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Dayton Engineer

Nine UD students and alumni awarded Fulbright, Gilman, Boren, and National Defense Science and Engineering scholarships

By David Larsen and Sarina Tacovic, University of Dayton Communications

Nine University of Dayton students and recent graduates won competitive national fellowships to pursue advanced degrees, study internationally or teach abroad during the 2022-23 academic year.

They include three Fulbright Scholars, four Gilman Scholars and the University's first Boren Scholar in 10 years. In addition, a May 2022 School of Engineering graduate won a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

More than half of the awardees were eligible for need-based federal Pell Grants. Some faced personal, academic or pandemic-related challenges, and expressed how they learned from these experiences in their application essays.

"I'm impressed with these students because COVID has put so many pressures on them — their academics, their ability to do extracurricular activities — and these fellowships are not easy to apply to," said Laura Cotten Howell, associate director for fellowships and graduate school advising. "The fact they spent time and energy to craft high-quality applications and get selected for their awards says a lot about their tenacity and their abilities during this trying time."

This year's fellowship recipients:

  • Katelyn Barnes '22 of Cincinnati, who holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and human rights studies, will pursue a master's degree in global security and borders at Queen's University Belfast as a Fulbright Scholar.
  • Joseph Beckett '22 of McDermott, Ohio, who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, will pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan through the Department of Defense NDSEG program.
  • Claire Coleman '22 of Dublin, Ohio, who holds a bachelor's degree in foreign language education and Spanish, will complete a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Spain.
  • Gabby Jackson, a junior education major from Columbus, Ohio, will study in the United Kingdom during summer 2022 as a Gilman Scholar.
  • Sarah Lamb, a senior majoring in pre-medicine and Spanish from Indianapolis, will study in Guatemala during summer 2022 as a Gilman Scholar.
  • Maria McCarty, a senior biology major from Beavercreek, Ohio, will study Arabic in Oman as a Boren Scholar.
  • Elena Ramos '22 of Boston, who holds a bachelor's degree in international studies with a concentration in global education, will complete a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Brazil.
  • Ella Redfern, a senior international studies major from Barrington, Illinois, will study in Spain during summer 2022 as a Gilman Scholar.
  • Caroline Rhea, a senior education major from Troy, Ohio, will study in the United Kingdom during summer 2022 as a Gilman Scholar.

Ramos is the first Flyer Promise scholar to receive a foreign scholarship from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which partners with more than 140 countries to offer opportunities to pursue graduate study, conduct research or teach English abroad. The University has produced 41 Fulbright Scholars since 2002.

Her application essay addressed her participation at age 11 in a rehabilitation program for students who fall into the "school-to-prison pipeline." Ramos said she lacked strong role models at home or school, and didn't start caring about her grades until high school. She attended UD as part of the second cohort of Flyer Promise, which offers scholarships to academically talented seniors at partner high schools who are eligible for the Pell Grant.

"I honestly didn't think I was going to get it, so I didn't really want to try to apply, but Laura was a really good supporter and she pushed me to do the things that I didn't want to do," Ramos said. "My hard work has definitely paid off and it's going to benefit me as I become an English as a second language teacher in my hometown, Boston, after Fulbright."

After she returns from her Fulbright experience, she plans to work for Teach for America and pursue her master's degree in education at Boston University.

Rhea will learn about inner-city, public and rural education in the United Kingdom, which "financially wouldn't have been possible" without the Gilman award. The award enables Pell Grant-eligible students to study or intern abroad with the goal of increasing the diversity of students who participate in global learning experiences.

"This scholarship can help other UD students have hope that they can have this experience, too," Rhea said. "Studying abroad is not out of the question for them. It can give people the opportunity to explore their options to follow their passions."

The experience will further Rhea's plan to teach English in inner-city schools after graduation.

McCarty will use her Boren scholarship for a nine-week course at the Noor Majan Arabic Institute in Oman's capital city, Muscat.

David L. Boren scholarships are awarded to U.S. undergraduates for the overseas study of languages and cultures critical to national security. Boren Scholars commit to work for the U.S. government for at least one year after completing their experience.

After graduation, McCarty plans to attend medical or physician's assistant school. She also plans to apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program, offered by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, which would cover the cost of medical school and prepare her to become a military officer.

"I plan to do something medical and use what I learn in this experience, culturally and with the language, when I interact with patients," McCarty said.

Beckett will further his materials-related studies through the Department of Defense NDSEG fellowship program, which allows promising U.S. scientists to pursue doctoral degrees in designated research disciplines at the U.S. institution of their choice.

For the past two years, Beckett researched self-healing soft materials and developed an optical system to measure full-field deformations over a material's surface through his honors thesis. Though he worked in labs on campus, the University of Dayton Research Institute and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, his research and development started in a more humble location.

In March 2020, Beckett was preparing to conduct research through the Berry Summer Thesis Institute when the pandemic halted his plans. Unwilling to miss an opportunity, he immersed himself in a literature review and developed a prototype optical measurement system in his family's wood shop in their 100-year-old cinder block barn. After he returned to campus, his advisor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering Robert Lowe, helped him scale up his project, which eventually led to the NDSEG fellowship.

"Winning this fellowship goes to show the research we do at UD is novel, compelling and competitive on a national scale," Beckett said. "It also demonstrates the value in participating in a lot of the honors signature programs and research experiences like the Berry Summer Thesis Institute, the honors thesis program and the Chaminade Scholars, which helped me understand the broader societal implications and ethics related to my work."

For more information about applying to a fellowship program, visit the fellowship advising website.

Photo caption: Row 1 (L-R) - Katelyn Barnes, Joseph Beckett, Claire Coleman, Gabby Jackson. Row 2 (L-R) - Sarah Lamb, Maria McCarty, Elena Ramos, Ella Redfern, Caroline Rhea.

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