Fordham students and alumni earned many prestigious awards and fellowships this year, despite program changes and upheavals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of May 18, Fordham undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni have received 62 prestigious awards this year, including three Fulbrights, a Critical Language Scholarship, 10 Excellence in Broadcasting awards, three Gates Millennium Scholarships, a Ford predoctoral fellowship, a Marshall award winner, three National Science Foundation fellowships, a Soros fellowship winner, a prestigious DAAD Long-Term Research Grant, and an internship in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In addition to the winners, two scholars were named as finalists for prestigious awards, including a Coro fellowship finalist, and 21 were named as semi-finalists.

“Despite the many challenges that the global pandemic presented, the Campion Institute saw a record number of applicants who persevered through a rigorous application process and learned a lot about themselves, their values, and the contribution they hope to make to the world,” said Anna Beskin, Ph.D., interim director of the Office of Prestigious Fellowships. “We couldn’t be prouder of all of our applicants!”

Alejandra Garcia, FCLC ’21, who majored in visual arts and English, won a U.S. Fulbright Student Arts Program award to France. Garcia, who grew up in San Diego, near the U.S. border with Mexico, said a lot of her painting and drawing has focused on migration and immigration, something she hopes to explore more in France.

“I’m pretty interested in the different or similar attitudes towards migration—I’m from a border city—and I think I have a very particular view of my own experiences with xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments and things of that sort. And I am very curious to learn about how that is handled in France and in Europe,” she said. “I really want to work with immigrant communities there rather than just learn about it from an outsider perspective. I want to be integrated and hear from those actual voices.”

Garcia said she’ll be working on her immigration studies with the Paris College of Art, and, hopefully, the National Museum of History of Immigration. She’ll also be working with the Paris College of Art on their “Drawing is Free” program, which invites the public in to use their resources and create art.

“That was something that I was really attracted to, because something that I really believe in is expanding artistic accessibility to other people,” she said.

Garcia said her goal is to pursue U.S. artist-in-residence opportunities after her Fulbright and pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in a few years.

Matias Ayala

Matias Ayala, PCS ’21, won a U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs IT Fellowship. Ayala, who came to Fordham after serving in the Marine Corps, said his time in the military made him interested in cybersecurity and information technology.

“I started hearing a lot about cybersecurity, mainly in our deployment briefings. We heard a lot about how to remain secure and make sure that we’re not exposing ourselves from a cyber standpoint,” said Ayala, who is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in information technology and systems.

Ayala said that Fordham’s program is a good fit for veterans.

“They’ve been targeting veterans because of our experience—we have a certain mindset that’s very good within cybersecurity, being able to analyze it and act on intelligence,” he said, adding that Fordham’s location was also ideal for him. “I have family here in New York City, so I figured that was a good transition—I could move in with family while I got my feet back under me.”

The fellowship, which Ayala will complete while pursuing a master’s in information technology at Fordham, will expose him to different areas of the State Department and allow him to gain experience through two summer internships. After the fellowship ends, Ayala said he would be offered a five-year contract to continue working at the State Department.

Ayala credits Fordham’s Veterans Center and his internship with the University’s Information Security Office for helping him earn this fellowship.

“Fordham gives us the tools to make sure that our veterans that are transitioning from the military to the civilian sector are able to get a good job and be successful,” he said.

Alison Rini

When Alison Rini, FCRH ’21, was in high school, she participated in a two-month high school exchange program in Spain, staying with a family about 30 minutes outside of Madrid. That experience made her fall in love with Spain, so when she was applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, she applied for one there. Her bid was successful, and the English and Italian Studies major said she’s excited for the opportunity to teach students about American culture and immerse herself in the Spanish capital’s “Global Classrooms” program.

“In Madrid, there is the Global Classrooms program, which is essentially Model United Nations. I do Model U.N. at Fordham, I did it in high school. And so I was really excited about the possibility of teaching Model U.N. to a ninth-grade class,” she said, adding that she would help them compete with other students and get the chance to travel to New York.

Rini, who served as a researcher in Fordham’s Bronx African-American History Project, Bronx Italian-American History Initiative, and Bronx COVID-19 Oral History Project, said that she’s going to use this opportunity to explore teaching as a career and reconnect with her classmates from her high school exchange program. A former intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rini is also considering a career in the federal government.

Seana Epley

Seana Epley, GSAS ’21, won the Critical Language Scholarship in back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021 to study and learn Swahili, initially in Tanzania, but now virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Epley, who is getting her master’s in humanitarian studies after earning an undergraduate degree in disaster response and emergency management from the University of North Texas, said she always had a desire to work on the African continent, which is what inspired her to pursue Swahili.

The program will run virtually over the summer for eight weeks and Epley said she plans to try to immerse herself in the language as much as possible to help her apply to nonprofits who are working on disaster response in the region.

“I felt like I could be of more use if I had a language that was applicable,” she said.

Epley said that while the phrase “build back better” has become cliche, she does want to do work that helps communities be stronger after a disaster.

“If you’re going into a community that’s been impacted by a disaster, you don’t want to build to the exact same standards, … because that’s just asking for more damage next time,” she said. “The ultimate goal of most humanitarians is to not be needed someday…I’d like to work with an organization that supplements those [community]specific skills and doesn’t just come in and take over.”

As of May 18, prestigious awards received this year include:

  • Gates Millennium Scholars: Adiza Awwal, GSAS ’25; Mary Bookman, FCLC ’24; Arely Garcia, GSE ’25
  • Marshall Award: Kayla Matteucci, FCLC ’18
  • Ford Predoctoral Fellowship: Obianujunwa Anakwenze, GSAS ’24
  • Soros Fellowship: Nikolas Oktaba, FCLC ’15
  • Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship from the Hudson River Foundation: Royall McMahon Ward, FCLC ’22
  • DAAD Long-Term Research Grant: Kathryn Bresee, GSAS ’23
  • Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting: Anthony Alaimo, FCRH ’23, and Rebecca Gutierrez, FCRH ’22, in the Professional Category for Outstanding Podcast; Emmanuel Berbari, FCRH ’21, for Outstanding Podcast; Dominic Capone, FCRH ’20 and Devin Clementi, GABELLI ’20, in the College Radio Division for Outstanding Sports Coverage; Carmen Collins, GSAS ’20, Nicholas DeLuca, FCRH ’22, in the College Radio Division for Outstanding Podcast; Evan Jaenichen, FCRH ’20, in College TV Division for Outstanding Series or Documentary; Charles Maisano, FCRH ’20, in the College Radio Division for Outstanding Sports Coverage; Eliot Schiaparelli, FCRH ’21, in College Radio Division for Outstanding Newscast
  • Alliance for Women in Media Foundation 2021 Gracie Award: Carmen Collins, GSAS ’20, Nora Thomas, FCRH ’21
  • New York Press Club Award: Brianna Leverty, FCRH ’20
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program: Daniel Alonso, GSAS ’30, April Rich, FCRH ’19; Micah Savin, GSAS ’28
  • United States Department of Treasury Summer 2021 Internship in Washington D.C.: John Brower, GSAS ’25
  • Civil Rights Fellow at the National Education Association: Laura Petty, LAW ’21
  • Public Service Fellow to the U.S, Mission to the United Nations: Adam Brasher, GSAS ’25
  • Panda Cares Scholars: Baghdad Numi, FCRH ’23; Annie Qiu, GABELLI ’24