Meet Loyola’s 2018 Fulbright Award Winners
Greyhounds to study a variety of topics in Japan, France, and the United Kingdom
May 7, 2018
The Fulbright scholarship program provides merit-based grants to American students, and three Loyola undergrads have recently been chosen for the competitive programs.
Two graduating seniors, Sandy Abboud and Hunter Flynn, will be embarking on year-long programs in France and Japan, respectively. Meanwhile, Loyola sophomore Michelle Reilly has been awarded the school’s first Fulbright Summer Award, which will allow her to study at the University of Bristol this summer.
Loyola magazine spoke to the students to learn more about what they plan to do while aboard and what their future goals are.
Sandy Abboud, ’18, has devoted her college career to helping refugees. Born in Lebanon and fluent in Arabic, she moved to Bel Air, Maryland at age 4 and has consistently looked for ways to combine her passion for medicine with her desire to help refugee populations.
“As a child, I was dumbfounded by the presence of disparity in the world,” explains the interdisciplinary biology and chemistry major.
“When I was 12 years old, I met children my age who were carrying the shortcomings of the world on their shoulders. The most striking aspect of these encounters was the fact that I had been separated from disparity at such a young age after my family moved from Lebanon to the United States. Personal experiences with these refugee youth created a bridge between a subset of humanity that I had distanced myself from.”
During her first year at Loyola, Sandy immediately began volunteering through the Center for Community Service and Justice with the Refugee Youth Program and Soccer Without Borders, both through the International Rescue Committee. She also has worked with the Johns Hopkins-affiliated program Medicine for the Greater Good, where she helped lead presentations and classes about preventable health care, often serving as an Arabic translator for a mostly Middle-Eastern population.
“It was things like talking to refugees about the food they were consuming, which was so different than what they were used to,” she explains.
The experience that most directly led to her Fulbright scholarship, though, was the three summers she spent working in Lebanon with the Jesuit Refugee Service. Seeing the influx of Syrian refugees in her hometown—and the lack of resources for them—led Sandy to her point of research. Sandy will spend the next year in France conducting research on the impact of a health educator program and how it may be used to prevent the acquisition of non-communicable disease among the Syrian refugee population.
“Balancing my love for the sciences with my dedication for social justice, Fulbright will allow me to encourage holistic health care—a service so vital to the human experience,” she says. “I hope to encourage agency among refugees through education; giving refugees the knowledge and power to care for themselves and their families while spreading the knowledge that they gain through this key health educator program.”
Education has become something of an unexpected passion for Sandy. During her time at Loyola, she has served as a tutor at the Study and as a resident assistant, a role that afforded her the opportunity to host educational sessions for her residents on social-justice issues.
“I’ve definitely fallen in love with teaching,” says Sandy, noting that while medicine is still her main priority, she hopes to expand on her Fulbright in the future by teaching health care and self-care through preventative medicine. “I definitely want to do outreach through teaching, especially if I end up going into something like pediatrics or gynecology—something where knowledge is so powerful.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Sandy firmly believes that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the education and encouragement of professors, including Loyola faculty Theresa Geiman, Ph.D., Maiju Gardner, Ph.D., B.S.N., R.N., Theresa Nguyen, Ph.D., and Sara Scalenghe, Ph.D., and Giulia McPherson of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
“It’s so humbling to find people so incredibly confident in your success,” she says. “I’m a big believer in mentors, and that’s really what I aim to be in the future. I don’t think anyone will make it anywhere if you don’t believe in your success, if you don’t have someone fighting for it alongside you.”
Hunter Flynn, ’18, doesn’t think he would have received a Fulbright award if it wasn’t for the support of his professors at Loyola.
“The wonderful faculty here, especially in the English department, have given me a ton of attention and support since my first year,” he says, citing Jean Lee Cole, Ph.D., Nicholas Miller, Ph.D., Mark Osteen, Ph.D., Thomas Scheye, Ph.D., Chad Diehl, Ph.D., and Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner. “Really, though, every English professor I’ve had has been a tremendous influence.”
Hunter, who is majoring in English literature with minors in film and Asian studies, will be traveling to Japan to do research on William Faulkner—his favorite author since he read The Sound and the Fury in his AP Literature class in high school.
“The novel has a reputation for being notoriously difficult, and that was something I was drawn to,” he notes. “For whatever reason, I’ve always been attracted to ‘difficult’ literature and film—I feel like that’s the only kind of art that is worth talking about.”
During his year in Japan, Hunter plans to document materials from Faulkner’s 1955 visit to the Nagano Prefectural Library, where the author lectured on American Literature.
“The traditional narrative is that the Department of State sent him there because of his sense of what it means to lose a war,” he says. “Japan had just been defeated in WWII, and Faulkner was obsessed with the defeat of the south in the Civil War. Today, in 2018, there’s still a very active group of Faulkner scholars in Japan. When I’m there, I hope to find out why he’s still relevant in Japan.”
In addition to documenting materials pertaining to Faulkner’s visit at the Nagano Prefectural Library, Hunter also plans to interview members of the Faulkner Society of Japan. “The technical word for this kind of project is a ‘reception study,’” he explains.
Hunter was born and raised in Baltimore and attended Loyola Blakefield High School. He has been interested in Japanese culture for as long as he can remember—whether it was Nintendo games, classic Japanese cinema, or studying the language and taking an exchange class at the Johns Hopkins University during college.
“The Fulbright project combines my passion for Faulkner and Japanese culture almost seamlessly,” says Hunter, who serves as co-president of Loyola’s film society and hopes to someday become a professor of literature or film.
“I am wondering if Fulbright will open doors that I hadn’t considered before. I have a feeling that Japan will play a bigger role in my future than I ever anticipated. It could be that I’ll focus more on Japanese studies in graduate school, but I think I’ll also be looking into other jobs where I can put my knowledge of the language to use.”
For Michelle Reilly, ’20, it’s all about community: studying it, analyzing it, and being a part of it.
The Miami native is Loyola’s first-ever winner of the UK Fulbright Summer Award. She’ll spend the summer at the University of Bristol exploring the ways in which literature, music, visual arts, storytelling, dance, philosophy, and critical social theories have shaped social justice around the world—particularly in the areas of racial justice and slavery.
For Michelle, the month-long Fulbright program feels like a natural step in her lifelong interest in activism. In second grade, the political science and Global Studies major declared she wanted to be a lawyer: “I go through life ready and willing to have deep conversations, and I want to hear various perspectives and points so I can continue to evolve and develop my stances. The idea of justice has just always felt ingrained in who I am.”
In her two years at Loyola, Michelle has become involved in relevant causes. She is on the executive board of the Multiracial and Inter-Ethnic Student Association, a resident assistant, and a member of the Justice Club. She has also participated in various service projects through the Center for Community Service and Justice.
Michelle began her college career as a participant in the Multicultural Awareness Program, during which new students arrive on campus before Fall Welcome Weekend to engage with fellow classmates, faculty, and administrators, to explore the Baltimore and D.C. areas, and to begin to acclimate to life at Loyola before classes begin. The program “really quelled my fears about being at college; it made me feel like there was a family and community here,” says Michelle.
The program is also where she met Arthur Sutherland, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and class dean of the Class of 2020 who, after hearing about her passions for travel and activism, suggested Michelle look into the Fulbright summer program.
“The more I learned about the program, it just amazed me that this was a possibility, particularly because one of my real goals was to go abroad—I’ve never actually left the country, and I’m craving that experience,” says Michelle. “Combining that experience with these ideas of activism and political science is right up my alley.”
She applied for the program during her first year and was not accepted—but she was determined not to give up. She applied again and was accepted to the University of Bristol program in April, where her studies will be focused on the transatlantic slave trade.
“I’ve only learned a superficial snippet of what [the slave trade] process actually was, and that feels morally wrong and feels academically insufficient,” she says. “If I’m going to be analyzing the structures around me politically and socially, I need to understand the history of them.”
Michelle says she hopes to apply her Fulbright experience to launching a career in international journalism, the criminal justice system, or social work.
“And part of me will always want to be a musician,” she laughs. “But really, I don’t want to limit myself yet. I know I’m pointing myself to a career that lets me have intense conversations and analysis, and that’s the kind of fulfillment I’m looking for. I need to make sure I use whatever voice I can establish for myself to enact some kind of change, even if that’s one person at a time. Giving people the time and place to speak is a very minimal thing I know I can do.”