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Fulbright Recipients Bound for Central America and Europe

By Tony Azios

(Left to right) 2011 Fulbright recipients Ben Williams (SIS/MA ‘11), Kia Hall (SIS/PhD ‘13), and Divya Narayanan (SIS/BA ‘11) with Dean Louis Goodman. Photo by Jeff Watts.

(Left to right) 2011 Fulbright recipients Ben Williams (SIS/MA ‘11), Kia Hall (SIS/PhD ‘13), and Divya Narayanan (SIS/BA ‘11) with Dean Louis Goodman. Photo by Jeff Watts.

With three Fulbright grant recipients this year, American University (AU) continues to garner many of the nation’s most competitive and prestigious academic awards.

AU student Kia Hall (SIS/PhD ‘13) and recent alumni Divya Narayanan (SIS/BA ‘11) and Ben Williams (SIS/MA ‘11) are among the roughly 1,600 grantees selected from a pool of nearly 9,400 applicants.

“I was elated! Thrilled! Surprised!,” says Hall about learning that she had been selected for a Fulbright. “It’s an honor to have your research recognized and valued at this prestigious level.”

Operating in more than 135 countries, the Fulbright Program is the largest international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It offers funded opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.

This year’s three grantees were School of International Service (SIS) students.
“I am so proud of the success of our students this year and in the past who were awarded Fulbright grants,” says SIS dean Louis Goodman.

During his long tenure at AU, Goodman has shown his support for many students applying for Fulbright grants by helping them to prepare their project proposals and by providing letters of recommendation.


Hall will spend 10 months in Honduras working with local NGOs to conduct ethnographic research regarding how cultural identity informs grassroots development in the Garifuna Afro-Caribbean community there.

Williams will begin his 10-month research project this July when he heads to the urban markets of Nicaragua to conduct research on microfinance and poverty alleviation. His research aims to provide a socioeconomic picture of urban clients and identify key bottlenecks to microfinance service provision among the urban poor.
“This is an incredible opportunity to gain more ground-level experience in international development,” says Williams, when asked how this award may impact his career. “And I believe the work I do through the Fulbright grant will help me get into a good PhD program afterwards.”

While pursuing his master's degree at AU, Williams studied abroad in India in order to research microfinance efforts there as well.

Meanwhile, Narayanan is eager to relocate to Germany to begin a 9-month Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

“I’m excited to apply the theories and practices I’ve learned in a classroom setting,” says Narayanan, referring to the skills she developed while completing the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program at AU.


This year’s Fulbright recipients encourage future AU applicants to take full advantage of the staff and resources available at the Office of Merit Awards and the Career Center.

“There’s no magic formula for getting selected as a Fulbright grantee, but I’d like to think that my merit awards advisor’s expertise and knowledge about the application process played a huge part in my success,” says Hall, who predicts that she and her advisor went through 10 drafts of her two-page application essay.

“People think, ‘I don’t need the Office of Merit Awards. Who can’t write two pages in a night?,’” says Hall. “Incorrect. They had so much useful advice and insight to offer, and were able guide me towards bringing a focus and clarity to my proposal that would not have been there otherwise."

Prospective Fulbright applicants who have not yet met with a merit awards advisor should call 202-885-1854 to schedule an appointment. Due to high interest and the length of time needed to compose a competitive application, the Office of Merit Awards has set a June 27 deadline for submission of the initial proposal development exercise, intended to help applicants write a first draft.