the school system. I hope to work with the students in South Korea facing the same financial issues I dealt with and gain a new perspective on how best to support students socially and academically. I hope to learn from them about how I can be a better pillar of strength for students in similar situations and apply those experiences in my teaching methods back in the U.S.”

Person standing in front of research poster

Michael Ojo ’23

Cellular and molecular biology major
Fulbright program: Master’s Research Award, Denmark
Campus Advisor: John Weldon, Department of Biological Sciences

“I have always wanted to study abroad, however COVID-19 stopped me from being able to do so during my undergraduate studies. I intend to enroll as a guest student in Southern University of Denmark’s biology master’s program. There I will conduct research under Lasse Jakobsen, a bat researcher and associate professor. I’ll be conducting a study on bats and the type of behavior they exhibit when they sense a predator. I’ve always loved animals, so the chance to do high-level research on them abroad is amazing.”

Person in red phone booth with Big Ben in background

Sydney Redford ’23

Political science and international studies major, anthropology and French minor
Fulbright program: Open Study/Research Award, Belgium
Campus Advisor: Allison McCartney, Department of Political Science

“As an international studies major, I was always interested in working and studying abroad. Fulbright gives me the opportunity to conduct research in another country and meet different professionals and experts, like officials in the European Union and the United Nations. I hope to gain hands-on experience with how policies are made and what actions can be taken to help vulnerable people living in these countries. In Belgium I will be researching European civil societies and human rights organizations' reintegration efforts for children with disabilities escaping armed conflict.” 

The Office of Competitive Fellowships & Awards supports Towson University students seeking to advance their educational and career goals through highly competitive fellowships and awards available nationally and globally. Faculty interested in nominating students can do so here. For any questions, .

For more information, follow the office on Instagram and Twitter.