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Graduate Students Receive Fulbright Grants to Pursue International Research and Teaching

Fourteen University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students and young alumni were offered student Fulbright grants to pursue international educational, research and teaching experiences across the globe this coming year, including four graduate students. 

As the flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program builds international relationships to solve global challenges. Based on their academic and professional achievement as well as their demonstrated leadership potential, approximately 2,100 U.S. citizens will travel abroad for the 2019-20 academic year through the Fulbright student program.

Danielle Nutting

Danielle Stevens Nutting of Kerrville, Texas, is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in flute performance and literature, minoring in ethnomusicology and Balkan studies. She holds flute performance degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Texas State University. Nutting was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct nine months of dissertation research on the classical flute tradition in Bulgaria, where a complex political history, continued vibrance of traditional music, and relatively late establishment of art music in the 19th century begat a unique environment for music-making. She will study flute at the National Music Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, and conduct research with flutists and musicians throughout the country, bridging classical performance and ethnomusicology. In addition to close engagement with the art music community in Sofia, Nutting will study the Bulgarian language and traditional music and dance, including the Bulgarian keyless wooden shepherd’s flute, the kaval. Long term, Nutting said she seeks an interdisciplinary and multifaceted career as a performer, teacher and researcher.

Natalia Román Alicea

Natalia Román Alicea, of Bayamón, Puerto Rico, has been offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Kent State University in May 2017 and earned an M.A. in communication from Illinois in May. While serving as an English instructor in a university in Cali, Colombia, Román Alicea said she hopes to coordinate community activities and professional development workshops through a local grassroots organization serving disadvantaged Colombian youths. As an aspiring academic, Román Alicea has studied college and career readiness of Latin American youths, and her research currently focuses on intercultural communication and health communication within Latin American populations in the U.S. After her Fulbright experience, Román Alicea plans to pursue a Ph.D. and a research-oriented career.

Johnny Uelmen

Johnny Uelmen, of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct doctoral research in South India. Uelmen earned a B.S. in evolutionary biology as a Powers-Knapp Scholar, an M.S. in entomology and an M.S. in epidemiology, all from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At Illinois, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in pathobiology from the College of Veterinary Medicine, evaluating the eco-epidemiology of arboviral infectious diseases. While in India, Uelmen will study the impacts of human encroachment, climate and deforestation on a severe tick-borne disease. His findings will provide critical information to public health officials regarding the timing, location and overall risk of disease. Uelmen, who has conducted previous global health research in rural Thailand, said he plans to graduate shortly after returning from India and will pursue a career in research, teaching and public service.

Naomi Wasserman

Naomi Wasserman, of Lafayette, California, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct doctoral research in New Zealand. She earned a B.A. in environmental sciences from Barnard College and is pursuing a Ph.D. in geology at Illinois. Her research focuses on the development of stable isotope systems to trace contaminant mobility in the modern environment and as indicators of the oxygenation of early Earth. At the University of Otago, Wasserman will use these geochemical tools to study the fate and transport of the metalloid antimony, an emerging contaminant that is naturally abundant in New Zealand. Part of her research will involve working with local environmental consultants to monitor the remediation of antimony- and arsenic-contaminated mine waters. Wasserman said she hopes to connect with other backpacking and long-distance running enthusiasts in New Zealand by completing several Great Walks and competing in the Northburn 100. After graduating, she plans for a career in water quality research.

The Fulbright program is jointly administered at Illinois by the National and International Scholarships Program, which works with undergraduates and recent alumni, and the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships, which supports graduate students. Additionally, dozens of Illinois faculty members and staff with geographic and programmatic expertise review student application materials and conduct candidate interviews.

“Having 21 of our 59 Fulbright applicants being either offered a grant or named an alternate is a real testament to the strength of our student body and the great faculty support they receive,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program. “This represents the most students ever from Illinois to be so honored, and we are hopeful that placements may be found for many of our alternates as well.”

“Few fellowships have the global cachet that Fulbrights do,” said Ken Vickery, the director of fellowships in the Graduate College. “Fulbrights open doors for students, honoring not only their academic achievement but also their capacity to promote international goodwill and serve as cultural ambassadors.”

Applications are open for students interested in pursuing studies, fine arts, research or English teaching assistantships under the Fulbright for the 2020-21 academic year.

For more information on the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships at Illinois, contact Ken Vickery, director of fellowships, at 217-333-3464 or


Reposted from the Illinois News Bureau. Read the full article at:

Image: (clockwise from upper right) Natalia Román Alicea, Naomi Wasserman, Johnny Uelmen, Danielle Nutting