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Record 15 from Pitt earn Fulbright Scholarships

  • Students
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of English
  • Department of Neuroscience
  • Department of Psychology

Three graduate student alumni, a master’s student, doctoral student and 10 undergraduate alumni from the University of Pittsburgh have earned the prestigious U.S. Fulbright Scholarship for 2020 to study, teach and make an impact around the world.

On Feb. 16, Pitt was named for the 10th time in 11 years one of the nation’s top institutions for producing Fulbright students. The 15 scholars are the most ever in the University’s history. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar and Fulbright U.S. Student Programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to support academic exchanges between the U.S. and more than 150 countries around the world.

“Our core motivation isn’t to break records—it’s to position students at the University of Pittsburgh on a trajectory of lifelong learning and success,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Our capacity to produce Fulbright scholars, year after year, suggests that we are getting this important work right.”

Pitt is among almost 600 U.S. higher-education institutions that actively participate in the Fulbright program, which began in 1946. The prestigious program awards one-year grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs worldwide.

Scholarship recipients are supported by the University Honors College, which provides coaching and advice to all Pitt students. Scholar-mentors provide guidance and feedback on essays, practice interviews and other help.

“Once again this year, University of Pittsburgh students have demonstrated not only their academic excellence but their commitment to the importance of global perspectives and understanding,” said Joseph J. McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies and interim dean of the University Honors College. “Being offered a Fulbright award—one of the most prestigious international academic awards—is a uniquely impressive recognition and I sincerely congratulate this year's recipients. The University Honors College is proud of the part it plays in supporting this ongoing external signal of the quality and accomplishments of our students.”

The 2020-21 recipients have studied in several Pitt schools, including the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Nursing and the Swanson School of Engineering.

Maya Best of Pittsburgh: graduated in 2020, majored in international and area studies, anthropology and English writing with a minor in Japanese. She wants to research the integration of Bengali migrants into Japanese society and also volunteer to support refugees in Japan.

Evelyn Bigini of Basking Ridge, New Jersey: graduated in 2020, majored in nursing with a certificate in global health. She wants to organize global health campaigns for displaced women and children in the Netherlands.

Mackenzie Brown of Pittsburgh: received master’s in 2020 in higher education management with a minor in student services; earned bachelor’s in 2017 in developmental psychology with a minor in studio art. She wants to improve student outcomes at a Lao university and plan community activities that integrate Western art practices with local artists.

Jason Burrell of Corp Christi, Texas: graduated in 2020, majored in Japanese with minors in Chinese and economics. He wants to teach English in Taiwan and also establish a club to teach Shotokan Karate to encourage self-discipline and a healthy lifestyle.

Aleksandra Carapella of Pittsburgh: currently working on her doctoral dissertation in history of architecture; she has also earned master’s degrees from University of Pittsburgh in History of Art and Architecture and from Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. Working in Belgrade, she intends to research history of architecture in the archives of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Madelyn Ferdock of Zionsville, Pennsylvania: she graduated in 2019, majored in anthropology. She wants to teach English in South Korea and volunteer for the Red Cross to help others, including North Korean refugee centers.

Emily Finkelstein of Pittsburgh: pursuing a doctorate in art history at Pitt; earned a bachelor’s from Bryn Mawr College with majors in art history and German along with a master’s in art history from University of Glasgow. She wants to improve relations in Germany between local residents and refugees from the Middle East and Africa through art-making workshops and other community outreach.

Thomas Freitag of Oreland, Pennsylvania: graduated in 2020, majored in neuroscience and psychology; also majored in natural sciences at University of Cambridge. Frietag, also a Kanders Churchill Scholar, wants to be an LGBTQIA+ activist in Dublin, Ireland, and support those experiencing social marginalization.

Joanna Gorka of Princeton, New Jersey: graduated in 2020, majored in molecular biology with minors in chemistry and conceptual foundations of medicine. She wants to research potential therapeutic targets and biomarkers of cancer in Poland and work with children with cancer.

Madeline Hobbs of Portsmouth, Rhode Island: graduated in 2020, majored in bioengineering with a minor in French language. She wants to share her passions for math and soccer with her Czech community.

Ellen Larson of Pittsburgh: graduated in 2018 with a master’s in art history and currently pursuing a doctorate in art history at Pitt. She also earned a master’s in modern Chinese history from Minzu University of China along with a bachelor’s in art from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She wants to study the history of video art making in mainland China from 1988 through 2019.

Jacob Meadows of Langhorne, Pennsylvania: graduated in 2020, majored in bioengineering with minors in entrepreneurship, innovation and product design. He wants to study in London and research healthy aging by starting a health technology company and also work on accessible product design.

Alexa Tignall of Pittsburgh: graduated in 2020, majored in social science with certificates in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasia studies. She wants to research feminism in Kyrgyzstan by interviewing local women.

Dominique Vickers of Monroeville, Pennsylvania: graduated in 2020, majored in biological sciences and minored in chemistry, music and American Sign Language. She wants to volunteer with the rapidly growing South American migrant community in Spain.

Christopher Wallace of Williamsport, Pennsylvania: graduated in 2020, majored in Russian. He wants to create an American Culture Club in the Czech Republic to teach English as a foreign language and lead discussions on American films, games and sports.