Chemistry graduate wins Fulbright grant to teach in Spain

Date

06/30/21
Photo by Cameron Kagel

Chemistry graduate Grace Maloney is among nine University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students and recent graduates offered an opportunity to pursue international education, research and teaching experiences via Fulbright grants.

A May 2021 graduate with a triple major in molecular and cellular biology, chemistry and Spanish, Maloney will serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the city of Vigo in Galicia, Spain. Maloney, of St. Charles, Illinois, and a graduate of St. Charles East High School, Maloney was a member of the Campus Honors Program and a James Scholar, and experienced a summer studying abroad in Chile.

Maloney has spent several years as a camp counselor and a bilingual elementary school tutor, as well as teaching college students in leadership and chemistry courses. She also served for two years as a reporter for the Daily Illini student newspaper. As an aspiring physician, Maloney said she hopes to investigate how minority languages are treated within Spain's highly ranked health care system.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program builds international relationships to help solve global challenges. This flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government awards grants to students based on their academic and professional achievement, as well as their demonstrated leadership potential. The Fulbright Student Program will fund approximately 2,200 U.S. citizens to travel abroad for the 2021-22 academic year. Many of the 2021-22 recipients were awarded Fulbright grants in 2020 but were unable to travel due to the global pandemic.

“This year’s Fulbright awardees faced the double whammy of competing in a year with a record number of applicants and facing significantly reduced placement opportunities, as grantees from the previous cohort were given priority to move their Fulbright experiences to the coming year,” said David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois. “Our recipients this year should be especially proud of their accomplishments.”

“Following this past year’s travel restrictions, opportunities for international research and teaching are finally opening up again, and Fulbright awardees will be leading the way,” said Ken Vickery, the director of fellowships in the Graduate College. “Their observations and experiences will surely lend insights to our understanding of the pandemic’s impact around the world, so this will be an exceptionally important group of Fulbright ambassadors.”  

Here are the other eight UIUC students and young alumni who have accepted Fulbright grants:

Richard Chao, of Chicago, who attended Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award in Taiwan. Chao graduated in May with a dual degree in accountancy and in information systems from the Gies College of Business. On campus, Chao served as a mentor of the Minority Business Students Association, offering advice to college-level students in their career paths. In Chicago’s Chinatown, Chao prepared various educational activities for children at his church. After the Fulbright, Chao has accepted a consulting position performing external audits of control systems at Grant Thornton.

Michelle Dinh, of Brookfield, Illinois, and a graduate of Lyons Township High School, has accepted one of 10 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards in France. Dinh graduated in May with a degree in accountancy from Gies. An Illinois Promise Scholar, Dinh mentored students through Business Council, assisting them with their resumes, interviews, networking and business etiquette. Dinh previously studied abroad in France in spring 2020, where she volunteered with refugees and immigrants. She also has taught English to recent immigrants to the U.S. Upon her return from the Fulbright, Dinh said she plans to focus on financial consulting in the public sector, with a long-term goal of developing a nongovernmental organization to improve access to education.

Christopher Goodwin, of Waynesville, Missouri, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct dissertation research in Germany. Goodwin earned a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from the University of Missouri, Columbia and served in the U.S. Air Force while earning a master’s in military history from Norwich University. At Illinois, he is pursuing a doctoral degree in history. Goodwin’s research explores an aspect of Nazi-era ideology regarding soldiers with disabilities acquired during military service. During his Fulbright year, he will conduct archival research in Leipzig, Berlin and Freiburg. While in Germany, Goodwin also plans to volunteer as a German and English language instructor for recent immigrants and refugees. 

Banu Gulecyuz, of Lemont, Illinois, has accepted a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award in Turkey. Gulecyuz graduated in December with a degree in marketing from Gies and minored in journalism. A second-generation Turkish American, Gulecyuz earned TESOL certification and previously taught English language, business skills and sports to Turkish youths for a summer at an American high school in Istanbul. At Illinois, Gulecyuz founded Pen-Friend, an online platform connecting students from four different countries to pen pals in the U.S. She also taught English as a conversation leader for university students and spent a semester studying in Italy, where she taught English as well. After the Fulbright, Gulecyuz said she seeks to become an international freelance journalist sharing humanitarian stories from Turkey.Rhiannon Hein, of Honolulu, was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct dissertation research in Germany. Hein earned a bachelor’s in history and English from the University of Alabama before joining the Ph.D. program in history at Illinois. Hein’s research will investigate how the university towns of Göttingen and Jena became 19th-century hubs of global exchange in goods, people and ideas. She said she hopes this work will contribute to both historical and contemporary understandings of how regional, national and global sensibilities inform one another. While in Germany, Hein plans to pursue her hobbies of cooking and yoga as avenues of cultural exchange.

Jade Roberts, of Woodridge, Illinois, and a graduate of Downers Grove North High School, was awarded the inaugural Fulbright-Aalto University Graduate Award to complete a master’s degree at Aalto University in Finland. Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in May from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a major in individual plans of study and a minor in informatics. Roberts focused her self-designed major at the intersection of artificial intelligence and linguistics, conducting research on auditory and cognitive neuroscience. At Aalto, Roberts plans to explore the root of biased technology and artificial intelligence algorithms through a master’s degree in acoustics and audio technology. At Illinois, Roberts worked in various roles for Illini Media, including as a sound engineer for the college radio station and copy editor, social media director and web manager for the campus newspaper. Roberts said she plans to work as a conversation designer, creating speech technologies that eliminate biases in speech.

Sara Verma, of Palatine, Illinois, and a graduate of William Fremd High School, has earned a Fulbright to teach English in Germany. Verma graduated in May as a James Scholar honors student with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a minor in teaching English as a second language from the College of Education. Verma has experience as a student teacher in a bilingual classroom, worked as an ESL online tutor, and recently started a tutoring business for students abroad and in the United States. Verma spent four weeks as a high school exchange student in Germany and two weeks studying in Italy. At Illinois, Verma studied abroad for a semester in Spain, where she also taught English to elementary school students. Verma said she aspires to be an elementary school ESL teacher in a diverse, urban environment before moving into school administration.

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, Illinois faculty members, returned Fulbright awardees and staff with geographic and programmatic expertise review student application materials and conduct candidate interviews.

Applications are open for students interested in pursuing studies, fine arts, research or English teaching assistantships under the Fulbright for the 2022-23 academic year.

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