Three UNC Asheville Students Awarded 2014 Fulbright Scholarships

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2014 Fulbright Scholarship Winners (left to right) Gillian Scruggs, Hannah Clark and Kyle Cavagnini

Graduating UNC Asheville senior Kyle Cavagnini and recent graduates Hannah Clark and Gillian Scruggs have been selected for prestigious Fulbright Scholarships, which fund research and teaching experiences abroad. The three were selected this spring for the quality of their proposals and their academic and professional achievements, among other factors. These scholarships, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, have now been awarded to 41 students and graduates of UNC Asheville.

UPDATE: A fourth UNC Asheville student, May 2014 graduate Sam Moser, has also been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and Gillian Scruggs has decided to turn down her Fulbright Scholarship to accept what she calls her "dream job" - see below.

Kyle CavagniniKyle Cavagnini will spend his year as a Fulbright Scholar in Norway as a researcher at the K.G. Jebsen Center for the Study of Neuropsychiatric Disorders at the University of Bergen. Employing techniques and knowledge he acquired during undergraduate research at UNC Asheville, Cavagnini will test a hypothesis on the chemical regulation of a brain protein that may have a role in cognition and neuropathic disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.

A double-major in chemistry and philosophy, Cavagnini says he is keenly interested in “science in the broader context of society … thinking about how the work I do at the lab bench can affect politics, policies, public discourse and ethics. … A United Nations initiative on bioethics and global health is led by faculty at Bergen, and I hope to connect with that work.” In recommending Cavagnini for the Fulbright Scholarship, Dr. Clive Bramham, M.D., Ph.D, head of Neuroscience at the University of Bergen, said, “Cavagnini has the kind of cross-disciplinary thinking that breaks new scientific ground.”

Cavagnini had been accepted for fall semester by The Johns Hopkins University’s doctoral program in biological chemistry, and he plans to reapply to that program upon his return from Norway. Cavagnini, who attended A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, will graduate from UNC Asheville on May 10. (UPDATE: Cavagnini earned his B.S. degree with distinction in both chemistry and philosophy, distinction as a University Scholar and as a University Research Scholar, and magna cum laude honors.)

Hannah ClarkHannah Clark will spend her Fulbright year in Germany, teaching American culture and the English language to pre-collegiate students in North Rhine-Westphalia. Of German heritage, Clark has had lifelong interest in German culture and language. During her junior year, she studied abroad at the University of Heidelberg, and upon her return, she was excited to find UNC Asheville’s German Department had been strengthened. “I came back to a department with two new faculty members and burgeoning student interest,” she said. “It was so heartening to see UNC Asheville recognize its value. German is a very relevant language now politically.”

Clark graduated from UNC Asheville in December 2013 with a double major in German and psychology. She was a University Research Scholar, earned distinction in both of her major areas, and graduated with summa cum laude honors. Additionally, Clark has worked as senior consultant at UNC Asheville’s Writing Center, acting as a writing coach for students and helping manage the center.

This summer, before leaving for Germany, Clark will travel to Rhode Island to work as a research intern with the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, where she will help conduct a longitudinal study of HPV (human papillomavirus). A graduate of Chapel Hill High School, Clark envisions a career in psychology and plans to pursue graduate studies in the field when she returns to the United States.

Gillian ScruggsGillian Scruggs was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Brazil to teach English, but has decided to turn down the grant to instead accept what she calls her "dream job."

Scruggs earned her high school degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts and arrived at UNC Asheville expecting to study music or perhaps psychology. But Spanish classes and a study-abroad trip to Chile led to a focus on language; Scruggs also learned Portuguese as part of her foreign language studies. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC Asheville in 2011 with distinction in Spanish, summa cum laude and University Scholar honors An active participant in UNC Asheville's outdoor recreation programs as a student, since graduation, she has been working as an outdoor science teacher at Mountain Trail Outdoors School in Hendersonville, N.C.

As she was preparing for her move to Brazil, Scruggs received a job offer from the Alzar School she says she could not turn down. In the rugged beauty of Cascade, Idaho, she will work with 10th and 11th graders on subjects that cover many of her passions. Scruggs will teach Advanced Spanish, AP World History, AP U.S. History, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, and lead trips to Chile twice a year to promote international cultural awareness.

Although she has mixed emotions at not being able to accept the Fulbright Scholarship, Scruggs says, "what I am doing is right for my life path and my heart.  Considering that I studied abroad in Chile and spent my years at UNC Asheville leading kayaking trips, it's really a dream come true."

Sam MoserSam Moser '14  first traveled to South Korea the summer before his sophomore year at UNC Asheville for a four-week study abroad trip. This summer, he’ll return on a year-long Fulbright Fellowship. 

Since coming to UNC Asheville from Advance County, Moser has spent a summer in China on a scholarship and a fall semester in India.  He applied for the Fulbright while in India, but the idea first started in a classroom on campus, where one of his favorite professors, Linda Cornett, chair and associate professor of political science, started the semester with a reminder that students should consider a Fulbright Fellowship within their reach.  He also credits Jinhua Li, lecturer in Chinese studies, for preparing him for his many overseas adventures.

“I wouldn’t have considered it if I hadn’t had these experiences. The interdisciplinary nature of my education, especially the international studies major, has prepared me for the diversity of international travel,” he said. Moser earned a B.A. with a double-major in interdisciplinary studies and Spanish in May 2014 with distinction in interdisciplinary studies and cum laude honors.

Moser will teach English during his fellowship, though he’s also well-versed in Chinese and Korean, and he majored in Spanish with a minor in Asian Studies. His teaching experience includes serving as a UNC Asheville AVID tutor for Asheville City Schools, and he hopes to implement a community garden during his assignment, similar to the models he’s seen on campus. He’ll also start planting the seeds for his graduate school applications when he returns.