Date June 14, 2024
Media Contact

Recent Brown graduates earn 39 Fulbright scholarships

This year’s 39 Fulbright awardees — Brown’s largest group of recipients to date — will begin teaching and research assignments in 23 countries across five continents in Fall 2024.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Thirty-nine recent Brown graduates have received Fulbright awards for the 2024-25 academic year to conduct independently designed research projects or teach English in locations across the globe.

Brown has ranked as one of the top three student Fulbright producers in the nation for the past eight years, earning the highest spot on the list four times. The U.S. Department of State, which oversees the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, will release data for the 2024-25 award cycle next spring.

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright program promotes international peace through intellectual and cultural exchange. Applicants are selected based on academic and professional records, the quality and achievability of their proposals and their potential to engage culturally with their host communities.

“I hold much admiration for all of our applicants this year, and I am thrilled for our 39 Fulbright recipients,” said Joel Simundich, assistant dean of the College for fellowships. “This is our largest group of ‘Fulbrighters’ to date, and once more, this group reflects the ambitious paths all students at Brown take as they venture forth and make an impact in the world.” 

Brown’s newest cohort of Fulbright recipients submitted project proposals to teach and conduct research in 23 countries across North and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Teaching placements include elementary schools, high schools and universities, where awardees will provide classroom instruction and share cultural perspectives between the U.S. and their host countries. Research award recipients will pursue projects in a variety of fields, from microbiology and journalism to computer science and musicology.

From Stockholm to Chidambaram, a chance to pursue passions

Michael Abela: Sweden

It’s never too late to make a change — just ask Michael Abela.

The Brown alumnus graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. In the final semester of his senior year, just months before Commencement, Abela enrolled in a climate solutions course taught by Associate Provost for Sustainability Stephen Porder. To say it was influential is an understatement. 

“It honestly just rocked my world and shook the foundation of a lot of how I understood things,” Abela said. “So once I had that realization, I kind of regretted not taking more environmental science classes.”

After graduating, Abela joined a philanthropic venture where he serves as a climate technology liaison for nonprofits organizations, working on projects that range from tracking greenhouse gas emissions to providing Indigenous populations with satellite imagery to monitoring illegal gold mining in the Amazon.

Now, as the recipient of a Fulbright research award, Abela hopes to gain practical experience in a field he’s increasingly enthusiastic about. He will head to Sweden to work with researchers at the University of Stockholm to study whether the rise of extreme weather events is prompting more frequent environmental protests — and what types of protest have the largest impact on public opinion and policymaking.

The Fulbright is a great way for me to generate research experience in a field that is new to me, but still draws on the background that I do have. It allows me to build on the momentum that I’ve established in the couple of years since I graduated.

Michael Abela Class of 2022
mikey on a farm

The team Abela will join next fall uses natural language processing to sift through a global newspaper database, generating a collection of articles that cover roughly 80,000 climate protest events dating to 1990. Using his background in computer science, Abela plans to create a website that visualizes the findings and serves as the research group’s official communication channel.

“The Fulbright is a great way for me to generate research experience in a field that is new to me, but still draws on the background that I do have,” Abela said. “It allows me to build on the momentum that I’ve established in the couple of years since I graduated.”

As the birthplace of the largest modern global climate movement — activist Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate — Stockholm was an obvious choice. It doesn’t hurt that Abela also took a year-long Swedish language beginners course his first year at Brown, on the recommendation of his Meiklejohn Peer Advisor.

That course was co-taught by Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature Arnold Weinstein and his wife, Ann Weinstein, who previously served as the program coordinator of Brown’s Swedish program. Abela said it was one of his favorite courses, and in addition to setting him up with proficient conversational skills, it made him excited about the prospect of someday visiting — or living — there.  

“[Ann Weinstein’s] love for the country of Sweden really came through in the assignments that she gave us,” Abela said.

He’s particularly looking forward to immersing himself in Swedish culture, especially with “fika” — Sweden’s caffeinated version of a siesta, a cherished midday custom where friends catch up and refuel over coffee and kanelbulle, a Swedish cinnamon roll. Fika will come in handy for the busy Abela, who said that while he’s working on his Fulbright research, he will be finalizing his application for the Marshall Scholarship. If awarded, Abela would pursue two master’s degrees in quantitative environmental science and ecological economics at the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, respectively.

“It would really put me on the right path to having the kind of impact on climate that I would like,” he said.

Before any further study, Abela wants to experience as much as he can while in Scandinavia. He’s applying for an extra month of residency after the Fulbright ends, in hopes of experiencing Swedish midsummer, traveling to the north to learn more about climate activism within Indigenous Sami communities, and exploring volunteer opportunities at organic farms.

“I know it’s a lot,” Abela said. “But there’s really nothing that I’m not excited for.”

Hamsa Shanmugam: India

Roughly 5,000 miles away, Class of 2024 graduate Hamsa Shanmugam will also make a significant pivot in her studies as she begins her Fulbright research in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.

As a student in Brown’s eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education, Shanmugam had the opportunity to combine her undergraduate and medical education, earning bachelor’s degrees in music and health and human biology before she begins studies at the Warren Alpert Medical School. As a Fulbright scholar, she will conduct independent research that builds on her undergraduate honors thesis on melodic frameworks in South Indian classical, or Carnatic, music and Thevaram — Tamil devotional music of the Saiva tradition.

    I look forward to immersing myself in the rich musical, spiritual and cultural landscape. I am certain that the year will be incredibly enriching for me.

    Hamsa Shanmugam Class of 2024

    “Given that I will have limited opportunities and time to pursue ethnomusicology research once I start medical school, I wanted to seize the opportunity to spend a year in India conducting music research,” Shanmugam said.

    Even though she was always drawn to medicine, she said her roots in South Indian classical and devotional music run deep.

    “My great grandmother and grandmother are deeply involved with Thevaram, so my childhood visits to India were filled with this musical tradition,” she said. Shanmugam herself is also a performing Carnatic musician and has been trained in the musical style since childhood.

    During her sophomore year at Brown, Shanmugam founded Brown Bhairavi, a South Asian classical music group, and began exploring the genres academically through an independent study in the music department. Thanks to grants from the Brown Arts Institute and a fellowship at the Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia, Shanmugam spent the 2023 winter and summer breaks in Chennai, India, researching Thevaram.

    Splitting her time between Chennai and Chidambaram during her Fulbright tenure, she will study how Thevaram concerts can be performed within Carnatic concert structures while maintaining Thevaram’s musical and lyrical integrity — eventually culminating in the development and presentation of a full-length Thevaram concert.

    “I hope that my work will broaden the horizons of Western musicology, enrich Carnatic music, expand Thevaram’s reach, and allow more Tamil audiences in both Tamil Nadu and the diaspora to reconnect with this ancient Tamil musical tradition,” she said.

    And given that Tamil Nadu is the epicenter of South Indian classical music, Shanmugam is thrilled to experience life there, as both a musician and researcher.

    “I look forward to immersing myself in the rich musical, spiritual and cultural landscape,” she said. “I am certain that the year will be incredibly enriching for me.”

    The 2024-25 recent undergraduate alumni Fulbright scholars are:

    • Michael Abela (Sweden)
    • Madeleine Adriance (Argentina)
    • Solveig Asplund (South Korea)
    • Cecilia Barron (Germany)
    • Marielle Buxbaum (Ecuador)
    • Samantha Chon (Taiwan)
    • Jenna Cooley (Spain)
    • William Deckelbaum (Madagascar)
    • Jordan Feldman (Norway)
    • Allison Gordon (Germany)
    • Zoey Grant (Poland)
    • Luke Horton (Thailand)
    • Mitchell Howard (Mexico)
    • Lucia Kan-Sperling (Taiwan)
    • Justin Kipness (United Kingdom)
    • Junbeom Kwon (South Korea)
    • David Lauerman (Spain)
    • Anne Lord (Mexico)
    • Emilie Lum (Taiwan)
    • Alexandra Martínez (Mexico)
    • Brendan McMahon (Taiwan)
    • Juliana Merullo (Uruguay)
    • Nicholas Miller (Brazil)
    • Simone Paul (Taiwan)
    • Jessica Plancarte Lopez (Taiwan)
    • Maame Amoasiwa Quakyi (Kyrgyzstan)
    • Camilla Regalia (Germany)
    • Octavia Rowe (Germany)
    • Benjamin Schornstein (Switzerland)
    • Hamsa Shanmugam (India)
    • Lola Simon (Japan)
    • Salonee Singh (Switzerland)
    • Gabriela Treviño (Spain)
    • Harshini Venkatachalam (India)
    • Gabriella Vulakh (Israel)
    • Katherine Waisel (Germany)

    The 2024-25 graduate alumni Fulbright scholars are:

    • Stephen Crocker (Portugal)
    • Adam Jackson (Peru)
    • Oluwasemilore Sobande (France)