For 14 of the past 16 years, the U.S. Department of State has recognized Hunter College as a “Top Producer” of Fulbright award winners. This year, there’s more good news: The U.S. Student Fulbright Program has selected six members of the Hunter Classes of 2021 and 2022 as Fulbright Scholars.
In a few months, Sasha Balkaran ’21, Leyla Haznedar ’22, Cloé Mueller ’22, Salwa Najmi ’22, Kathleen Ray ’22, and Luisais Taveras ’22 will travel abroad for their Fulbright year of teaching, conducting research, and building lasting relationships with the people of their host countries. Hunter applauds these outstanding young scholars and takes a brief look at their backgrounds, college studies, Fulbright projects, and plans for the future:
I was so pleased to receive @StateDept/@SecBlinken's letter commending @Hunter_College on being named a Top Producer of @FulbrightPrgrm awards—@CUNY's only 4yr college to receive this distinction—& I second his thanks to Stephen Lassonde, Dir of the Ruth & Harold Newman @hc_ops! pic.twitter.com/gLGbhHN1Gz
— President Jennifer J. Raab (@HunterPresident) April 6, 2022
Sasha Balkaran ’21 won a Fulbright Award and will spend the coming year at Universidad de Laguna in Spain’s Canary Islands. A student at Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College, Sasha graduated with a BA in Biochemistry, certificate in Public Policy, and minors in Spanish and Music. During her undergraduate summers, Sasha participated in Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center’s SURP and SCORE Programs. With the support of the John P. McNulty Scholars Program, she completed her Biochemistry thesis in Dr. Karuna Ganesh’s Lab at MSK and is continuing research there during her first gap year. Outside of the science realm, Sasha co-founded an oral history archive, volunteered for Achilles Kids and International, and crafted a Public Policy Thesis focused on addressing immigrant health and mental health inequities during COVID-19. Sasha will be applying to medical schools this coming cycle and as a physician, she hopes to continue engaging in research while working with underrepresented patient populations.
Leyla Haznedar ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English to university students in Turkey. Leyla earned a BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her MA from Teachers College of Columbia University. Leyla completed the TESOL Intensive Teacher Institute program at Hunter College, which inspired her decision to apply for a Fulbright. As the daughter of a Turkish immigrant, Leyla spent her summers traveling to Turkey. The decision to apply to Turkey was fueled not only by her passion for education, but her desire to further connect with her Turkish identity. Currently, Leyla is a special education teacher in New York City, where she is originally from. Leyla is interested in teacher preparation and education, with a specific interest in ensuring pre-service teachers are equipped with the knowledge, tools and pedagogical practices that are most relevant to the communities in which they plan to serve. After Fulbright, Leyla looks forward to furthering her studies in the areas of urban education policy or educational leadership.
Cloé Mueller ’22 will graduate from Hunter College with a BA in Environmental Studies and BA/MA in Economics. Cloé was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research the concentration of calcium carbonate in the Rhône River delta and its effect on alkalinity in the Mediterranean Sea, an indicator of global warming. She will simultaneously study for a master’s degree in oceanography at Sorbonne Université or Université Paris-Saclay. Cloé was a varsity swimmer at Hunter for two years, was a member of the Thomas Hunter Honors Program, and won both the Eva Kastan Grove Fellowship and the Raab Presidential Fellowship. During the past year, as she was completing a master’s degree in Economics, she also served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science. After her Fulbright, Cloé plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation and ultimately wants to apply her interdisciplinary understanding of the natural and social sciences to inform policy making in international marine affairs.
Salwa Najmi ’22, will receive a bachelor’s degree in Arabic Language and Culture with a minor in Chemistry from Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College. As an undergraduate, Salwa served as a student senator in the Undergraduate Student Government, as well as on the executive boards of the Muslim Student Association and the Southwest Asian and North African Women Association. As an undergraduate scientist, she conducted biomedical and public health research in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Columbia University’s Mailman school of Public Health. Salwa was granted the prestigious Fulbright research grant for the country of Morocco where she will be conducting public health research on prenatal and maternal health outcomes. In her sophomore year, Salwa was a recipient of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s early admission program where she plans to matriculate following her year abroad. As an aspiring physician-researcher, Salwa looks forward to combining her interests in health sciences and public advocacy, particularly for Arabic-speaking populations.
Kathleen Ray ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and will be spending ten months living and teaching in South Korea. She is a student in Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College and is double-majoring in Psychology and English with a certificate in Human Rights. During her Junior year, Kat worked the with Maysles Documentary Center, a Harlem-based nonprofit committed to community, education, and documentary film to present the stories of underrepresented people and explore issues of social justice. During the past year she has volunteered as an ESOL conversation tutor and ESOL/citizenship class teaching assistant with Catholic Charities’ International Center. She hopes to gain an immersive experience in language and culture which she can apply to graduate work in public policy and future work with immigrants, workers, and families in a human rights organization.
Luisais Taveras ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright award and will be spending nine months living and teaching in Mexico. She looks forward to acting as a cultural ambassador and working alongside community organizations that protect women and girls against gender-based and sexual violence. Luisais is majoring in clinical psychology with a certificate in Human Rights, a minor in Women & Gender Studies, and a mini concentration in Japanese culture. Luisais was in the Thomas Hunter Honors Program, was an Eva Kastan Grove Fellow, a member of Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society, Psi Chi, and the Hunter College Senate. Luisais was a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, Fund for Education Abroad, Freeman-ASIA, and the Kakehashi Program to fund her travels to Japan, which was halted because of the pandemic. Luisais is grateful for a second chance at broadening her horizons through travel. Her investment in human connections, the pursuit of new experiences, and enthusiasm for languages have inspired her to one day become a humanitarian aid worker.