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14 UW–Madison students win Fulbright awards

February 13, 2024 By Steven Barcus

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has recognized UW–Madison as one of the colleges and universities with the highest number of students selected for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which gives students grants to study or teach abroad. Fulbright Top Producing Institutions like UW–Madison value global connection and support members of their campus communities to pursue international opportunities.

Fourteen UW–Madison applicants were selected as finalists for Fulbright awards for academic year 2023–2024, ranking the university as No. 28. Five Badgers accepted English teaching assistant (ETA) awards and six received study and research awards. The following are the Badgers who have officially accepted awards, as well as their country of focus and award type:

  • Sam Battenberg, Spain, ETA
  • Mary Girard, India, Study/Research
  • Gabriela Gomez, Spain, ETA
  • Nikaan Koupaei Abyazani, Malaysia, Study/Research
  • Patty Lan, South Korea, Study/Research
  • Patrick Monari, New Zealand, Study/Research
  • Sara Mulrooney, México, ETA
  • Betty Nen, Malaysia, Study/Research
  • J. Reynolds-Strange, Taiwan, Study/Research
  • Aniya Schwoerer, South Korea, ETA
  • Jessa Stecker, Spain, ETA


Betty Nen

Betty Nen ’20, political science and Southeast Asian studies, will be based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she will research indigenous methods of community resilience in the face of climate-related natural disasters with Monash University Malaysia. Her research will focus on how indigenous groups use both governmental means of disaster preparedness and their own localized knowledge in order to prepare themselves and their communities.

Nen has put a great deal of consideration into how her work can create mutual benefit for the indigenous communities where her research will take place.

“What was challenging was figuring out how to make my research meaningful and beneficial to the indigenous group on which I intend to conduct research,” Nen said. “I didn’t want to extract information from them and then disappear completely. By sharing my research findings with the indigenous group in Bahasa Melayu through a top-level summary, I am able to make sure they also benefit from participating.”

Nen said that she appreciated the level of support she received from UW–Madison during the application process.

Sara Mulrooney

Sara Mulrooney ’23, Spanish, history, and economics, will be teaching in Atlacomulco, Mexico. Fulbright was a consideration for her throughout her time at UW–Madison. After returning from a semester abroad in Madrid, she decided to submit an application.

“I was interested in teaching, and I knew I wanted to spend time in another Spanish-speaking country, so I chose to apply for the ETA program in México,” said Mulrooney. “I am most excited to engage with a new community, put my language skills to use, and explore teaching professionally.”

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international academic exchange program. Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided over 400,000 talented and accomplished students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds with the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research abroad. Fulbrighters exchange ideas, build people-to-people connections, and work to address complex global challenges.

“Congratulations to our Badgers who were selected for the prestigious U.S. Student Program and whose lives will be forever changed by the experiences that lie ahead,” said Frances Vavrus, vice provost and dean, International Division, and a former Fulbright recipient herself. “The UW–Madison campus is fortunate to have many students who are deeply engaged with issues of global concern and have developed the requisite language skills and cultural understanding to study them in specific locales.”

Vavrus noted that UW has dedicated staff who advise students on their proposals. Applicants to Fulbright at UW–Madison are supported by UW Fulbright Coordinator Mark Lilleleht.

More information about the programs can be found at UW’s Fulbright website. Those interested are also welcome to contact Lilleleht directly at or by completing an interest form.

“The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers an unparalleled opportunity for students and alumni to build on the interests and expertise they’ve developed and nurtured on campus into the wider world and the next stage of their professional and personal development,” said Lilleleht. “It’s the very essence of the Wisconsin Idea.”

Fulbright is a program of the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. government. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program.

Fulbright alumni work to make a positive impact on their communities, sectors, and the world and have included 41 heads of state or government, 62 Nobel laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and countless leaders and changemakers who build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit