Richmond students make a global impact as Fulbright recipients

August 20, 2021

Student Experience

For the third straight year, the University of Richmond is included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students and scholars. Sponsored by the State Department since 1946, the Fulbright Awards promote study, research, and teaching outside the U.S. to increase understanding among partner nations.

Since the program’s inception, 68 UR students have received the award. To mark the 75th anniversary of the program, here is a look at past student recipients.

Soleil Shah, a 2017 graduate, was the winner in 2018 of the Fulbright Award to study at the London School of Economics, where he graduated with a degree in international health policy. Since then, he has worked with the World Health Organization as a policy researcher and created an insurance enrollment clinic for Medicaid-eligible patients. He is currently a resident at Stanford medical school.

“I am still extremely close to people I met through my Fulbright program, speaking to some of them nearly every day,” Shah said. “This, in my opinion, is the primary value-add of Fulbright: meeting like-minded and driven individuals passionate about making a positive impact in the world in various fields of study.”

Another recipient with a healthcare focus is Aleah Goldin, a 2013 graduate, who conducted research on the Mongolian healthcare system with her Fulbright. She collected stories of practitioners and patients in both the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and a rural province in Mongolia. She also collaborated with a Mongolian medical university to train students on qualitative research methodologies.

“I learned that research is often about being a listening ear,” Goldin said. “That is the best way to uncover core needs and pain points.”

Jackie Sirc, a 2017 graduate, who studied at the University of Geneva's Institute for Citizenship Studies, researched the social and cultural integration of refugees in Switzerland.

“My favorite part of Fulbright was being able to do local research, meeting with communities that I would have been totally unaware of if I had studied my topic from the U.S.,” Sirc said. “There are so many cultural and social dynamics to understand on a regional level that can get lost when looking at the country as a whole.”

Griffin Trau, a 2018 graduate who taught English in the Czech Republic, also appreciated the cultural difference. Trau, who completed a storytelling fellowship with National Geographic, said, “The immersive experience is a rare opportunity to experience life in a totally different setting.”

”Nothing builds great intercultural skills like a steep language barrier,” he added. “My Fulbright was truly the adventure of a lifetime."

The Fulbright student competition is administered at Richmond through the Office of Scholars and Fellowships, which assists students applying for competitive national and international awards.

"The Fulbright is a wonderful fit for Richmond students who are deeply interested in cultural exchange,” said Dana Kuchem, director of scholars and fellowships. “Recipients engage in international study that fuels both their intellectual and personal development.”