UD students and alumni to study, research and teach English abroad

Five University of Delaware students and alumni have been named recipients of 2020 Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards. An additional four UD students were selected as alternates.

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the nation’s premier international education exchange program, designed to foster mutual understanding between United States citizens and people of other countries. The prestigious award allows young graduates and graduate students the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach English in more than 140 countries. UD’s Institute for Global Studies (IGS) annually administers internationally-recognized State Department public diplomacy programs.

Matthew Anderson (left), pictured with Ahmed Badia, served as a staff member for UD’s Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leaders Program. The photograph was taken before the coronavirus pandemic created the need for social distancing.

Matthew Anderson

Matthew Anderson is a senior Honors Three Languages major and UD World Scholar. Anderson was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Taiwan, where he will work with elementary or middle school students in Taichung City.

No stranger to travel, Anderson studied abroad in Madrid, Spain during his first semester of college, and later spent additional semesters in Chengdu, China, and in Granada, Spain.

Anderson said he hopes to put down roots in his new host community. “I am really looking forward to being able to build social networks more deeply and to find my home,” he said. “Those are things that I got little tastes of in Granada and in Chengdu. Now, I know that I have the confidence and the skills necessary to put myself out there.”

Isaac Messina surface cleans a late 15th-century Italian panel painting in the painting conservation studio at Winterthur.

Isaac Messina

Isaac Messina, a graduate student in the Winterthur/UD Program in Art Conservation, has received the Fulbright/American Friends of the Mauritshuis Award. Offered to only one student each year, this exclusive internship is jointly sponsored by the University of Amsterdam and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis.

In the Netherlands, Messina will focus on the conservation of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings. The world-renowned Mauritshuis collection is home to mainstream masterpieces like Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Carel Fabritius’s Goldfinch.

“I am excited to have the opportunity at the Mauritshuis to not only carry out the conservation treatment of a few major paintings, but also to analyze these works from both a scientific and art historical perspective. I will also be able to explore firsthand the landscapes and culture of the art I will be conserving,” said Messina. “Fully understanding the context and layers of these artworks is impossible from a textbook or computer screen. By studying with conservators in the Netherlands and being immersed in the place the paintings were created, I will gain a deeper connection to the history and influences of these artists. Seeking to understand, appreciate, and connect with a work of art can only make you a better conservator.”

Leah Putman poses with a goat she gave to a neighbor in Rwanda. Putman works in the country as the Technical Director for Sustainable Health Enterprises.

Leah Putman

Leah Putman graduated from UD in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in biomedical engineering. Since then, she’s worked with W.L. Gore Associates and, most recently, as the Technical Director for Sustainable Health Enterprises in Rwanda. Next year, Putman will embark on a new journey — a master’s degree in strategic product development in the Netherlands — with the help of a Fulbright Study Award.

“Over the course of my engineering career, I’ve seen that my interests really lie in choosing and leading projects for appropriate product development. Of course, ‘appropriate’ can have a myriad of meanings based on the context of the market, company and user,” she said. “I came across Delft University of Technology and knew their program will help me develop the skills to navigate through the design process.”

Putman said that the Fulbright award will help her grow personally and professionally. “I tend to be introverted; however, the excitement, challenge and newness of complete unfamiliarity makes me want and need to engage with people and activities. When everything is outside your comfort zone, you create a new one. I’m excited to do that again.”

Rebecca Ralston

Rebecca Ralston, a DuPont Scholar graduating this spring, has received an English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia. Rebecca is earning an Honors Bachelor of Science with Distinction in wildlife ecology and conservation, agriculture and natural resources in addition to an Honors Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies; as a Dean’s Scholar she created a major in environmental humanities. As an undergraduate, Rebecca participated in the Summer Scholars Program, the Blue Hen Birding Club and the UD Student Literacy Council. She also studied in Tanzania as a part of the Winter 2018 Entomology and Wildlife Ecology program.

Catherine Zimmerman first traveled to Copenhagen as a UD study abroad student. Next year, she will return with a Fulbright Research Award.

Catherine Zimmerman

A senior Honors neuroscience major, Catherine Zimmerman has received a Fulbright Award to pursue research in public health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “The research lab that I will be working in focuses on the genetic components of metabolic disorders like obesity, Type I and Type II diabetes from an epidemiological perspective,” said Zimmerman. “I will be exploring whether we can predict obesity rates based upon data from pregnant mothers.”

Zimmerman traveled to Denmark once before, as a UD student, taking courses in psychopharmacology, social psychology, neuroimaging, and European history. Outside of the classroom, she became inspired to pursue her research in public health. “I lived in a public health living-learning community, where we spent time exploring the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Danish healthcare systems,” she said. “I think I am most looking forward to that moment when I arrive back in Copenhagen. Leaving was incredibly difficult, but the ability to return to Denmark with Fulbright is a dream.”


In addition to UD’s five Fulbright grantees, the following were also recognized:

  • Elizabeth Huhn, Fulbright ETA alternate to South Korea
  • Amanda Kasman, Fulbright Study/Research alternate to the Netherlands
  • Markie Masucci, Fulbright ETA alternate to Spain
  • Kiera McNeil, Fulbright Study/Research alternate to Spain

For Future Fulbrighters

For future applicants, this year’s recipients advise:

“Plan early. I had a couple of appointments with the Institute for Global Studies (IGS), and that was really helpful. I had already started working at the Writing Center and with the ELI to gain experience in teaching English. But from then on, I definitely started to think about how I could develop more relevant experience.” — Matthew Anderson

“Build your network. The first thing I wanted to do when I received my award was to thank everyone who had helped me during the process. As I was looking at the list, I realized that there were so many people who helped me — professors, mentors, IGS and Honors staff. There are so many connections out there who can give you advice, especially about Fulbright.” — Catherine Zimmerman

“Get to know yourself. Putting yourself into unknown territory with some limited support can be thrilling and terrifying. Once you learn that you can thrive in these environments, you’re ready for a program like Fulbright. Describing those experiences that prepared you will demonstrate that you are a great candidate who can make the most of such an opportunity.” — Leah Putman

“An interesting challenge of the Fulbright application is that we propose to do very specific work, but are reviewed by committees that are not necessarily experts in our field. You have to be careful not to include too much jargon, but to demonstrate your passion, experience, and interest in engaging with the host community.” — Isaac Messina

Interested students are invited to attend a Fulbright Interest Meeting on Tuesday, June 2 at 3:30 p.m. with UD alumna and Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, Gerti Wilson, and IGS Interim Director, Lisa Chieffo. Students and alumni hoping to apply during the fall of 2020 for a Fulbright Award are encouraged to meet UD’s priority deadline of July 10 in order to receive summer mentorship and advising. For more information, visit the IGS website.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies (IGS) inspires and facilitates the pursuit of global understanding by developing innovative and inclusive programs of study, opportunities for experiential learning and strategic partnerships.

Perhaps best known for leading the nation’s first study abroad program, IGS is also home to the first-of-its-kind UD World Scholars Program and the Delaware Diplomats Scholarship Program. IGS supports student success through advising for prestigious awards, including Fulbright, Boren, Gilman and Critical Language Scholarships, as well as sponsorship of the International House (iHouse) Living Learning Community.

The Institute annually administers internationally-recognized State Department public diplomacy programs, bringing more than 75 young leaders from around the world to UD’s Newark campus.

IGS provides faculty funding for research and collaboration abroad, manages the University’s global partnerships and agreements process and sponsors signature events, such as UD Global Month and the Spring Fulbright Lecture Series.

| Photos by Nikki Laws, Katerina Acuna and courtesy of Leah Putman and Catherine Zimmerman 

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