Five Broncos Win Fulbright Scholarships for 2023-2024
SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 4, 2023— Santa Clara University (SCU) is proud to announce that five Broncos, all from the class of 2023, have received Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants for the 2023-2024 academic year. Eight additional SCU students or recent alumnus were recognized as semi-finalists.
Sebastian Acevedo, Rachel Chung, Teresa Contino, Octavio De Leon, and Ariana Tabrizi were selected through an open, merit-based competition that considers leadership potential, academic and/or professional achievement, and record of service. The Fulbright scholarships will enable them to spend the next year studying, conducting research, and/or teaching abroad in Iceland, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Mexico, and Italy, respectively.
Administered by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, The Fulbright Program, the flagship international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and other countries since 1946. Santa Clara has produced 57 Fulbright winners since the program’s inception in 1946.
“I extend my warmest congratulations to these outstanding Fulbright scholars,” said Acting Provost Ed Ryan. “The Fulbright goal of creating connections in our complex and changing world is an ideal that runs parallel to Santa Clara University’s vision to educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. These exceptional students are using their knowledge and faith to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world.”
Here are SCU’s 2023-24 Fulbright recipients:
Sebastian Acevedo ’23, a biology and environmental science double major from Portland, Oregon, will spend his Fulbright year working in Iceland alongside noted wildlife ecologist Dr. Ólafur Karl Nielsen. Acevedo will join Nielsen and other scientists from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History to investigate which factors might influence the quality of nesting habitat for gyrfalcons, the largest falcon in the world, and Iceland's national bird. Gyrfalcons have an important role in their ecosystems as top predators, and the institute has studied them for over 41 years.
Acevedo has taken part in a number of research projects on gyrfalcon ecology in partnership with The Peregrine Fund and is thrilled about the opportunity to work with one of the world's leading Gyrfalcon experts as a collaborative effort between conservationists from the U.S. and Iceland.
“I am beyond excited to work with such experienced ecologists to better understand a system dear to my heart and one that requires immediate attention,” said Acevedo. “The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth, so it falls to us to conduct as much research into this system as possible to better protect those species that call it home.”
On campus, Acevedo has worked as a research assistant in the lab of Brody Sandel, associate professor of biology, where Acevedo completed a research project on bird diversity and conservation, culminating in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. The research was supported by the REAL Program.
He also worked with biology Professor Justen Whittall to extract DNA from songbird feathers to identify the sex and species of two kinds of birds for which visually identifying the sex/species is near impossible. Acevedo presented a poster of their preliminary results at The West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference in San Diego and the Ecological Society of America Conference in Montreal, Canada.
Acevedo is a LEAD Scholar, a University Honors student, a Koret Fellow, a peer educator, a member of the scientific research honor society Sigma Xi, and a club officer for Bird Up! SCU.
Rachel Chung ’23 will head from her hometown of Cupertino to teach English in Taiwan where she hopes to integrate her passion for dance and music with English language studies.
Pre-professionally trained in both ballet and contemporary dance, Chung hopes to lead dance sessions in her English lessons as a way of introducing American pop culture, including hip-hop, to her students. “To me, music and dance are not just forms of self-expression and creativity, but powerful vehicles for cultural preservation and exploration of other cultures as well as one's own,” she said.
Chung, who is a double major in finance and political science, with a minor in international business, has been inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the national Jesuit honor society. She is also a member of the business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma, and in 2022, was awarded the Charles J. Dirksen Prize, bestowed on the junior in the Leavey School of Business with the highest cumulative grade point average.
Vice president of SCU’s Language Learning Club, Chung is also a modern languages and literatures student ambassador, a peer educator for Arabic and finance, and had been a member of the SCU Hipnotik dance crew. She also plays the erhu, a Chinese violin.
“My desire to explore my Chinese heritage and better grasp my mixed identity is what inspired me to pursue this opportunity,” said Chung, who is of Cantonese, Italian, and French descent. “What I have come to realize is that race and ethnicity are not so black and white and that my very own identity is continuously being formed and defined by countless daily interactions with others.”
After completing her Fulbright year, Chung plans to pursue a master's degree in international relations. She would like to research Chinese diasporic communities throughout Europe, and the impacts they have on European politics and economy.
Teresa Contino ’23 will be an English teaching assistant at a high school in the Czech Republic, where she hopes to create a welcoming learning environment that inspires her students to feel heard in both conversation and writing.
“My double major in English and psychology has inspired my understanding of writing as a reflective and metacognitive process that enacts conversation between people,” said Contino, who has been drawn to the Czech Republic since a trip to Eastern Europe with her family. “I am interested in the relationship between language and memory and how collaborative exercises can deepen students’ learning.”
At Santa Clara, the Malibu native has been recognized as the Center for Arts and Humanities 2021-2022 Digital Humanities Fellow as a co-author of “Composing Collaborative Feminist Recovery Projects with Scalar.” She is a Healthcare Innovation and Design Lab Communications Fellow, a University Honors student, and belongs to Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.
Contino has been a research assistant in the Learning & Remembering Lab and serves as the editor of the Santa Clara Review, the university’s bi-annual literary magazine.
Her experience at the Santa Clara Review has motivated her to see what literary offerings are like in the Czech Republic, where she hopes to explore writing workshops and reach out to organizations that promote developing writers and artists.
Octavio (Tavi) De Leon ’23 will be an English teaching assistant in Mexico for the coming academic year. A San Francisco native, De Leon is an English major, with a double minor in theater and political science. At SCU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, he has been an actor, costume designer, and set designer. He has performed in several SCU productions including “Eurydice,” “Charisma,” “To the Bone,” and “The Giants Have Us in Their Books.” He also worked on costume and scene designs for “The Book of Will” last fall.
De Leon is the president of the University’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, and recently presented talks on “The Threat of Inflammatory Fake News” and “Film and Media: Film and Cultural Studies” at the society’s annual conference in Colorado.
As a Canterbury Scholar, he conducted research on “Teaching Writing Instruction Equitably to Multilingual Students at SCU.” On May 23, De Leon will present his research on ways that the English department can better support the growing community of multilingual and international students to the English department. That research will be published as a website at the end of the year.
Since his sophomore year, De Leon has worked as a writing tutor at The HUB writing center, an experience that inspired him to apply to the Fulbright program. “I have met many international and multilingual students at SCU from this job, and have found tutoring, especially with students with different backgrounds, language histories, and nationalities than me, to be so rewarding,” he said.
While in Mexico, he is looking forward to expanding his Spanish skills and being fully immersed in the country’s language, culture, food, and art. After completing the Fulbright Program, De Leon plans to attend law school, with an interest in international law.
Ariana Tabrizi ’23, a history and ethnic studies double major from Palo Alto, is looking forward to teaching English in southern Italy and developing an additional research project.
While at SCU, she explored the intersection of history and art as a student employee at the de Saisset Museum. She is also a peer educator in the History Department and has served as a research assistant in both the Ethnic Studies department and at the Markkula Center, where she was involved in a project titled “Ethics of Sympathy Enhancing Anti-Bias Virtual Reality Simulations.” In 2022, she was named a Berks American Historical Association Fellow where she worked on projects to expand and improve the History Department’s student outreach, and department programs on campus. She is a University Honors student and a member of the Middle Eastern and North African Club.
Tabrizi credits ethnic studies Lecturer Allia Ida Griffin for encouraging her to explore the Fulbright program as a way to further explore her interests while also using her skills and giving back to the community.
“I hope to be able to deepen my understanding of the Italian language and culture and to be able to cultivate friendships and relationships with the people around me in order to better understand the intricacies of what it means to be Italian, particularly for the immigrant populations in southern Italy,” she said.
Other Broncos who reached the stage of semi-finalist are Hannah Hagen 23, Noah Kuehn ’23, Grace Leete ’23, Calley Lwin ’23, Elena Middlemass ’23, Callie O'Neill ’23, Lucy Schmidt ’23, and Lauren Voss ’22.
About The Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program, the flagship international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and other countries since 1946.
The program provides awards to approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals each year from the United States and 160 countries. Fulbright is unique in its binationalism and noted for its merit-based selection process and academic prestige. Fulbrighters come from all backgrounds and are selected regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see www.scu.edu.
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