Villanova Named a Top Producer of Fulbright Students


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

The St. Thomas of Villanova Church during sunset.

Katie Reed, News Columnist

On February 10, it was announced that Villanova was named a top producer of Fulbright U.S. students for the 15th year in a row, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

“In the current Fulbright application cycle, 45 of Villanova’s 69 applicants have been named semi-finalists for the award and will be notified over the next three months if they are selected to go abroad during the 2023-2024 academic year,” the press release from the university stated. “The Fulbright Program was established over 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries and is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program.”

The Center for Research and Fellowships (CRF) at the University spearheads the Fulbright application process. Kelsey Fenner, the Assistant Director of CRF and Villanova’s Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA), provided some insight on what this process looks like. 

“The formal process includes a five-month guided process where students explore Fulbright opportunities, write and edit application materials and participate in advising and feedback consultations,” Fenner said. “Fulbright applicants work with CRF to secure university endorsement (an additional letter of support), which means that the university has a structured process for guiding students through this specialized type of application.”

Having this honor bestowed upon the Villanova community is a monumental feat, which Catherine Stecyk, the Director of CRF, emphasized.

“We cannot overstate the pride we feel for all our Fulbright applicants and recipients, past, present and future,” Stecyk said. “We need their optimism, talent and desire to promote mutual understanding as they build a more just and peaceful world. We express our deep gratitude to all for these 15 years of support and encouragement.” 

Fenner echoed this sentiment. 

“As we reflect upon this milestone, we note the years of hard work that go into preparing an application for a Fulbright grant — rigorous coursework, undergraduate and graduate research, international study, senior theses, performances, volunteer work, campus leadership, community engagement, advocacy and mentorship,” Fenner said. “Villanova students are amazing.” 

Fenner also highlighted the tireless work of the CRF, who have played a critical role in helping both students and the university pursue this path and maintain this well-earned reputation. 

“Over the last 15 years, CRF and the fellowships team have refined the Fulbright application structures and created an advising system that prepares us to support students and alumni through this intensive process,” Fenner said. “We also rely upon our committed faculty and staff who are instrumental partners in identifying, encouraging and mentoring students interested in the Fulbright Program.”

 To further illustrate the impact that the Fulbright Program has and the wide array of paths open to Villanova students, Fenner provided some examples of what past recipients have achieved. This legacy includes Sabrina Verleysen, who started a girls’ literacy non-profit in Indonesia; Joe Zinno, who is studying industrial design engineering at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland; Talia Charidah, who is researching cultural loss in Syrian refugee populations in Turkey; and Julia Nema, who is teaching English in the Czech Republic.

For those who are interested in applying for a Fulbright in the future, Fenner offered some advice.

“The Fulbright Program selects thoughtful, conscientious and interesting students, regardless of their GPA or academic discipline,” Fenner said. “That means that any student that graduates from Villanova has a chance to secure a Fulbright award to study, complete research or teach English overseas. If you have any interest in Fulbright, or even just want to learn more, come talk to CRF. You can find us on Handshake.” 

In closing, to echo the words of our University President, we are proud of all our Fulbright students and wish them good luck throughout the rest of the process. 

“Congratulations to this year’s Fulbright award recipients,” University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD said in the press release. “I am continually in awe of how our students use the knowledge and skills they have acquired at Villanova and go out into the world to make a positive difference. Year after year, our Fulbright recipients are remarkable ambassadors for Villanova, and I wish them the best of luck in their placements.”