Nine Penn Staters earn Fulbright awards for 2017-18

June 01, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State, has selected nine Penn State students and alumni as award recipients for the 2017-2018 academic year.

These Penn Staters will travel the globe, some spending close to a year, others spending up to two years, living with and learning from the people of their host countries. Some will conduct research at host universities, while others will help teach English to local students and carry out projects in support of the community.

All will serve as cultural ambassadors of Penn State and the U.S., engaging in the community, gaining an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, and promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

“The Fulbright program requires students to take a step back and consider a larger picture,” said Caitlin Ting, interim director of the University Fellowships Office, the unit at Penn State that helps students identify and apply for competitive national and international fellowships. “Students need to draw a connection between their academic program and what they envision for themselves, both personally and professionally, and think about how international goodwill and cultural exchange will help them in making the connection.”

“These Fulbright recipients span five different academic colleges and highlight the quality of students here at Penn State,” she continued. “We are thrilled that they have received national recognition from the Fulbright Program and wish them continued success as they embark on their international experience. We hope that their accomplishments motivate more students to consider this opportunity in the future.”

Penn State consistently ranks among the top-producing research institutions in the country for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, with 12 students receiving awards in 2016-17.

The following Penn Staters have been named Fulbright recipients for 2017-18:

Nabeel Ahmad

Ahmad, from Houston, Texas, is a 2015 Penn State graduate, earning a degree in biological sciences from the Eberly College of Science and a minor in health policy and administration from the College of Health and Human Development. Ahmad will travel to Indonesia on an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award. Currently a high school chemistry teacher in Houston through Teach for America, he hopes to learn the Bahasa Indonesian language during his time abroad, while also learning to better empathize with the perspective of new language learners. He also plans to create a percussion club and learn how to play the kendang, an Indonesian instrument used during celebrations. Through the percussion club, he hopes to showcase and share how percussion is used in American hip-hop and pop genres.

Braden Allison

Allison will travel to Azerbaijan on an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award. Allison is a recent Penn State graduate, having earned a degree in communication sciences and disorders from the College of Health and Human Development.

Sylvia Biscoveanu

Biscoveanu will travel to Melbourne, Australia, this summer on a Study/Research Award, where she will perform research at Monash University with data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), working on parameter estimation for compact binary coalescences. Having previously conducted research at Monash, Biscoveanu looks forward to returning and organizing outreach activities through a Women in Physics group in addition to her research activities.

Biscoveanu is from Yardley, Pennsylvania, and earned a degree in physics from the Eberly College of Science, as well as a degree in Spanish from the College of the Liberal Arts, in May 2017. Biscoveanu also completed minors in mathematics and music performance.

Matthew Crager

Crager looks forward to integrating into Brazilian culture when he travels to work with future educators at Teacher’s Colleges in Brazil Public Universities on an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award. He also hopes to engage with the community outside of the classroom through activities related to professional development and public speaking, all while increasing his proficiency in Portuguese.

Crager is a May 2017 graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts, earning a degree in communication arts and sciences, and minors in Portuguese and Spanish. He is from Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.

Azeta Hatef

Hatef is currently a doctoral candidate in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and will travel to Brno, Czech Republic, on a Study/Research Award. During her time there, she will study media use by members of the Roma community as a resource for social and political change. She aims to understand the ways in which this marginalized community is locating alternative mediated spaces of engagement.

Hatef is from Fremont, California.

Miranda Holmes

Holmes, from State College, Pennsylvania, is a May 2017 graduate, having earned a degree in fine arts from the College of Arts and Architecture and a minor in French and Francophone studies from the College of the Liberal Arts. She will travel to the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany, on a Study/Research Award, where she will paint and participate in critiques and classroom discussions. As a community service project, Holmes hopes to work with refugees on art projects. She looks forward to traveling in Europe and seeing how her work will evolve through the experience.

Laura Kastner

Kastner graduated from Penn State in May 2017 with a degree in statistics from the Eberly College of Science as well as a degree in communication arts and sciences from the College of the Liberal Arts. Next year, she will travel to Malaysia on an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award to help teach English to high school students, including hosting “English camp” activities to bond with students and allow them time to practice the language outside of the classroom. Kastner most looks forward to forming genuine connections with the people of Malaysia, and is eager to see how her perspective on the world changes after her time there.

Kastner is from Niantic, Connecticut.

Daniel Keifer

Keifer, from Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, will travel to Sofia, Bulgaria, this fall on a Study/Research Award, where he will analyze the effects of key historical moments on contemporary policy-making in Bulgaria, with an emphasis on establishing the primary means by which Bulgarians receive information about their history and current foreign affairs. Keifer looks forward to immersing himself in the Bulgarian culture and traditions by interacting directly with its people.

Keifer earned dual degrees in Russian and history from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts in May 2017.

Sarah Kidder

Kidder will help teach English at a business academy in Česká Lípa, Czech Republic, through an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award that will begin later this summer. During her time in the Czech Republic, she will also spend time assisting a fellow Penn State alumna with research, looking at the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based teacher training and its impact on schools. Kidder is excited to travel on her own for the first time and eager to meet fellow ETA recipients and her students.

Kidder, from Pittsburgh, earned a degree in biobehavioral health and a minor in global health and biology from the College of Health and Human Development in May 2016.

At Penn State, the Fulbright competition is administered through the University Fellowships Office, a resource for undergraduates, graduate students and Penn State alumni seeking information and guidance regarding scholarships and fellowships funded by sources outside of Penn State. For more information on available fellowship opportunities, visit, or visit the office in 321 Boucke Building.

The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

  • Nabeel Ahmad stands in front of his classroom door

    Nabeel Ahmad

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Miranda Holmes headshot

    Miranda Holmes

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Laura Kastner headshot

    Laura Kastner

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Daniel Keifer stands with fountain behind him

    Daniel Keifer

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated September 28, 2017