AY 2022-2023 Annual Report

Led by Honors Assistant Director Kathleen Maher, the Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities offers guidance and support to students applying for prestigious external fellowships and scholarships. It is important to note that these opportunities are not restricted to Honors Program students; the office works with students from any student background who meet the eligibility requirements. This includes graduate students for certain international awards, as well as recent alumni.

Endorsed Awards

For awards requiring formal institutional nomination or endorsement (Boren, Fulbright, Gaither, Goldwater, Truman) 70% of endorsed applicants were named finalists (including alternates) or awardees during the AY 22-23 competition cycle. Nominees for these awards hailed from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, the Environment & Life Sciences, and the Graduate School of Oceanography.

A summary of ONFAO award metrics can be seen here

Boren Awards

6 BOREN AWARDS (5 Scholars & 1 Fellow) and 2 Alternates

Full details here

The National Security Education Program funds overseas study of languages critical to national security through the Boren Scholarship for undergraduates and the Boren Fellowship for graduate students. Students are awarded approximately $25,000 and in return are obliged to work in federal employment (which aligns with their career goals) for a period of one year. Awardees also have the opportunity to attend a convocation ceremony in Washington, D.C. where they meet with their representatives in Congress. URI has a very strong track record in this program.

This year 6 of our 9 applicants were selected, and two others were designated as alternates; URI placed fifth in the nation in number of undergraduate awardees, making it a “top producer” once again. Our rate of success continues to be much greater than the national average, thanks in part to our strong signature programs with emphasis on language study: the Chinese Language Flagship, the International Engineering Program, the International Business Program, and the International Studies and Diplomacy Program, as well as the graduate program in International Relations. Of the 44 URI Boren Awardees since the program’s inception, 40 have been selected since 2010, with an application success rate of 60%. An additional 16% have been designated as alternates.

Our 2023 Boren Scholars (Undergraduate), all from the graduating class of 2024 are:

NameLanguageMajor 1Major 2Program
Cunningham, AshlynnMandarin (Taiwan)Cellular & Molecular BioChineseFlagship
Disette, LillianMandarin (Taiwan)International Studies

ChineseFlagship & ISD
Lunz, BarbaraMandarin (Taiwan)Geological Ocean

Patch, DelaneyMandarin (Taiwan)International StudiesChineseFlagship & ISD
Yeh, BrandonMandarin (Taiwan)Electrical EngineeringChineseIEP

Juniors Reagan Couture (Chinese Flagship and Global Business) and Abigail Frishman (Chinese Flagship, International Students and Economics) were designated as alternates.

Our 2023 Boren Fellow (Graduate) is:

NameLanguageMajor 1Major 2 Graduate Program
Morel, TiffanyKorean (South Korea)Political Science '23Economics '23‘25 MA in International Relations



Full details here 

Pictured: Nathaniel Sandoval

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program awards grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 140 countries.

Nine of our fourteen nominees to the Fulbright this cycle made it through the national screening process to become semi-finalists, meaning that their applications were forwarded to the host countries for final review. Ultimately, four were awarded Fulbrights and one was designated as an alternate. Two of our four Fulbrights this year are community college transfer students, and were Gilman Scholar alumni (a US Department of State study abroad scholarship program for Pell Grant eligible students).

The 2023 Grantees are:

Berard ‘20, TimothyStudy Grant to the University of Sussex
(MA in Migration Studies)
United Kingdom
DiFazio ‘23, HeatherFulbright/Swiss Govt Open S/R Award
Biomedical Engineering Research at University of Bern
Leahy ‘23, AnnabelleThe European Union Schuman Award
Marine spatial policy research based at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
European Union (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands)
Sandoval 21, NathanielEnglish Teaching Assistantship AwardPanama

Additionally, Nethra Prasanna ‘22 (International Studies and Spanish) was named as an alternate for the ETA to South Korea and the following students/alumni were semi-finalists:

  • Nikol Damato
  • Willow Dunster
  • Clare Laroche
  • Jami Miller
  • Devin Thomas
  • Myles Wagner

URI’s other 3 Fulbright nominees were:

  • Aisling Macareag
  • Mollie Mellnick
  • Elizabeth Taylor

Since the 2010 cycle 50% of URI-endorsed applicants to the Fulbright have made it to the second round of the competition and 24% have been selected as Fulbrights (i.e. 48% of our semi-finalists go on to win.)

Award Year 1959 to 201016in 51 years
Award Year 2011 to present30in 12 years

  • 25% of URI’s Fulbrights in the past six cycles have been Talent Development Scholars.
  • Since 2015 six Gilman Scholars have become Fulbrights.



Full details here

Aidan Kindopp
Pictured: Aidan Kindopp

The most prestigious undergraduate award for students in STEM disciplines, the Goldwater Scholarship recognizes those with strong potential for graduate studies and a STEM research career. For the 2023 cycle, URI nominated four juniors, three of whom were named as scholars:

Kindopp, AidanChemical Engineering
Prior, MorganMathematics
Cersosimo, CamilaChemical Engineering

The fourth nominee was Anna Cetera ‘24, a biomedical engineering major.

Since inception (1986) URI has had 27 Goldwater Scholars and many honorable mentions (the latter category was eliminated in 2019.)



Full details here

Lina Al Taan Al Hariri
Pictured: Lina Al Taan Al Hariri

Each year the Truman Foundation selects 60 college juniors who wish to make a difference through public service with a $30,000 award for graduate studies, as well a special summer internship program in Washington, D.C. Membership in the Truman Scholar community also leads to the benefit of an active lifelong professional network and special recruitment into leading graduate programs.

In the spring 2023 we nominated two juniors, both whom were selected as a finalist and interviewed in New York before an 8-person panel, one of whom was selected as a 2023 Truman Scholar:

Riedy, KatieTruman FinalistCommunication Studies and GWS
Al Taan Al Hariri, LinaTruman ScholarISD, GLAS (Arabic); GWS + Honors Program

Kathleen Maher was one of a select group of Truman campus advisors to be invited to Independence, Missouri (birthplace of Harry Truman) to participate in the final days of the Truman Scholar Leadership Week, where she served as a judge for a policy panel and had the pleasure of joining our 2023 Truman Scholar Lina Al Taan Al Hariri on the stage during the award ceremony. Lina is URI’s 16th Truman Scholar since the program’s inception.

Other Notable Results

In addition to awards requiring institutional nomination, the Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities offers guidance, feedback and interview preparation to students applying for many other nationally competitive awards, the most significant 2022-2023 results are noted below.


Pictured: Devin Thomas

Three URI students were selected for the highly competitive (<10%) U.S. Department of State CRITICAL LANGUAGE SCHOLARSHIP (CLS):

  • Tiffany Morel to study Korean in South Korea
  • Devin Thomas to Kyrgyzstan to study Russian
  • A third student was selected for Chinese (to Taiwan) but had to decline due to military obligations.

Full details here.


The Gilman is a U.S. Department of State undergraduate study abroad scholarship program for U.S. citizens of limited financial means (Pell grant recipients). While Gilman Scholarship applications are processed through the Office of International Education and Enrollment Services/Financial Aid, the Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities assists in the promotion of the Gilman and critiques applications for any student who requests assistance. Alumni of the Gilman program are granted non-competitive hiring eligibility for federal employment and receive access to special career development and networking events.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, 13 URI students were offered Gilman Scholarships, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, a 38% rate of success. Those in bold received direct support from ONFAO:

  • Isabella Castor-Schmidt
  • Charlotte Frost
  • Benjamin (Ben) J Quell
  • Leslie Ortiz
  • Alexia B Vincent
  • Kassia Almeida
  • Nikita Noyes-Martel
  • Lina Al Taan Al Hariri
  • Melany K Feliz Garcia
  • Daravuth Tep
  • Charlotte O’Donoghue
  • Derek E (Dakarai) Borbon
  • Anahee J Jean-Gilles

HIA Fellowship

Honors Program Alumnus Christopher Parisella ‘20 (Political Science, WRT and French) was selected to participate in the HIA Fellowship Program. Parisella, currently a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, was a 2019 Boren Scholar and a very active Honors Program participant. With help from ONFAO Chris applied for the highly competitive Humanity in Action (HIA) Fellowship and was selected after a 90-minute virtual group interview. He will participate in the “Mapping Democracy” program in Washington, DC. “…A group of approximately 20 American and European Fellows and Senior Fellows embark on a collaborative investigation and interpretation of spatial data to investigate the January 6th uprising at the Capitol.


Owen Fleischer
Pictured: Owen Fleischer

Sophomore Owen Fleischer was selected as 2023 NOAA HOLLINGS SCHOLARS this year. Over the course of two years, he will receive up to $19,000 in scholarship monies, a 10-week paid internship at a NOAA location, and participate in several NOAA-organized professional development conferences. Since the program’s inception in 2005, forty-two URI sophomores have been named Hollings Scholars! Full details here.


Hailey Hendricks
Pictured: Hailey Hendricks

One URI graduate student, two graduating seniors and one alumna were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRF).

  • Caroline Dowling ’23 (Mechanical Engineering) will begin her Ph.D. at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in materials science and engineering this fall.
  • Hailey Hendricks ’23 (Chemistry, Honors Program graduate) will begin her Ph.D. at Princeton University this August, studying the interface of organic and organometallic chemistry.
  • Bryan Plankenhorn, Ph.D. candidate in oceanography whose research focuses on harmful algal blooms.
  • Alyssa Lopez ‘20 (Marine Biology, Honors Program graduate) will head to Oregon State University in September to do her master’s degree in wildlife science, studying killer whale acoustics off the coast of Washington.

Two URI alumni, now at other institutions, also received Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation:

  • Erin Frates ’20 (cell and molecular biology, Honors Program graduate) is now at Boston University, studying environmental microbiology.
  • Jada Garzon ’19 (cell and molecular biology) is working toward her Ph.D. degree in chemical and systems biology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

URI also had three honorable mentions in the competitive process: Willow Dunster ’23, winner of the 2023 Undergraduate Academic Excellence Award for marine biology; Kyrsten Weissheier ’21, now a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College; and Caroline Caton, a current master’s student in biological and environmental sciences.

Full details here.


Katie Riedy
Pictured: Katie Riedy

Katie Riedy ‘24, a communications studies and Gender and Women’s Studies major, became part of the inaugural class of Obama-Chesky Voyagers. This program awards rising junior with financial need and a commitment to a career in public service with up to $50,000 in scholarship monies, funds a “voyage” of up to $10,000 design by the individual during the summer before senior year. Full details here.

Additional Programs


Sophia and Olivia Zeyl
Pictured: Sophia & Olivia Zeyl

Since its inception in 2011 the BEATRICE S. DEMERS FOREIGN LANGUAGE FELLOWS PROGRAM has awarded over $2.7M to URI students, who receive preference in the competition. This year 19 students, 1 faculty member and 1 professional staff member from URI were collectively awarded over $280,600 from the Demers to support immersion experiences in foreign languages. Names and full details here.


Kamila Guerra ’24 (CMB major with pre-med and Honors Program participation) and Andrea Ricciutti ’24 (Biotechnology and Sustainable Food Systems) were awarded grants from the MICHAEL P. METCALF MEMORIAL AND CHRISTINE T. GRINAVIC ADVENTURER’S FUND, administered by the Rhode Island Foundation. They will use their funds for enrichment trips to Greece and Italy respectively.


Lina and Secretary Blinken
Lina Al Taan Al Hariri pictured with other interns and Secretary Blinken in Washington D.C.

Lina Al Taan Al Hariri ’24 was selected to participate in the United States Foreign Service Internship Program. This merit and needs-based allows students to spend two summers in an experiential-learning program designed to expose undergraduate students to U.S. diplomacy and the work of the Department of State.


Gillian Hodge
Pictured: Gillian Hodge

Gillian Hodge ’23 (International Students & Chinese; Honors Program, Chinese Flagship) was selected to participate in the U.S. Congress – Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program administered by Meridian International Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit diplomacy center. This is a “unique program designed to broaden the perspectives of Korean and American young people on: the legislative process; the history of U.S. – Korean relations; and current economic, political, and security aspects of the bilateral relationship. The program also provides the U.S. and Korean participants with firsthand experience of each other’s people and culture, and creates opportunities for participants to form long-lasting personal contacts.”


Mollie Melnick
Pictured: Mollie Melnick

Mollie Melnick ‘23 was selected by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport to participate in the NORTH AMERICAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL ASSISTANTS PROGRAM (aka Auxiliares de Conversación) which places US and Canadian young adults in English language classrooms in Spain for a year.


Nethra Prasanna ‘22 was selected to serve as an English Teacher through the JET Program.


Each year URI students are recipients of NSF REUs to spend 8 to 10 weeks conducting STEM research on another campus with a mentored cohort of peers. Unfortunately, the program is highly decentralized so that there is no way to track total participation.


Rafeed Hussein, a graduate student in marine affairs, has been named a 2023 Switzer Fellow. ONFAO added Rafeed by organizing a mock interview and putting him in contact with prior fellows.


Sophomore Amanda Queiroz was selected to participate in a legislative internship through the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) for the summer of 2023 with Rhode Island Representative Joe Solomon.


As always, it is important to note two points:

  1. Those who apply but do not win or place in these competitions still derive a great deal of value from the campus process. Each year students tell us of how this deep, guided reflection on their accomplishments, goals and aspirations, has led them to discover other opportunities, or perhaps to realize a better professional path. It aids them in identifying their mentors and in realizing the extent of their accomplishments, as well as any gaps which they need to address to successfully pursue their goals.
  2. NONE of these successes would have been possible without dedicated faculty mentors who go above and beyond to support their students. Two, three or oftentimes four letters of recommendation from URI faculty members, as well as an institutional letter of endorsement or campus evaluation, are required per application. A great letter takes a substantial amount of time to prepare! Boiler-plate letters and empty superlatives do not suffice for these special opportunities. Faculty themselves often prepare multiple drafts of their letters. We wish to heartily thank the faculty who put in that time, and in so doing launch their mentees into opportunities which are often transformative personally, professionally and intellectually.

There are too many letter writers to list here, but we would like to offer special recognition to the following members of the campus community who have gone a step further and offered their time on selection review committees and/or have served on mock interview panels. (Any omissions are surely accidental – please let us know if your name is missing.)

British Scholarship Committee

  • Cheryl Foster, Chair, A&S
  • Andrew Davies, CELS/ GSO
  • Graham Forrester, CELS
  • Rod Mather, A&S
  • Coleen Suckling, CELS
  • Rachel Walshe, A&S

Goldwater Faculty Advisor

  • David Heskett, A&S

NOAA Hollings Faculty Advisor

  • Jacqueline Webb, CELS

Recent Interview/Campus Committee Evaluation Panelists (as required for the Boren, Fulbright, Truman and UK Scholarships)

  • Andrew Boardman, 2018 Truman Scholar, HONORS ‘19
  • Vinka Craver, Engineering
  • Ndaya Cynthia Malambi, 2020 Fulbright, HONORS ‘20
  • Andrew Davies, CELS / GSO
  • Karen de Bruin, Honors/ A&S
  • Jill Doerner, Honors/ A&S
  • Cheryl Foster, A&S
  • Meg Frost, A&S
  • Autumn Guillotte, 2017 Truman Scholar, HONORS ‘18
  • Rabia Hos, CEPS
  • Nicole Logan, CHS
  • Ann Marie Vaccaro, CEPS
  • Kathleen McIntyre, Honors/A&S
  • Elizabeth Mendenhall, CELS
  • Cara Mitnick, Graduate School
  • Christina N. De Jesús Villanueva, Switzer Fellow ’20, CELS ‘22, current Forest Health and Protection Program Manager, U.S. Forest Service – International Institute of Tropical Forestry
  • Iñaki Pérez-Ibáñez, A&S
  • Lisa Raffonelli, Senior Advisor, Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA)
  • Smita Ramnarain, Honors/A&S
  • Michael Rice, CELS
  • Jay Rumas, 2021 Fulbright, HONORS ‘21
  • Piotr Skuza, Admissions
  • Coleen Suckling, CELS
  • Debbie Suggs, Admissions

As we aim to increase the number of applicants to external prestigious awards, the need for faculty mentors and interview panelists will continue to grow. If you would like to get more involved, please contact Kathleen Maher directly.