Stony Brook Matters

SBU Students and Alumni Sweep State Department Awards

Grace Wivell
Yakov Landau
Yakov Landau

First-ever Fulbrights to Norway and South Korea
Record Number of Gilman Scholarships

Stony Brook University is continuing its tradition of success in nationally competitive fellowship competitions sponsored by the U.S. Department of State including the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Critical Language Scholarship and the Gilman Scholarship. Milestones include SBU’s first-ever Fulbright awards to Norway and South Korea, as well as an institutional record for the number of Gilman Scholarships received.

Fulbright Awards

Ann Lin
Ann Lin

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program was established by Senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas following World War II. It aims to send talented Americans from all academic disciplines abroad to gain valuable educational and professional experience, as well as to serve as cultural ambassadors of the United States. Students may initially apply as graduating seniors and are eligible until their PhD has been conferred.

This year SBU had six Fulbright honorees at the national level. The recipients are Yakov Landau ’17 (Math and Physics), Ann Lin ’18 (Biochemistry and Economics), Jessica McKay ’18 (Social Work) and Luis Tobon ’17 (English Teacher Education Program). Alessandra Riccio ’18 (Biochemistry) and Brian Smith ’19 (DMA candidate) were selected as alternates to Denmark and Ghana, respectively. In addition to recognition, alternate status indicates that one could still be named a recipient until the start of the grants in early fall.

Jessica McKay
Jessica McKay

Landau and Lin were selected for the Open Study/Research Award, which will enable them to conduct a year of mentored research with experts in their fields. Landau will be heading to India while Lin will be based in Norway. McKay and Tobon received English Teaching Assistantships and in addition to providing classroom instruction, will be providing community outreach designed to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and their host countries.

“It was my good fortune to receive a Fulbright research fellowship to conduct my doctoral research in France in 1993-94,” said Sarah Jordain, Assistant Professor in European Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. “The importance of this year of funding cannot be underestimated in its contribution to the international academic relationships I was able to build and thus to my professional future.” Jourdain, who also serves on the Fulbright Campus Committee that interviewed each of Stony Brook’s 29 applicants, added, “I am pleased to support all of our Stony Brook applicants to international fellowship programs, including Fulbrights, in the hope that their professional and personal goals will be fulfilled.”

Luis Tobon
Luis Tobon

Critical Language Scholarship

Grace Wivell, a PhD student from Linguistics, was selected for another prestigious State Department award, the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), which she will use to continue her language studies in Indonesia. Wivell gained her first experience in Indonesia as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) from 2014-16 and from 2016-17 when she returned to assist the Indonesian Fulbright commission with managing the program. CLS was a perfect fit for Wivell because it provides an intensive in-country experience for American students to learn languages deemed critical to U.S. national security. CLS is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. The program is able to accommodate a range of language learners, from those with no previous language experience to more advanced students. In Wivell’s case, she was able to converse in Indonesian, but wanted to gain the reading and writing skills necessary to eventually conduct dissertation research there.

Alessandra Riccio
Alessandra Riccio

Wivell, who is currently in Indonesia, said, “I am absolutely loving my time with CLS Indonesia. The Indonesian program is in Malang, East Java, the same city in which I was placed as a first-year Fulbright ETA in 2014-15.  Because I have lived in Malang before, this is in many ways a pulang kampung (homecoming) for me…I am still engaging with not only the Indonesian language but also Javanese culture in new and exciting ways. Whether I am toiling over a new grammatical structure, carefully outlining a batik motif, or chatting with my host family, I am learning something new every day.”

Gilman Scholarship

The State Department’s Gilman Scholarship, which is designed to diversify participation in undergraduate study abroad programs nationwide, will enable students to take part in SBU- or SUNY-sponsored programs throughout the world. The Gilman Scholarship is often a foundation for the future success of Stony Brook students, as evidenced by the number that have gone on to receive other prestigious awards with a global focus such as Fulbright, as well as the Payne and Rangel fellowships.

Brian Smith
Brian Smith

Stony Brook set an institutional record this year with 10 Gilman recipients for the summer and fall terms who are heading to a diverse range of locations: Jason Cheung (Hong Kong), Michelle Fong (United Kingdom), Theodora Panagos (Tanzania), Uzochi G. Jean-Philippe (China), Durr-E-Ajam Riaz (Madagascar), Irene Shen (China), Samar Syeda (Kenya), Veronica Tuazon (Madagascar), Gabrielle Valestin (Tanzania) and Younis Zaokari (Tanzania).

International Academic Programs Study Abroad Manager Mariam Isack said, “Students often think that study abroad is out of reach due to financial constraints, but the Gilman Scholarship provides support for overseas educational and professional experiences that they never thought possible. Our office is committed to making Stony Brook students even more competitive for this award and have even modified some of our programs to better fit the Gilman eligibility criteria. Our partnership with External Scholarships and Fellowships Advising raises awareness about this opportunity and provides resources for students to develop strong applications.”

Apply for Next Year

Grace Wivell
Grace Wivell

Students interested in applying for these awards during upcoming application cycles should reach out to External Scholarships and Fellowships Advisor Jen Green ( who is currently leading a summer boot camp designed to help Fulbright applicants craft competitive applications and will be providing similar resources for CLS and Gilman prospects during the fall semester.



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