Sixteen Penn students and recent graduates awarded 2020-21 Fulbright Scholarships

sixteen students
Penn has 16 Fulbright Scholars for 2020-21. From left. Top row: Abby Cacho, Faith Cho, Serena Hajjar, Henry Hoffman. Second row: Natalia Lindsey, James Nassur, Ton Nguyen, Christine Olagun-Samuel. Third row: Mark Perfect, Stephanie Petrella, Aiden Reiter, Arryonna Santos. Fourth row: Adam Sax, Raka Sen, Adithya Sriram, Sam Tullman. 

Sixteen University of Pennsylvania students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright grants for the 2020-21 academic year, including nine undergraduates and one graduate student in the Class of 2020. They will conduct research or teach English in Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, and Ukraine.

The Fulbright Program is the United States government’s flagship international educational exchange program, awarding grants to fund as long as 12 months of international experience. Most Fulbright grants are for individual study or research, or for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program. 

“The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides an exceptional opportunity for American students to forge international relationships through educational and cultural exchange,” says Jane Morris, executive director of Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, which supports applicants. “Fulbright students from Penn represent not only our country abroad, but they also serve as outstanding ambassadors for Penn.”

Abby Cacho, from New York City, graduated in May with a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education and in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts & Sciences where she was an Africana studies major with minors in French and English. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Malaysia. Through GSE’s Boarding School Teaching Residency, Cacho has spent the last two years teaching English at a New England boarding school where she also coached freshmen girls field hockey and basketball. She hopes to create community-based and inclusive environments as she continues her career in education. 

Faith Cho, from Atlanta, graduated in May from the College, where she was an English major with a concentration in creating writing and a fine arts minor. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea. At Penn, she hosted a radio show through WQHS, served as the content team lead for The Signal, a club focused on enhancing the undergraduate experience, and worked as a senior editor for The WALK, a student fashion magazine. 

Serena Hajjar, from Lexington, Massachusetts, graduated in May from the College, where she was a double major in international relations and Eastern European studies. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Russia. Between her freshman and sophomore years, Hajjar spent a year at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. She studied abroad in Moscow during the summer of 2018, and last summer helped create a Spanish-language version of the Armenian National Institute’s website. At Penn, she was a choreographer for the Quaker Girls dance team, as well as president of the Yalla Middle Eastern dance troupe.

Henry Hoffman, from Philadelphia, graduated in May from the College, where he was a biology major and a Hispanic studies minor. He was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Spain. At Penn, Hoffman conducted immunological research in the Lennon Lab, worked as a physics and biology tutor, and sang in the Penn Glee Club. A Benjamin Franklin Scholar, he served as president of the advisory board. Outside of campus, he volunteered as the outreach coordinator with Camp Kesem for children whose parents have cancer. He also volunteered at Puentes de Salud, an English-Spanish health care clinic dedicated to serving Philadelphia’s Latinx population. Upon completion of his Fulbright, Hoffman plans to go to medical school.

Natalia Lindsey, from Stoughton, Massachusetts, graduated in May from the College, where she was a health and societies major and Hispanic studies minor. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Spain. At Penn she was president of Penn Sirens, an all-female acapella ensemble, and worked on the development team at the Institute of Contemporary Art. She is a recipient of the Onyx Senior Society Honor Roll and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Merit Scholarship. Upon completion of her Fulbright, she plans to pursue a law degree.

James Nassur, from Irwin, Pennsylvania, graduated from the College in 2019, where he was a biology major and chemistry minor. He was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Jordan. Currently Nassur works as a research technician in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in the lab of Nancy Spinner at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). At Penn, James was the president of the Penn Arab Student Society, a residential advisor in Harrison College House, secretary and risk management officer of Phi Delta Epsilon, and member of the Oracle Senior Honors Society. Nassur currently serves as a tutor coordinator in the Paper Airplanes English Program for refugees from the Middle East and as a volunteer at the Refugee Health Clinic under the Karabots Pediatric Center at CHOP. Upon completion of his Fulbright, Nassur plans to pursue a medical degree.

Ton Nguyen, from Atlanta, graduated in May from the College, where she was a philosophy, politics and economics major and consumer psychology minor. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Indonesia. She is a QuestBridge Scholar, a Horatio Alger Scholar, a Dell Scholar, and a Penn Civic Scholar. At Penn, she has worked to build communities, particularly within the first-generation, low-income, and Asian American Pacific Islander students. 

Christine Olagun-Samuel, from Paramus, New Jersey, graduated in May from the College, where she was a health and societies major and chemistry minor. She was awarded a Fulbright to conduct research in South Africa in affiliation with the University of Pretoria. She will be investigating approaches to mitigate the impact of former apartheid policies on current health inequities. Her academic interests lie in the intersections of medicine, history, and policy. At Penn, Olagun-Samuel was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, president of the Black Student League, a mentor in an Upward Bound program, and a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian. As a SUMR scholar at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, she conducted research on pain management disparities among African American cancer patients. She also was an intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Olagun-Samuel plans to pursue a career in medicine and public health. 

Mark Perfect, from Ridgewood, New Jersey, graduated from the College in 2018, where he was a major in mathematical economics and a minor in statistics. He was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Germany. Since graduation, he has worked at IBM as a data scientist. Perfect is interested in exploring data-driven ways of educational reform and aims to develop a comparative perspective of educational systems. At Penn his senior thesis investigated the impact of the Recovery School District, the first all-charter district in the nation, and was awarded the Joseph Warner Yardley Prize for its contribution to the field. Upon completion of his Fulbright, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in data science.

Stephanie Petrella, from North Andover, Massachusetts, graduated from the College in 2017, where she was a double major in Russian and political science. She was awarded a Fulbright to examine the role of the business elite in Ukraine’s economic policymaking. She will conduct her research at the Kyiv School of Economics, analyzing parliamentary voting records, interviewing stakeholders, and examining media. Petrella currently works as a Eurasia Program Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and as a research analyst at Greenmantle, a macroeconomic consultancy. Petrella is the editor-in-chief of BMB Russia and Ukraine, a daily newsletter about politics and economics. 

Aiden Reiter, from New Haven, Connecticut, graduated in May from the Huntsman Program as a major in international studies and political science in the College and from The Wharton School with a concentration in business economics and public policy. He was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Laos. At Penn, he was involved in student government and the International Affairs Association, where he has worked to organize Model United Nations conferences in the U.S., China, and Vietnam. In Laos, Reiter hopes to start a Model UN club for students, teach English to business owners, and work with local nongovernmental organizations.

Arryonna Santos, from San Lorenzo, California, graduated in May from the College where she was a major in international relations and a minor in Latin American and Latino studies. She was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Brazil. At Penn she was in the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. For her senior thesis in international relations she analyzed the impact of sustainable development goals on education politics in Latin America. She co-founded the Young Portuguese Americans, a cultural organization meant to recruit youth to preserve Portuguese traditions in her hometown. A first-generation student and KIPP alumna, she volunteered in West Philadelphia with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Penn for Youth Debate. 

Adam Sax, from Albany, New York, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. He was awarded a Fulbright to work with Vivian Liska at the Institute of Jewish Studies in Belgium on his research into “the elegiac and the abyssal” in the work of the post-Holocaust poet Paul Celan. Sax’s in-progress dissertation focuses on elegy and the formation of the genre in the 20th century through an archive of German-Jewish, queer, and Yiddish-American poets. In addition to his research, Sax has been the graduate coordinator for the Meltzer Internship in Jewish Studies, mentoring undergraduate scholars and helping them organize events around their work.

Raka Sen, from Aurora, Colorado, is a graduate student in sociology. She was awarded a Fulbright to go to India to study how climate change adaptation in India and Bangladesh Sundarbans is reshaping gender roles in the region. Her research interests include the sociology of climate change, social resilience, cities, neighborhoods, and disaster sociology. Sen previously was a researcher at Rebuild by Design, a resilience initiative launched after Hurricane Sandy, where she studied how long-term infrastructure projects develop. 

Adithya Sriram, from Columbus, Ohio, graduated in May from the College, where he was a major in physics and biophysics, and from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, as a major in chemical engineering. He was awarded a Fulbright to conduct research in Germany. At Penn Sriram co-wrote and designed the curriculum and lab activities to reinstate an academically based service course, Physics 137, and worked with Moelis Access Science in the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to teach physics in West Philadelphia classrooms. As part of physics Professor A.T. Charlie Johnson’s group, he has performed research on point-of-care diagnostic devices using graphene field effect transistors. Sriram is a recipient of the Roy and Diana Vagelos Science Challenge Award and the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium Scholarship. Upon completion of his Fulbright he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

Sam Tullman, from Chicago, graduated from the College in 2017, where he was a major in biological basis of behavior and a minor in South Asian studies. He was awarded a Fulbright to conduct research in Brazil, studying changes in the nervous systems of people taking the psychedelically active brew known as ayahuasca. At Penn Tullman was a member of the football team and founded and led Penn’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which raised funds for research of rare diseases. He also was a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters. He currently lives in Seattle and is conducting neuroscience-related research. Upon completion of his Fulbright, Tullman has accepted an offer to study for a masters of public health at the University of Washington.