The University of Tennessee at Knoxville

05/28/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/28/2024 08:40

11 Students and Recent Graduates Offered Fulbright Scholarships

Following the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's designation as a top producer of Fulbright students earlier this year, 11 UT students have been offered Fulbright scholarships for the 2024-25 academic year. Four students were named alternates.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is one of the most prestigious international exchange programs in the world. Established in 1946, it offers opportunities to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students and young professionals in partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide. The program provides awards to about 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals each year, giving them the opportunity to expand their perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue.

As they carry out their grant-funded work, students work with, live with and learn from the people of their assigned host country.

"UT is honored to have the Fulbright organization continue to recognize the talent, dedication and academic achievements of our scholars," said Amber Williams, vice provost for student success. "This is a remarkable opportunity for our scholars to experience different cultures, build worldwide connections and understand how their academic pursuits can impact global challenges. I'm grateful to the faculty and the staff of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships for their part in guiding our scholars toward this amazing achievement."

Meet the recipients

Jacob Altrock of Memphis graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in voice with a minor in German.

Altrock will work with Staatsoper Stuttgart's youth opera program while taking courses at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart in Germany to research how to make contemporary operatic performances more accessible and relatable.

"The opportunities that Fulbright provides will be incredibly illuminating and helpful in graduate school and beyond as I continue to research and build my skills as an overall creator of operatic experiences," said Altrock.

Aliya Benabderrazak of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, graduated in May 2023 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in psychology and sociology. She holds minors in Africana studies, Hispanic studies, and child and family studies.

Benabderrazak will be traveling to Colombia to work as a university English teaching assistant.

"I had always hoped my studies would lead me to opportunities in international education, specifically in South America, and look at me now!" said Benabderrazak. "I am so grateful for this opportunity and beyond excited to spend the next year teaching, learning and growing in Colombia."

Miranda Blevins of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in audiology and speech-language pathology and a minor in business administration.

Blevins will be working as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.

"I am excited and thankful to go on this new adventure and share my passion for education and speech-language pathology," said Blevins. "I plan to use what I learn to open a well-rounded and culturally inclusive therapy practice upon completing my master's degree in speech language pathology."

Yash Deo of Knoxville is a senior majoring in honors neuroscience with a minor in business administration.

Deo will be traveling to New Delhi, India, to study the effectiveness of transcranial direct current stimulation as a remedy for major depressive disorder at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

"I'm excited to explore New Delhi and conduct my own psychiatric research project," said Deo. "I'm grateful for all the undergraduate research experiences I've had at UT and can't wait to serve as a cultural ambassador to India. I'm thankful for my mentors, recommenders and Undergraduate Research and Fellowships."

David Holdridge of Vonore, Tennessee, received a Bachelor of Science in forestry with a concentration in restoration and conservation science this spring.

Holdridge will be conducting research in Indonesia, investigating the link between the palm oil industry and the reclamation of abandoned surface tin mines on the Bangka Belitung Islands.

"To be able to represent my country abroad while doing work that I'm passionate about and I believe will make a positive impact is like a dream come true," said Holdridge. "I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and the network of amazing people it has exposed me to."

Steve Mahometano of Bolivar, Tennessee, graduated in 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in honors neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.

Mahometano will be traveling to Taiwan to work as an English teaching assistant.

"As a first-generation immigrant from Manila, Philippines, I am grateful to have benefited from language-cultural programs such as the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program before immigrating to the U.S. as a child," said Mahometano. "I am pursuing the Taiwan ETA Program because it furthers my goal of refining my interdisciplinary and multicultural competencies and because I want to engage with neuroscience, psychology and medicine in a global context."

Diba Seddighi of Knoxville graduated in May 2023 with a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in global health equity and a minor in Hispanic studies.

Seddighi will be pursuing a master's degree in global health from Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, through the Fulbright/Turkish Universities Master's Program Award.

"I am incredibly excited for the prospect of continuing my study and research exploring refugee health disparities in a nation renowned for its global leadership at the forefront of humanitarian aid," said Seddighi.

Lucas Simmons of Taft, Tennessee, graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a minor in political science.

Simmons will be traveling to Taiwan to work as an English teaching assistant.

"I feel incredibly honored to have been chosen as a Fulbright recipient to Taiwan and also incredibly grateful to my professors, research mentors and the people of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, without all of whom this would not have been possible," said Simmons. "I look forward to engaging deeply with Taiwanese culture, history and people while abroad as well as serving as a representative for UT and the U.S."

Courtney Tolbert of Powder Springs, Georgia, graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and a minor in psychology.

Tolbert will be working as an English teaching assistant at a school in Thailand.

"I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to fully immerse myself in Thai culture," said Tolbert. "I can't wait to improve my teaching skills while engaging with students in the classroom."

Matthew Valderrama of Knoxville graduated from UT in 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering.

Valderrama will be pursuing a master's degree in chemical engineering at at Aalborg University in Esbjerg, Denmark, through the Fulbright Open Study/Research Award.

"Receiving the Fulbright is an amazing honor, but I would not be anywhere near prepared for this if not for the amazing mentors I've had," said Valderrama. "With this opportunity, I hope to expand my understanding of materials science in the framework of sustainability."

The 11th student offered a Fulbright declined the award.

The four students who were designated alternates will receive awards if placements become available in the coming months. This year UT had 44 Fulbright applicants and 31 semifinalists.

UT's Undergraduate Research and Fellowships supports students and alumni as they apply for a wide range of nationally competitive fellowships, including the Fulbright award. URF works with students through individualized advising, application essay writing workshops and interview preparation.

"Every year Undergraduate Research and Fellowships has the privilege of supporting UT students as they compose Fulbright applications that imagine how they would teach English, study or conduct research in the country of their choice," said Laura De Furio, associate director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. "We get really invested in each of their stories and want to see them succeed, so it's thrilling when their hard work is recognized with an award of this kind, and even more so to think about all the new experiences they will have as a cultural ambassador in their Fulbright host country."

UT students and recent graduates interested in applying for Fulbright awards are encouraged to visit URF's Fulbright web page to learn more about the campus application process.



Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993, [email protected])