UVA Cited as Fulbright Scholarship ‘Top Producer’

February 14, 2024 By Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu

The U.S. Department of State named the University of Virginia a “Top Producing Institution” of Fulbright U.S. Student Award recipients in 2023-24.

Twelve UVA graduates and alumni accepted Fulbright U.S. Student Awards last year and are currently working, studying or researching around the world, from Colombia to South Korea. One other received the Fulbright but declined it. 

“I’m delighted that UVA continues to be among the nation’s top universities for Fulbright U.S. Student Awards,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “I’m also grateful to faculty and staff members for supporting our students throughout the application process and to the outstanding students who pursue Fulbright and other fellowships worldwide. Their hard work, dedication and vision for a better future benefits communities around the world.” 

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international academic exchange program. Since 1946, the program has supported more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals of all backgrounds. 

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Ryan by letter of the University’s “top producer” distinction.

“This achievement is a testament to your institution’s deep commitment to international exchange and to building lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” Blinken said in his letter.

Zachary Marhanka, a 2022 graduate in global environments and sustainability, and economics in the Distinguished Majors Program, is a Fulbright recipient researching solar pump integrations for agricultural production in Pandharpur, India.

A side by side image set of Marhanka in his abroad program

Zachary Marhanka (at left and far right) with, from left, Shriram Maruti Jadhav, Dattatray Narsale, Harivijay Narsale, Nagnath Narsale, students from SVERI College of Engineering, which is hosting Marhanka for his research, and a solar panel array in India. (Contributed photo)

“As a sustainable energy researcher, India is an important country to study,” Marhanka said. “In the realms of energy transitions, community development and environmental well-being, India is making huge strides from local entrepreneurial innovations to expansive government subsidies. I couldn't think of a better way to merge my personal and career interests.”

Marhanka wants to enroll in a graduate program focused on energy and environmental economics and use his skills in the U.S. or India.

Brown posing in front of a mountain scene

Ross Brown uses remote sensing to study tree health in German forests. (Contributed photo)

Ross Brown, a 2023 environmental science graduate, is using remote sensing to research tree health and productivity in German forests. He plans to present his findings to the European Geosciences Union in mid-April.

“I wanted to do something nonstandard for work when I graduated,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to go straight into an office job or Ph.D. program, and I had never been out of the country before. The Fulbright program seemed like a great option. I wanted to expand my worldview and experience different cultures.”

Emily Kasky, working as an English teaching assistant in Bulgaria, credits the Army ROTC program at UVA for helping her develop leadership and class management skills.

“Cross-cultural competency and a broader worldview are beneficial to any service and leadership-related career,” Kasky said. “In the five months I’ve been in Bulgaria, I’ve learned that many aspects of teaching and leadership are parallel – namely, caring about the development of others.”

Kasky said applying for a Fulbright is one of the best decisions she has made.

Group photo of a UVA student wiht a class of eighth graders in Bulgarian

Emily Kasky (center, wearing black with a braid in her hair) with one of the eighth-grade English classes after students taught her about holiday traditions in Bulgaria. (Contributed photo)

“I applied to expand my worldview by teaching abroad,” she said. “I saw the Fulbright ETA grant as the ultimate opportunity to serve in a foreign community, learn about an entirely new culture and practice language learning.”

UVA’s other 2023-24 Fulbright recipients are:

  • Deborah Ayres-Brown is working as an English teaching assistant in Spain.
  • John Barton is pursuing a master of social science in development, education and international cooperation in Finland.
  • Rosalie Daval is working as an English teaching assistant in Colombia.
  • Daria Gundermann is researching salmonidae and climate change in Germany.
  • Lana Kweon is working as an English teaching assistant in South Korea.
  • Kathryn Simkin is working as an English teaching assistant in South Korea.
  • Lydia Smith is working as an English teaching assistant in Bulgaria.
  • Philip Velie is researching machine learning and particle physics in Germany.
  • Katherine Zain is working as an English teaching assistant in the Czech Republic.

Fulbright applicants at UVA are supported by the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, home to fellowships and undergraduate research, directed by Andrus G. Ashoo.

“These 13 students represent only the fortunate few of the many worthy candidates who pursued the Fulbright last year and I am thrilled for the experiences they are having abroad this year,” Ashoo said. “I am most proud of the fact that the Fulbright process at UVA continues to be a vehicle for the development of our students and alumni – that our Fulbright candidates refine their personal and professional goals and even go on to receive other fellowships.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications