Carina is conducting research on the agroecology movement and its impact on policy in Uruguay. This award will support her transcription and translation needs as she travels to conduct interviews with community members. Having recently completed her Master’s degree in Community Development and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont, Carina intends to pursue a PhD and conduct further research across the Americas in climate resiliency and food chain sustainability.
László Vizsy is an Emerging Voices Specialist in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary. During László’s thirty-plus years of service, his innovative leadership in outreach to tens of thousands of students, management of five American Corners, interpretation skills, and supervisory skills have been instrumental in furthering cultural understanding and educational opportunities for both countries. Although the relationship has waxed and waned over the years, the overall positive impression of America in Hungary is largely the result of cultural programming led by László Vizsy.
Sami Saaied is a Strategic Public Engagement Specialist in the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia. Over more than twenty years managing PD outreach and speaker programs, Sami has used his expertise in grants management, his broad contact base and deep knowledge of the academic scene in Tunisia to bring U.S. perspectives to thought leaders and decision-makers across a wide spectrum of urgent and long-running issues, including PRC influence, business higher education, security cooperation, anti-trafficking, and DEIA. He is recognized for his lasting contributions throughout Mission Tunisia.
Josita Ekouevi is a Public Engagement Specialist for Established Opinion Leaders in the U.S. Embassy in Lomé, Togo. For twenty-five years, one thousand exchange alumni have considered “Auntie Josita” part of their family for her skill in guiding them to successful exchange experiences. Membership in her self-run Global Alumni Association of Togo is viewed as prestigious and an advantage in Togo’s difficult job market. Generously sharing her expertise with colleagues in other Bureaus and in DC, Josita’s work with participants and alumni represents the highest ideals of U.S. cultural and educational exchanges.
Irina Colin is an Established Opinion Leaders Specialist in the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau, Moldova. Over twenty-six years, mentoring dozens of new staff, Irina has built a culture of high achievers by her example. A strategic thinker, skillful implementer and trusted colleague, Irina deciphers complexities from Moldova’s culture to the PDSI process to make her section better. Across every segment of Moldovan society there are former USG exchange participants applying their knowledge to Moldova’s challenges thanks to Irina Colin’s years of dedicated service.
Sharon I-Hua Hsieh
Sharon I-Hua Hsieh is recognized for greatly expanding people-to-people ties by spearheading the efforts to launch a new U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative. By nurturing partnerships with several Taiwan ministries, she increased both U.S. and host-country funding for exchanges, making Taiwan’s Fulbright/Foundation for Scholarly Exchange program one of the largest in the region and its English Teaching Assistant Program one of the biggest in the world. She followed up with a strategic plan to make the initiative a sustainable pillar in our bilateral relationship.
Maria Eugenia (‘Jenny’) Verdaguer
Since 2007, Jenny has led a team of international exchange professionals supporting 1,700 participants per year from thirty countries. Jenny pioneered multi-country Fulbright collaborative research initiatives, including the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (NEXUS) Program, and the new Fulbright Amazonia Initiative reflecting current multi-disciplinary and team-based research approaches to academic cooperation on climate change and conservation issues. In a further example of innovative leadership, Jenny introduced regional webinars for Fulbright Commissions and U.S. Embassy staff on mental health and cross-cultural adaptation strategies to strengthen structures of support and inclusion for diverse Fulbright participants. As a bicultural and bilingual Latin Americanist, herself the product of international exchange, Jenny understands first-hand the transformational power of international education, and strives to multiply and enhance Fulbright life-changing experiences across the Americas.
Berenice Affotey has motivated and prepared thousands of students to follow their dreams of studying in the United States. In addition, Ms. Affotey generously serves as a trainer and mentor to institutional contacts, her fellow Sub-Saharan African Advisers and at many international education conferences. Every school break brings former students returning from the United States, who are the future civic and cultural leaders of Ghana, to pay a visit to “Auntie Bernice,” as she is affectionately known, to share their deep gratitude for her work, a sentiment shared by the entire Mission.
Christienne has applied her vision of bringing disparate peoples together and improving their chances for success during a series of assignments in the toughest PD environments. In Iraq (twice), Tunis and her current post, Christienne uses her superior foreign language, programming and grants management skills to offer a broad swath of publics carefully-crafted civic and educational programs with lasting impact.
Laurence (Larry) Socha
Over three years following the thirty years without a diplomatic presence, Larry Socha is re-writing the US-Somalia narrative from the hatred portrayed in Blackhawk Down to partnerships with Somali institutions. Larry kickstarted programs for artists, exchange participants, English Teaching Fellows, a new American Corner and events like his “Family Room Film Series,” that have opened the doors of our Embassy to Somalis living outside the security barriers of the airport and achieved that “last three feet” of people-to-people diplomacy.
Dr. Kayln McDonough
Dr. Kayln McDonough is a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Melbourne and an advocate for social justice through sport, particularly for youth and using sport to strengthen communities. Her home institution is University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences’ Partnership for Healthy Communities.
She is applying post doctoral research to sport programming she is leading at a youth detention center in partnership with the Queensland Department of Children, Youth Justice, and Multicultural Affairs, the National Indigenous Sports Foundation (NISF), Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS) and Lacrosse Australia. The objective is to increase access to physical activity, specifically lacrosse, among incarcerated youth. The collaboration of NISF and Lacrosse Australia marks a first of its kind, and can be used as a model for culturally-informed programming among other national sporting bodies.
Rebecca, a published poet, is currently pursuing her Master’s of Fine Art in Poetry at the University of Michigan. She intends to turn her book-length creative thesis into her second full-length book of poetry to be published both in New Zealand and the US.
Her first book, Meat Lovers, was a collection of poems on food, farming, and queer romantic folly. The new collection will most likely focus on climate change, food systems, environmentalism, as well as expressions of love and care in times of crisis – what she calls queerness and ecology.
After completing the MFA, Rebecca plans to return to New Zealand with newfound teaching skills that will not be limited to academic classrooms, but enable her to better connect with non-poets. She wants to run workshops that bring together poets and environmentalists, and introduce more scientists and laypeople to poetry as a way to express themselves and strengthen communities.
Kristina Nielsen was selected as a recipient for the 2023 Denmark Project Support Award. She will conduct postdoctoral research at Roskilde University on “Globalization without Multiculturalism?: Paradoxes of Danishness and Danish Children’s Music.” Utilizing ethnographic fieldwork, musical analysis, and archival research, Dr. Nielsen plans to examine how state-produced Danish children’s music responds to the paradoxes of belonging in Denmark – such as how children’s music embraces a globalized sound while emphasizing monoculturalism and integration. Dr. Nielsen’s project seeks to understand this paradox in light of Denmark’s growing multiculturalism as she examines the myths of Scandinavian homogeneity within the growing field of Scandinavian post-colonial studies. Dr. Nielsen earned a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2017, and she is currently Assistant Professor of Musicology at Southern Methodist University.
Emily Kuhn will use this award to support her project, Understanding Kichwa Agroecology as an Intergenerational Pedagogy. She will work with linguists, Kichwa ethno-scientists, sound engineers and graphic designers to create audiovisual materials for students and educators to promote the transfer of ancestral ecological knowledge to support sustainable agricultural practices. She earned her BA in Environmental Sociology and Spanish from Pitzer College in California. Upon returning to the United States, she plans to continue her work in sustainable management of the land among indigenous communities.
Irina Wang was selected for her project on Visualizing Indigenous Perspectives on Arctic Climate Change. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she will use the award to develop gameplay materials to facilitate conversations with and among herders on the impact of climate change on reindeer husbandry in collaboration with colleagues from CHARTER (Drivers and Feedbacks of Changes in Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity), a research project focused on the processes driving rapid climate and land use changes in the Arctic. Upon returning to the United States, she intends to establish a design studio and apply her skills to the development and implementation of equitable climate policy.
Timothy Sowa was selected for his project on Sustainable Digital Education. He will use the award to travel and expand his engagement with Finnish educators, researchers and students on how social sciences and technology can work together to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He is currently working on his Master’s degree in Social Science with the Sustainable Digital Life program at Tampere University. He intends to return to the United States to work as an education technology consultant and help schools build ethical and sustainable digital platforms.
Although his Fulbright research is focused on Capturing Neuroscience on the Nanoscale, Max will use the Sweden Project Support Award to support an exchange between artists at the Royal Institute of Art and scientists at SciLifeLab that will result in an exhibition “Scientific Research through an Artist’s Lens”. After completing his Fulbright research, he plans to pursue a PhD in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, focused on the interactions between atoms and light and the practical application to new technology. He is particularly interested in studying Bose-Einstein Condensate, a state of matter where atoms behave more like waves than particles. He hopes one day to run his own experimental physics lab.
Michael Monzon is currently working on his PhD in Entomology at Rutgers. His Fulbright research is focused on the application of Insect Science to Archaeology. The Sweden Project Support Award will support expanding the scope of his original Fulbright project beyond archaeological entomology to incorporate lithic analysis of stone tools produced in northern Sweden, an underserved area of Swedish archaeology. He plans for his research to be published as an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Open Archaeology Data.
Eric is working on his multicultural video project on the transition from school to employment for people with developmental disabilities such as autism. Eric graduated from Yale with a BA in Political Science in 2020. Upon return to the United States, he plans to continue in video journalism, with a focus on telling the stories of individuals with disabilities, and other often overlooked populations.
On December 9, 2022, John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, spoke on “The Urgency of Global Climate Action.” Secretary John Kerry was the US Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. From 1985 to 2013, he served as a US Senator representing Massachusetts and was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2009 to 2013. His current appointment—as the first-ever Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and National Security Council Principal entirely dedicated to climate change—represents the Biden administration’s concern and commitment to combatting climate change.
As Deputy Director of the Office of Citizen Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Matthew McMahon uses his skills, experience, cross-cultural understanding and creativity, combined with his patience and wisdom, to lead teams to success. Throughout his career, Matt has worked extremely well with Posts and regional bureaus, modeling how ECA civil service managers contribute subject matter expertise, management experience, and broad regional awareness as well as knowledge of relevant domestic issues and constituencies, to support and collaborate with colleagues at Posts to achieve the Department’s foreign policy goals.
For over 36 years, Cultural Specialist Dorothy Ngalombi has guided the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda through film festivals, concerts, women’s writing retreats and much more. Her upcoming event to commemorate the Fulbright program has a team of Fulbright alumni supporting her because of her dedication to these scholars over the years. The annual Fulbright Kajubi Lecture Series will be another lasting result of the connections Dorothy has fostered. To honor her, the Public Affairs Section in Kampala is creating a Lifetime Achievement Award for its alumni community in the name of Dorothy Ngalombi.
Alaa Mufleh, of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, received an Honorable Mention for her work as a dual-hatted Emerging Voices Specialist and Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism Specialist. Alaa’s programs engaged Jordan’s rising influencers, and empowered women and youth through experiential learning activities, designed not just to mitigate vulnerability to radicalization but ensure they are thriving across Jordan’s 12 governorates. A highlight was her programming of Jazz legend Herbie Hancock, culminating in a concert in a 2,000-year-old auditorium resulting in video products and prime-time news coverage that brought jazz into the homes of every Jordanian.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.