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UA Students Win Gilman International Awards

Ten University of Alabama students were awarded scholarships through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program during the 2019-2020 academic year.

“The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship allows students to study abroad who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints,” said Carolina Robinson, director of Education Abroad at UA’s Capstone International Center. “We are thrilled that we had 10 UA students selected as recipients for this award.”

Recipients were selected by the Institute of International Education through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

UA awardees include India Cary, of Louisville, Kentucky, selected to study in the Czech Republic; Koriella Graham, of Tuscaloosa, selected to study in Italy; Opal Khotsombath, of Montgomery, selected to study in South Korea; Meredith Mosley, of Union Grove, selected to study in Belgium; Michael Murphy, of Mount Prospect, Illinois, selected to study in Spain; Victoria Oldham, of Belleville, Illinois, selected to study in France; Paris Powell, of Mableton, Georgia, selected to study in Greece; Teagan Stanley, of Columbia, South Carolina, selected to spend a semester at sea visiting 11 countries; and Connor Todd, of Tuscaloosa, selected to study in Jordan.

Nicole Arnold, of The Colony, Texas, was selected as an alternate for the award to study in the Czech Republic.

In addition, Meredith Ward, of Niceville, Florida, was selected as a recipient of the Gilman-McCain Scholarship to study in Italy.

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship, a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain, provides awards to child dependents of active service members to study or intern abroad.

“Our Education Abroad office invests heavily in increasing awareness and supporting students in refining their stories and scholarship applications,” said Robinson. “Our efforts are paid off with each student who wins a scholarship, which allows them the incredible opportunity to experience a new country and culture.”

Students interested in educational opportunities around the globe can visit Education Abroad.

Leaving Home for a Brighter Future

From UA News | Melissa Parker

Nasir Eisty has come a long way from the small Bangladeshi town where he grew up. But the constant love and care from his parents and teachers made it possible to get where he is today.

Nasir Eisty
Nasir Eisty, an avid traveler, earned a doctorate in computer science in May.

Since the opportunities in his small, underdeveloped hometown were few, his parents sent him to the capital city, Dhaka, to finish school, in hopes of providing him with a better life.

“I had to leave my home at an early age for a higher-quality education and more opportunities,” said the spring 2020 UA graduate. “I lived alone in a student hostel during the 11th and 12th grades. It was very difficult for me to survive without having my parents at such a young age.”

As challenging as it was, it all paid off, as Eisty went on to earn three college degrees, including his most recent from UA, a doctorate in computer science, the highest degree anyone in his family has earned.

“Because of the current virus situation, I missed celebrating my degree with my family,” said Eisty, who hasn’t seen his parents in over two years. “I’m the first doctorate degree holder in my entire family. I’ll be very happy when I get the chance to celebrate with them, as I can imagine how happy and proud they will be seeing me after getting such a degree.”

Eisty came to UA four years ago with his wife, also a computer science doctoral student, because he was attracted to the exceptional computer science program, the small-town living that Tuscaloosa provides, UA football and the weather, which he says is similar to his home country.

While at UA, Eisty was involved with organizations such as the Graduate Student Association and the Bangladeshi Student Association, as well as with helping organize Alabama robotics contests and teaching at UA’s engineering summer camp.

Last semester, as he was wrapping up his college career, Eisty received one of the top honors for those in his field. He was selected as a 2020 Better Scientific Software Fellow, a program that provides funding for leaders and advocates of high-quality software.

“I was very excited to receive this award,” said Eisty, who received $25,000 from the program to develop a tutorial on automated testing for scientific software. “It is quite an achievement, in fact, one of the best achievements. It’s not about the funding but the recognition. It’s very difficult to be chosen, especially as a doctoral student.”

Eisty will be working on the tutorial, which he plans to present to national labs and conferences, over the next academic year.

Since he has a passion for research and teaching, Eisty accepted an academic position with the computer science and software engineering program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, as a tenure-track assistant professor. He will begin this fall.

And when the time is right and the pandemic is over, he will celebrate with his parents, as well as introduce them to his newest accomplishment, his newborn daughter, Eiliyah.

Turkish Consulate Scholarship Students at the ELI

Turkish Students at World Friends Day

World Friend’s Day at University Place Elementary, October 2019

Since 2008, Turkish students have come to the English Language Institute under the sponsorship of the Turkish Consulate. Their goal is to improve their English proficiency during six months of intensive language study at the ELI and then enter a graduate degree program, usually in the U.S. but also in countries such as China, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Australia. The Turkish students at ELI often fall in love with The University of Alabama and then hope to be admitted to a program here. They are currently studying in several departments, among them Geology, Civil Engineering and Education. The ELI looks forward to continuing a fruitful relationship with Turkey.


Turkish Students at World Friends Day
World Friends Day, Faucett-Vestavia Elementary School, February 2020


Turkish Students at World Friends Day
World Friends Day, Faucett-Vestavia Elementary School, February 2020

UA’s Model UN Team, Members Ranked Among the Best

June 9, 2020 | From UA News

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama’s Model UN team ranked on Best Delegate’s list of the Top 25 Collegiate Model UN teams in the World Division for the first time.

UA ranked No. 25 for strong performances throughout the 2019-20 academic year. According to Best Delegate, UA’s showing at the McGill Model United Nations Assembly in Montreal in January, the second largest Model UN conference, was among the top performances in an evenly matched field.

UA’s Model UN team is comprised of 42 students. Unlike most top-performing universities that train one group of students within its team to compete at conferences, UA’s team encourages all of its members to compete and gain experience.

“Model UN team members come from various majors and interests across campus and compete at a world-class level through dedicated training outside of their regular studies,” said Megan Wagner, assistant director of international partnerships and scholarships at UA’s Capstone International Center. “They’re practicing the problem-solving and critical thinking it takes to be engaged leaders in a global society.”

Best Delegate awards recognize both individual students and college teams as a whole for their accomplishments in leadership, research, public speaking, resolution-building, negotiation and diplomacy. According to the organization, this year’s team rankings were more competitive than ever.

In addition to the team’s honor, members Russell Puffer of Marietta, Georgia, and Andrew Smith of Haslet, Texas, were named to the first team of the North American Collegiate Model UN All-Star Team. Puffer and Smith are the first UA delegates to make the team that consists of the top 12 delegates in the nation.

The purpose of the North American Collegiate Model UN All-Star Team is to recognize exemplary individuals in the college Model UN community who make a difference inside and outside of committee.

UA’s Model UN team is part of the Capstone International Center’s Alabama International Relations Club. The Model UN is the cornerstone of the AIRC, the premier student-led global affairs organization at UA that continuously provides opportunities for its members to learn, develop, find community and make an impact at the Capstone and the world beyond.

Twelve UA Students Win Fulbright Awards

May 20, 2020 | From UA News

Note: The story was updated June 3 to reflect the addition of Joshua Kirks as a Fulbright Student Research Award recipient. 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Three University of Alabama students received Fulbright Student Research Awards and nine have won Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Awards for the 2020–2021 academic year.

The Fulbright Program is the most prestigious U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals. The Fulbright Award of the U.S. Department of State offers one-year grants for independent study and research, and for English teaching assistantships overseas.

The highly competitive program selects about 1,500 award recipients from over 11,000 applicants each year. UA has received national recognition as a Top Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. Students four of the last five years.

“We applaud every Fulbright 2020–2021 student applicant for their interest in furthering the Fulbright mission of mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries,” said Dr. Teresa Wise, associate provost of international education and global outreach. “As the world unites in solving the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, that mission is more important than ever.

“We congratulate our awardees and know that they will represent UA and the U.S. with distinction in the coming year.”

Fulbright Student Research Award recipients:

  • Julia Coursey, of Washington, D.C., received a Fulbright Award to Hungary to conduct research at the University of Debrecen and in Budapest for her novel, “The Bathers.” She holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from UA and a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College.
  • Joshua Kirks, of Kennesaw, Georgia, received a Fulbright Award to research, “Hollow Cathode Development and Testing,” at Dresden University of Technology in Germany. He is a UA graduate student in aerospace engineering and mechanics who holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from UA and memberships in Sigma Gamma Tau and Delta Phi Alpha honor societies.
  • Ashley Tickle Odebiyi, of Tuscaloosa, received a Fulbright Award to Italy to research, ”Gender, Authority, and Liminal Space: Roman Bizzoche, 1400–1500,” at LUMSA University and Sapienza University in Rome. She is a UA doctoral student in history with language study in Latin and Italian, earning a Bachelor of Arts from James Madison University and Master of Arts in religious studies from the University of Iowa.

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award recipients:

  • Christine Jane Allen, of Auburn, a leader in Model United Nations, an experienced debate tutor, chief justice of the Academic Honor Council, Honors College member, fellow of the Blackburn Institute and 2019 summa cum laude graduate in political science and environmental policy with advanced competency in Spanish language, was chosen to teach in Spain.
  • Mason Olivia Blanke, of Tuscaloosa, a UA Presidential Scholar, Honors College member and 2020 graduate in electrical engineering and physics with a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language, was chosen to teach in Poland.
  • Camille Constance Nealey Carr, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, a fellow of the Blackburn Institute, Blount Interdisciplinary Scholar in the liberal arts, Honors College member and 2019 summa cum laude graduate in Spanish and political science with fluency in the Spanish language, was chosen to teach in Colombia.
  • Isabella Rose DeSheplo, of Washington, D.C., a fellow of the Blackburn Institute, member of the Carl A. Elliott Community Service Honor Society, Honors College member and 2020 UA graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science and a minor in public policy studies, was chosen to teach in Bulgaria.
  • Lota Erinne, of Peachtree City, Georgia, a poet, winner of the 2019 Greer Marechal Memorial Prize in Fiction, managing editor of The Marr’s Field Journal literary magazine, Honors College member and 2020 graduate in English and finance with fluency in Spanish, was chosen to teach in Spain.
  • Amelia Wyant Gaither, of Hickory, North Carolina, a writing center tutor, UA English Language Institute instructor, founder of the UA Chinese Conversation Hour and a Global Café ESL conversation partner, with a bachelor’s degree in English from Davidson College and Master of Arts in applied linguistics and teaching English to speakers of other languages from UA, was chosen to teach in Taiwan.
  • Robert “Chad” Hankins, of Mobile, a Blount Interdisciplinary Scholar in the liberal arts, member of the Mallet Assembly and White Rose Society, certified teacher of English as a Foreign Language and 2018 graduate in political science with a minor in German, advanced German language competency, and Global Studies Certificate, was chosen to teach in Germany.
  • Katherine Lightfoot, of Northport, a discussion facilitator with the UA English Language Institute, active leader in Model United Nations and German Club, Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society member, Honors College member and 2019 graduate in international studies and foreign languages and enrolled in graduate studies in German at UA, was chosen to teach in Germany.
  • Ian Samlowski, of Madison, a teaching assistant in the department of modern languages and classics, translator for the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and fluent German speaker who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in German from UA with membership in Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society, was chosen to teach in Germany.

In addition, 11 students were awarded alternate status in this year’s national Fulbright competition. They will be invited to serve should more openings become available to the national Fulbright Program.

UA alternates include Emily Adams (Bulgaria), Austin Blair (Germany), Olivia Brick (Laos), Logan Fenhouse (Spain), Asia Hayes (Spain), Ekaterina (Katya) Khvatkova (Russia), Meredith Moore (Bulgaria), Austin Olivier (Germany), Rebecca Paholski (Spain), Caroline Smith (Spain) and Trey Sullivan (Bulgaria).

“Our campus is proud of these 23 exceptional student leaders in international engagement,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of global and community engagement. “We appreciate the dedicated faculty, staff and administrators who advised our students in application for these awards.”

A team of Fulbright advisers from UA’s Capstone International Center, modern languages and classics department and Center for Community-Based Partnerships helps students polish applications for success in the Fulbright competition each year.

Students interested in applying for next year’s Fulbright Program can learn more at and, or by sending an email to UA’s Fulbright advisers Megan Wagner at, Dr. Matthew Feminella at or Dr. Beverly Hawk at

Students Win Gilman Awards for 2019-2020 Study Abroad

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Winners are selected by the Institute of International Education through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. Recipients receive up to $5,000 to apply toward study abroad or internship program costs, giving them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies. The Education Abroad office hosts regular workshops to inform students about the Gilman application process and assist students in choosing a country and program that is right for them. Visit the Education Abroad website for more information, or call 205-348-5256 to find out  more.
Congratulations to the following UA students who won a Gilman for study abroad:
Spring 2020
Mariah Muhammad, South Korea
Keshai Kingka, Austria, Italy, Germany
Dana Scheetz, Australia
Christine Thompson, South Africa

Two UA Faculty Members Named Fulbright Scholars

May 19, 2020 | From UA News

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Two University of Alabama faculty members will receive Fulbright Scholar Grants for the upcoming year.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers approximately 470 teaching, research or combination teaching and research awards in more than 125 countries.

The faculty members are:

Headshot of Subhabrata Chakraborti
Dr. Subhabrata Chakraborti

Dr. Subhabrata Chakraborti, professor, department of information systems, statistics and management science, Culverhouse College of Business

Chakraborti was awarded a Fulbright Teaching and Research Scholar Award to the Federal University of Sao Carlos, in Brazil. He will be hosted by the production engineering department and will be involved in research, teaching and mentoring.

The collaboration will focus on capacity development in teaching and research, with a research focus on modern process monitoring in the era of analytics and big data. Research will involve developing and applying advanced statistical methods, including nonparametric methods, in a number of industries within and outside Brazil where process monitoring is vital.

Chakraborti will also help mentor and guide research and publication efforts, and to that end, will deliver seminars covering state of the art research techniques using his 2019 co-authored book, “Nonparametric Statistical Process Control” published by John Wiley. Teaching, research and mentoring activities are expected to open new doors and form the basis of a broader relationship between the two universities and various programs.

Headshot of Glenn Tootle
Dr. Glenn Tootle

Dr. Glenn Tootle, associate professor, department of civil, construction and environmental engineering, College of Engineering

Tootle was awarded a Fulbright Teaching and Research Scholar Award to the University of Trento in Italy. He will teach courses in paleohydrology and hydroclimatology, focusing on Alpine watersheds in the region.

Tootle will collaborate with UniTrento faculty and students to evaluate critical water resources challenges including the development of tree-ring based reconstructions of streamflow and snowpack; identification of climatic drivers of streamflow and snowpack; and long lead-time forecasting of streamflow for water supply. He will concurrently conduct research in these areas and work on developing an exchange program with students from UniTrento, UA and the nearby University of Innsbruck where he has led a study abroad program since 2012.

World Friends Day

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A student from Ukraine teaches elementary students about her culture.

World Friends Day is a fun and exciting event that happens twice a year in the Fall and Spring Semesters. Students from the English Language Institute (ELI) visit elementary schools to present their cultures in the form of games, songs, dances, costumes and language activities. In Fall 2019 ELI went to University Place Elementary, and in Spring 2020 to Faucett-Vestavia Elementary. These two forums reached over 600 local school children. World Friends Day is a favorite event for everyone, and we hope to continue it in 2020 – 2021.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Students from Argentina share their music.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A Brazilian student gets elementary students involved in her culture.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A group of South American students participate in World Friends Day.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A South Korean ELI student teaches an elementary student how to use chopsticks.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Japanese students join World Friends Day.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Students from Argentina plays a game with elementary students.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Students create materials for the elementary school students.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Students from Colombia and Venezuela interact with students.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A student from Saudi Arabia teaches the Arabic alphabet.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A Turkish student plays a game with elementary students.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Turkish students show a painting technique using string.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
Chinese students watch an elementary student play a game.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
A group of Middle Eastern students share their culture at World Friends Day.

International Students Teaching Elementary Students
World Friends Day

Four UA Students Win Critical Languages Scholarship Award

Four UA students were selected as recipients of the Critical Languages Scholarship Award to participate in overseas language study during the summer of 2020. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, CLS has unfortunately suspended all summer language institutes for 2020. Despite this disappointing news, we wish to congratulate our winners, who will be eligible to reapply for the award for the 2021 application cycle.

David Ewing, a finance major, was selected to study Chinese in Tainan, Taiwan.

Elena Guerra, a Romance Languages and Spanish double-major, was selected to study Russian.

Katie Lightfoot, a German major, was selected to study Turkish at Ankara University TOMER in Bursa, Turkey.

Bria Samuels, a German MA student, was selected to study Turkish at Ankara University TOMER in Bursa, Turkey.

The Critical Language Scholarship program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

The program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to spend eight to 10 weeks overseas studying one of 14 critical languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu.

The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. CLS scholars are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.

Students interested in Critical Language Scholarships, Boren Scholarships or Fulbright Awards may contact the Capstone International Center at for more information.

Fulbright Scholarship Students at the ELI

Fulbright ELI students outside of BB Comer
Fulbright ELI Students Outside of B.B. Comer

This spring the English Language Institute (ELI) at UA is welcoming five Fulbright scholarship students.

The Fulbright students come from Guinea, Haiti, Laos, Namibia, and Rwanda. The students will study English 20 hours a week for five months, as well as participate in seminars and cultural activities. After completing the ELI, they will begin graduate studies in the United States in August.

One of the current Fulbright students, Akser Mpugulu from Namibia, said of the program, “Now that I got a Fulbright scholarship, I am very honored and I look forward to help reduce poverty in my community if not eradicate it.”

This is the third year the ELI has been selected to host Fulbright Long-Term English Placement students. The ELI is pleased to partner with the Fulbright organization to support international exchanges.