Water fountain on Pitt's campus, with Cathedral of Learning in the background
Features & Articles

Introducing Pitt’s 2024-25 Fulbright winners

  • Innovation and Research
  • Global
  • Teaching & Learning
  • David C. Frederick Honors College

Fourteen University of Pittsburgh students and alumni have been named award recipients by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international academic exchange program.

The University’s 2024-25 cohort of Fulbrighters includes current students and graduates from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, David C. Frederick Honors College, School of Education, School of Pharmacy and School of Public Health. Thirteen will begin their respective Fulbright programs in the fall.

“I am incredibly proud of our Pitt students and alumni who competed for and earned this year’s Fulbrights,” said Nicola Foote, dean of the Frederick Honors College. “Time and again, Pitt scholars show their mettle on an international scale, elevating the University of Pittsburgh’s name and reputation not only through these Fulbright wins, but by the work that each recipient will go on to do during their respective Fulbright year. Their commitment to scholarship and service will be long remembered by those whose lives they’ve touched as teachers and researchers.”

[Pitt was a top producer of Fulbright U.S. students for 2023-24]

Since its inception in 1946, Fulbright has provided approximately 400,000 participants with the opportunity to exchange ideas and study, teach or conduct research in each others’ countries, awarding nearly 8,000 grants annually.

“As Pitt’s Fulbright Program advisor, it is exceptionally rewarding to see such success among our student and alumni body,” said Lesha Greene, director of national scholarships in the Frederick Honors College. “We will have representation across the globe, not only in the classrooms as both students and teachers, but also doing necessary research. It is inspiring.”

Meet the winners

Delphie Backs (EDUC ’23), of York, Pennsylvania, graduated with a major in applied developmental psychology and minors in German, secondary education and global studies. Backs, who has volunteered as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America since 2017, has been set on a career in teaching. She will spend her Fulbright year teaching in Taiwan before moving to Philadelphia to teach with Teach for America.

Morgan Chen (A&S ’24), of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, graduated with majors in German and psychology and minors in LGBT and critical sexuality studies. Inspired by her time spent studying abroad in Heidelberg, Chen will serve as an English teaching assistant in Germany before pursuing graduate school for mental health counseling.

Richa Desai (A&S ’24), of Metuchen, New Jersey, graduated with anthropology and computational biology majors and a global health minor. The Frederick Honors College alumna received the Fulbright Study/Research UK award to attend the University of Leeds and pursue a master’s degree in history with research focusing on data production during smallpox eradication efforts in 1968 in Maharashtra, India.

Kruthika Doreswamy (A&S ’21, SPH ’22G), of East Windsor, New Jersey, will research health-seeking behaviors of stroke patients and explore the unmet rehabilitation needs of survivors in the stroke clinic at Kasturba Medical College of Manipal in India.

Ashley Feiler (A&S ’23), of Reading, Pennsylvania, graduated with majors in linguistics and English writing and minors in secondary education and Swahili. The Frederick Honors College alumna wants to become a secondary education teacher and will spend her Fulbright year as an English teaching assistant in the Czech Republic.

Naeisha McClain, of New Haven, Connecticut, is a doctoral student in the School of Education. McClain will conduct research at the University of Auckland that explores how queer and nonbinary Oceanic people experience a pan-Pacific notion called “va” in a social special context that has become intertwined with restrictive forms of Christianity.

Mary Nayrouz (PHARM ’21, ’23G), of Pittsford, New York, will attend Ghent University in Belgium to pursue a Master of Science in global health with the goal of learning how to implement preventative health interventions and policies to reduce health disparities among underserved populations globally.

Chinyere Okonkwo (A&S ’24), of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, graduated with political science and sociology majors and French, transatlantic studies and African studies minors. Inspired by the Senegalese community she grew up in and her Nigerian heritage, Okonkwo will spend her Fulbright year as an English teaching assistant in Senegal.

Ebonee Rice-Nguyen, of Pittsburgh, is a senior in the Dietrich School majoring in English writing and minoring in English literature and gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Rice-Nguyen will serve as an English teaching assistant in South Korea before pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in nonfiction English writing with the goal of teaching as a professor.

Michaela Saporito (A&S ’23), of State College, Pennsylvania, graduated with history and linguistics majors and minors in political science, global studies, Latin American studies, Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian culture. The Frederick Honors College alumna will serve as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan. After her Fulbright year, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in elementary education and a certification in teaching English as a second language to become an elementary school teacher.

Zane Troxel (A&S ’23), of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, graduated with a major in English literature and a German minor. Troxel plans to further his understanding of Germany’s “Erinnerunskultur,” or memory culture, and the German language while serving as an English teaching assistant; he hopes to prepare for a future as a secondary education German teacher.

Lily Wilson (A&S ’24), of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, graduated with German and history majors and a political science minor. Wilson plans to deepen her understanding of the language and enrich her enthusiasm for teaching as an English teaching assistant in Germany.

Brandon Yee, (A&S ’19, EDUC ’23G), of Media, Pennsylvania, will serve as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan to further his career as an ESL teacher and contribute to Taiwan’s initiative to reach English-Chinese bilingualism by 2030.


— Terry Rowley, photography by Mike Drazdzinski