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Hira Shahbaz and Samantha Bartell
Hira Shahbaz and Samantha Bartell

SU's Bartell, Shahbaz Selected as 2023-24 Fulbright Students

SALISBURY, MD---Two Salisbury University alumnae will spend part of the next year teaching English and experiencing cultures abroad as recipients of the 2023-24 U.S. Fulbright Student Award.

Samantha Bartell ’22, from Montgomery Village, MD, will fulfill her English Teaching Assistantship award in Moldova. Hira Shahbaz ’20, from Salisbury, will undertake hers in Kazakhstan.

Two other SU semifinalists, Shayna Grossberg ’20, from Gaithersburg, MD, and Allison Latham '23 of Lusby, MD, were selected as alternates for the program.

“To be selected as a Fulbright Student is one of the most prestigious honors a student or recent graduate can achieve,” said SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre. “Both Samantha and Hira were very accomplished students at SU, and both know the benefits of studying abroad.

“To be able to advance the education of others while experiencing cultures in other countries is a wonderful opportunity. We are proud of their achievements and look forward to what lies ahead for them.”

Bartell sees the award as an opportunity to help others, as she did as a member of SU’s Best Buddies and Girls on Top of the World service organizations.

“I believe in the importance of advocating for groups who are systematically and historically disadvantaged in education systems globally,” she said. “This means using my privilege of a quality education to ensure that future generations have equal opportunities and are empowered to pursue their own education.

“I want to connect specifically with Roma students and students with disabilities in Moldova, as they historically have been discriminated against within the education system. Moldova has worked hard to ensure quality and equality in its education system, and I would like to learn how it has done this while also learning about areas that could be improved.

“I believe that education opens the doors to opportunities for development and community connection, and I am excited to share the friendships and skills I learn in Modolva with peers in the U.S.”

Following her Fulbright experience, she plans to pursue a career with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), focusing on international development and equal right in education.

Shahbaz hopes her experience will broaden her teaching background and allow her to learn more about the region.

“This Fulbright will allow me to further my teaching experience in an international and non-Western setting,” she said. “To prepare for a career in USAID’s education sector, I must gain exposure to different education systems through immersion and go beyond the limitations of analyzing texts and policy briefs.

“Due to my studies and background, I am well acquainted with the South Asian region, but wish to expand my knowledge into Central Asia. The state of education in Kazakhstan and the opportunities it can present are of the utmost importance, given that nearly a third of the nation’s population is younger than 15 and females constitute the majority population,” she added, noting that, despite the country’s growth as an economic powerhouse, challenges involving occupational mobility for education women remain.

Now pursuing her M.A. at Columbia University, Shahbaz earned several additional nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships during her time at SU, including the Boren fellowship and scholarship, Critical Language and Gilman scholarship. She also received the U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship as a student at Columbia. After her Fulbright experience, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in international educational development.

Bartell, Shahbaz, Grossberg and Latham were among 12 Fulbright Student semifinalists from SU this year.

“For the students, the process of applying and the accomplishment of finishing a Fulbright education can be even more important than the win,” said Dr. Kristen Walton, director of SU’s Nationally Competitive Fellowships Office. “This year, we have had a total of almost 50 students who have submitted national fellowship applications, many of whom have become semifinalists or finalists and others who have used what they learned from the process to get into great graduate programs.”

More than 100 SU students have won national and international fellowships, scholarships and awards in the past decade, including 39 Fulbright Students. The U.S. Department of State and Chronicle of Higher Education have spotlighted SU as the No. 1 master’s-level producer of Fulbright Students in the U.S. for 2022-23 and one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Students for the past six years.

The Fulbright is America’s flagship international exchange program and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

SU students or alumni who are interested in applying for national fellowships, may contact Walton for assistance. For more information, visit the SU Nationally Competitive Fellowships Office webpage.

Learn more about SU and opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.