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Congratulations to Drexel's 2020 Fulbright Semi-Finalists!

February 3, 2020

Nine Drexel students and recent alumni have been selected as semi-finalists for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program for 2020-21. These students spent considerable time developing research proposals, crafting application essays, and incorporating feedback from supportive readers.

After being chosen by Fulbright U.S. National Screening Committees, their applications have been passed to the host countries for final selection. They will hear in the coming months whether they receive the award. We wish them the best of luck!

2020 Fulbright Semi-Finalists


Anna Zia
BS Fashion Design '18

Fulbright Program:
Study/Research Grant, South Korea

Anna Zia is a Drexel Westphal Graduate, with a Bachelor in Fashion Design. She is an experimental textile designer and illustrator who did her co-op in Seoul, South Korea. Her experiences there inspired her to use traditional Korean textiles and colors reflective of Confucianism and historic dress code. For her senior collection, she used traditional Korean linens and painted the textile surface by using a unique method of spray painting and laser-cutting. Her collection was awarded for Best Sportswear, and she continued showing her collection at Philadelphia Fashion Week, and in Seoul.

Anna hopes that by receiving a Fulbright grant, she will be able to explore other traditional methods of clothing construction, painting techniques, and a more refined design aesthetic, which will aid in developing an innovative and new collection. Her goal is to show her collection in an exhibition, and to connect with designers and artists all over the world. In her free time, Anna enjoys reading manhwa, spending time with her cat Moo, and hiking.

She would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Hayes and Jaeyoon Jeong, and Logan Howard of Westphal School of Art and Design for their guidance and support!

Erin O'Brien
PhD candidate, Biomedical Engineering
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Australia
Faculty Mentor: Kara Spiller

Erin O’Brien is a PhD candidate in Dr. Kara Spiller’s lab at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science, and Health Systems. She developed her interest in immune-targeted medicine as a research assistant at the Wistar Institute, where she studied the efficacy of tumor immunotherapies. Her current research seeks to understand the behavior of macrophages, immune cells that regulate healing, and uses these findings to develop biomaterials that direct macrophage behavior. If awarded a Fulbright grant, she hopes to test these biomaterials in a unique model developed by Dr. Michael Hickey’s lab at Monash University in Melbourne. Outside of the lab, Erin enjoys connecting with Drexel’s STEM community through her position as president of Drexel Graduate Women in Science and Engineering.

Isa Betancourt
MS Communication '19

Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Indonesia

Isa Betancourt is a Curatorial Assistant of Entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and she recently completed her Master's in communication at Drexel University. Isa is interested in documenting, protecting, and celebrating biodiversity. She has realized these interests through her work supporting research in the entomology collection at the Academy, through her book, "Backyard Bugs of Philadelphia", and through social media outreach initiatives like the #bugscope on

With the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Isa seeks to work with the National University (UNAS) in Indonesia to collect data on insect biodiversity at the University's field site in Borneo, which can be used to inform restoration initiatives. The project will document the biodiversity by creating an UNAS entomological research collection.

Marissa Olson
BA Global Studies '20
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Spain

Marissa Olson is a Drexel Liberty Scholar majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Public Health and Spanish. Upon leaving the country for the first time for an Alternative Spring Break trip to Haiti during her freshman year, Marissa discovered a love for new cultures. Due to her global mindset, Marissa aspires to create social change and challenges herself to embark on new opportunities. She is a Dornsife Global Development Scholar, and completed her first co-op in Eswatini, Africa (formerly Swaziland) focusing on menstrual hygiene in schools and sanitation and hygiene education. While studying abroad in Costa Rica the following year, Marissa strived to learn more about health care in vulnerable populations. Marissa seeks to educate and inspire and has worked in two schools in West Philadelphia where she applies her global learning outcomes closer to home.

Marissa hopes to broaden her educational experience through the Fulbright program by teaching English in Spain. Through this experience, she hopes to underscore her dedication to women in leadership by starting a girls’ wellness and empowerment group, emphasizing confidence and self-care. Marissa embarks on her post-graduate journey thankful for the opportunity that the Liberty Scholars program has provided her. Additionally, she thanks Ahaji Schreffler for challenging her to think globally and sparking her love for travel as a mentor, and Kelly Weissberger who has helped her tremendously in the Fulbright application process.

Neil Eelman
BS Computer Engineering '20, Honors
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, the Netherlands

Neil Eelman is a computer engineering major with a minor in mathematics. Neil was awarded a Gilman Scholarship to the Netherlands for the Spring and Summer of 2019. With the support of Gilman, he completed his last co‐op at the Delft University of Technology, working in a quantum computing lab. His first co‐op was at Susquehanna International Group in Philadelphia, and his second was at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland.

Nicole Bedoya
BA Global Studies '19
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Brazil

Nicole Bedoya is a recent graduate who majored in Global Studies with minors in French and Spanish. She has a natural love for languages having also studied Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese along with her language minors. She hopes to use her time in Brazil to solidify her Portuguese skills while also allowing her to explore a vast country with a diverse history. During her undergraduate career she has had the fortune of pursuing education and work abroad in Cambodia, Brazil, England, Ireland, Argentina, and Spain. She wishes to continue to pursue global opportunities and encourage others to do so in her position as an English Teaching Assistant. Nicole would like to thank Dr. Hoekje, Dr. McMahon, Kelly Weissberger, Kate Hughes, and the Study Abroad team for their support during the application process and her undergraduate endeavors.

Nicole Kalitsi
BA Global Studies '20
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, South Korea

Nicole Kalitsi is an undergraduate Global Studies major with a concentration in Justice and Human Rights and a French minor. She has been learning French since the age of four and is currently a French tutor for the Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages. Nicole’s academic and professional experience has focused on the intersection of culture, diplomacy and diversity. This interest grew from the various international experiences she has had during her time at Drexel. In 2018, she completed a Co-Op with Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance where she worked as their inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator, helping to build the role and achieve the organization’s DEI goals. That same year, Nicole studied abroad in Brussels at Vesalius College and completed an internship with European Network of Cultural Centres, continuing much of the cultural and diversity work she began during her time at GPCA, this time in a European context. It was during this time that she developed an interest in the role of global education and cross-cultural exchange in fostering international diplomacy and cooperation.

Nicole plans to turn her love of languages, cultures and people into a career helping students achieve their goals of studying abroad and promoting the power of citizen diplomacy, especially diverse students with financial need. On the side, Nicole is passionate about film and film studies, having once pursued a video production minor at Drexel, and plans to incorporate this hobby into her teaching and her time in South Korea should she be extended a finalist position.

Reva Swiedler
BA Global Studies '20, Honors
Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistantship, Mexico

Reva Swiedler is a Global Studies student minoring in Public Health and Spanish. While at Drexel, she has been an officer and garden manager for Drexel’s Sierra Club and is a member of the Women’s Club Soccer team. Her interest in food justice and medical anthropology can be seen in her coursework, her time volunteering at various community gardens in Philadelphia, and as a tutor and clinic volunteer for Puentes de Salud. At Drexel, she was a Humanities and Social Sciences Fellow working under Dr. Erin Graham, researching “The Decline of Multilateralism in the United Nations” and spent her co-ops at a philanthropic foundation, the BESAFIR lab at UPenn, and a healthcare technology start-up. In her pursuit to learn Spanish, she has spent time abroad living with a host family in Mexico and studying at a university in Madrid, Spain. As a Fulbright ETA in Mexico, she is excited to go back to Mexico and hopes to enhance her ability to communicate complicated concepts of health with deeper cross-cultural understanding, to eventually work as a public health educator for Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. She is grateful of the support from Dr. Erin Graham, Kate Hughes, and Kelly Weissberger.

Tara Densmore
BA Global Studies '20, Honors
Fulbright Program: Study/Research Grant, Taiwan

Tara’s passion for languages was first kindled during a year-long study abroad in Belgium, where she attended a French-speaking high school. Now in college, she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Business, Economics, and Development and a minor in Marketing. She completed her first co-op with the INGO World Vision in Singapore and in 2018, received a Boren African Flagship Language Initiative Scholarship for Maputo, Mozambique. She recently completed her final co-op with the Cambodian Development Research Institute in Phnom Penh. She hopes to utilize the language skills and cultural understand that she has developed throughout her time at Drexel to eventually work for the Foreign Agricultural Service branch of the USDA.


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, research, creative projects, or teaching English in over 140 countries around the world. 

For more information please visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website or email

Special thanks to the Drexel faculty and staff members who worked with us during the summer and fall to advise individual applicants, review campus applications, and conduct preliminary review and campus interviews:

Bill Albertson, ESL Visiting Lecturer, English Language Center

Peter Amato, Director of Programs in Philosophy and Teaching Professor of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences

Jen Ayres, Visiting Assistant Professor, The Symposium, Pennoni Honors College

Katie Barak, Associate Director of Academic Programs, Pennoni Honors College

Ben Barnett, Instructor, English Language Center

Natalia Broz, Associate Director or Graduate Programs, School of Biomedical Engineering, Sciences, and Health Systems

Lotte Buiting, Former Senior Study Abroad Advisor, Education Abroad

Paula Marantz Cohen, Dean, Pennoni Honors College

John Doherty, Assistant Director of Cooperative Education, Steinbright Career Development Center

Dan Dougherty, Former Director of the Honors Program and Associate Dean, Pennoni Honors College

Erin Durkin, Senior Academic Advisor for Undergraduate Education, Dornsife School of Public Health

Kevin Egan, Director of Academic Programs, Pennoni Honors College

Arthur Frank, Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health, Dornsife School of Public Health

Barry Furrow, Director of the Health Law Program and Professor of Law, Kline School of Law

Tali Gidalevitz, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences

Erin Glaser, Co-op Advisor, Steinbright Career Development Center

Travis Harman, Gateway Program Director, English Language Center

Marcia Henisz, Senior Director of International Health, Safety, and Security, Office of Global Engagement

Barbara Hoekje, Associate Professor of Communication and Graduate Faculty Member, Department of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences

Gerry Hooper, Teaching Professor, Westphal College of Media Arts and Design

Kate Hughes, Interim Director of Women's and Gender Studies; Associate Director and Academic Advisor, Global Studies and Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences

Brian Kantorek, Assistant Director of Marketing and Media, Pennoni Honors College 

Kirsten Kaschock, Assistant Teaching Professor of English, Department of English and Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences

Emily Kashka, Assistant Director, Office of Undergraduate Research

Eric Kennedy, Former Associate Director of the Honors Program, Pennoni Honors College

Emmanuel Koku, Associate Professor of Sociology and Graduate Faculty Member, Communication, Culture & Media, College of Arts and Sciences

Melinda Lewis, Associate Director of Marketing and Media, Pennoni Honors College

Brent Luvaas, Director of the Minor Program in Anthropology, Associate Professor, and Graduate Faculty Member; Center for Science, Technology and Society, Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences

Kate McAloon, Advisor, Steinbright Career Development Center

Janel McCloskey, Associate Director of University Writing Program (Drexel Writing Center)

Jaya Mohan, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Pennoni Honors College 

Dagmar Niebur, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

Joel Oestereich, Professor, Department of Politics and Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences

Gregory Risser, PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, School of Biomedical Engineering, Sciences, and Health Systems

Dorilona Rose, Director of Policy & External Affairs, Office of the Dean, College of Engineering

Adrian Shieh, Associate Teaching Professor, Biomedical Engineering, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Suruchi Sood, Associate Professor, Community Health and Prevention, Dornsife School of Public Health

Kara Spiller, Associate Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Jose Tapia, Associate Professor, Department of Politics, College of Arts and Sciences

Julia Wisniewski, Assistant Director of Academic Programs, Pennoni Honors College

Erica Zelinger, Director of Marketing and Media, Pennoni Honors College

Emily Zimmerman, Director of the Criminal Law Program and Professor of Law, Kline School of Law