Awards and Honors: Nine Fulbrights Awarded to Scripps Students, Alumna in 2018



This spring, eight Scripps students and one alumna were awarded Fulbright Awards, prestigious grants that fund teaching, research, and study abroad. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the highly competitive, merit-based scholarship aims to foster cross-cultural dialogue and understanding and create global citizens. The program accords approximately 8,000 grants annually in over 140 countries and includes roundtrip transportation to the host country, funding to cover room and board, and accident and sickness health benefits. Since the program was established in 1946, 59 Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes and 82 have won Pulitzer Prizes.

There are two types of Fulbright Awards available through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award places grantees in schools abroad to facilitate English language instruction, and the Open Study/Research Award funds original research projects all over the world. This year, graduating seniors Sara Bryk ’18, Madeline Edwards ’18, Mariah Mastrodimos ’18, Rachel Geller ’18, Edith Jaicel Ortega ’18, and Grace Reckers ’18  were awarded ETA grants to travel to Colombia, Argentina, Taiwan, Spain, Mexico, and Malaysia, respectively.

“Teaching students in another country will be enlightening, especially because I aspire to be involved in the public education system as part of my career,” says Geller. An organizational studies major focusing on nonprofits in education, Geller volunteered at Pomona Hope, a program dedicated to strengthening education and services in the City of Pomona, throughout college, where she taught workshops, tutored students, and helped prepare curricula for afterschool and summer enrichment programs.

Mastrodimos, a chemistry major, plans to start a science club for her students in Taiwan. “I’m excited to apply the skills I learned as a chemistry tutor at the W.M. Keck Science Center to do community outreach abroad,” she says.

In addition, Mercedes Adame ’18, Hannah Callas ’18, and Oriana LaVilla ’14 were granted the Fulbright Open Study/Research Award. Each will carry out a self-designed project in their chosen country. Callas, a student in Scripps’ Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program, was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship to Cambodia for her public health project “Advancing Surgery in Low Resource and Education Settings: Surgical Training in Cambodia.” She is currently applying to medical school and hopes to enroll after her Fulbright year. Adame, a graduating senior, was awarded a Fulbright to South Korea to investigate the relationships between socioeconomic status and attitudes toward traditional Korean medicine. A human biology major, Adame will affiliate with Yonsei University in Seoul for her research.

Scripps alumna Oriana LaVilla ’14 was awarded a Fulbright to Serbia for her project examining civil society’s response to the current refugee and migrant crisis. LaVilla explains that, although Serbia demonstrated solidarity with migrants and adopted a much more tolerant policy than its neighbors, government and international assistance has lagged behind migrant needs. She plans to investigate the role of civil society organizations in filling those assistance gaps. “I’m looking to discover what strategies these organizations can use to best address both the intermediate and long term needs of migrants in the country,” she says.

At Scripps, LaVilla majored in politics and international relations with a concentration in peace and conflict studies. Her interest in the Balkans began when she studied abroad in Serbia, where she learned about transitional justice and the Balkan wars. For the past three years, she has worked at Partners Global, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., where she helps civil society organizations identify opportunities for a more successful integration of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. “My research in Serbia will tie together both my training in Balkan history and peace studies at Scripps with work that I’ve been doing with civil society organizations in times of transition,” she says.