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Students, alumni awarded national scholarships to pursue global studies


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Five University of Miami students and two alumni are heading overseas this summer to study and learn new languages after being conferred prestigious national scholarship awards.

When Alexander Walch was a child, he knew languages were important, but he did not quite understand the reason. Born in Mexico City, Walch spent his early years living in Colombia and Panama before his family moved to a suburb of Washington, D.C., when he was 9 years old. Walch grew comfortable switching between Spanish and English. 

But once he began his studies at the University of Miami, Walch began to appreciate the differences in language and the diversity of cultures in Miami. It attracted him to major in Spanish and international studies, where he has started to delve into some of the issues facing minorities and Indigenous peoples living in Latin American nations. 

Alexander Walch
Alexander Walch

“It was at UM that I realized how advantageous it was to speak other languages,” said Walch, a senior who is also a Foote Fellow and Hammond Scholar. “Also, I’ve met a lot of Brazilian people in Miami, and I am fascinated by the culture and history there.” 

His interest led him to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), funded by the U.S. Department of State. This summer, during an intensive language program granted by the award, Walch will be honing his skills in a third language—Portuguese—as part of the CLS program in Florianopolis, Brazil. Since Walch is also minoring in Portuguese, he hopes that building his fluency in the language through the six-week program will help him to craft a more detailed honors thesis next year—by allowing him to analyze texts and conduct interviews in Brazil’s native tongue. 

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Walch is one of five current students, and two University of Miami alumni who received an award or fellowship this spring. Nadja Bartlebaugh, a senior majoring in international studies was also awarded a CLS to study Indonesian in the Southeast Asian archipelago this summer.

Seniors Chamanta Prud-Homme and Grace Altidor received Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships, which fund a semester of study abroad for students who are often underrepresented in these programs. Senior marine affairs major Sofia Bond also received an honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship, which funds student research about Indigenous peoples or the environment.

Chamanta Prud-Homme
Chamanta Prud-Homme

“Seeing so many students who are members of our different communities on campus be recognized is very exciting for me and my team,” said Erika Green, director of prestigious awards and fellowships, which is a part of the University’s Office of Academic Enhancement.

Altidor is studying abroad in Paris this summer through a program led by the Council on International Educational Exchange. She said she is the only Black woman in the program, and one of only two Black students among a group of nearly 50 U.S. students studying together. As part of her scholarship, Altidor will organize an information session targeted for other students of color to learn about study abroad. 

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“Being able to have this opportunity is absolutely wonderful,” said Altidor, a health science major, as well as a Foote Fellow and Singer Scholar. “I’ve always loved getting to know other cultures around the world. So, meeting different people and being able to witness things and build memories in so many different places—these are things I am grateful for, because not every student has this experience.”

In addition, Tarika Sankar, a doctoral candidate in English and Caribbean studies, received the American Council of Learned Sciences dissertation completion fellowship. 

Grace Altidor
Grace Altidor

Two alumni received U.S. Fulbright grants. Julia Lynch, who graduated with a degree in finance and legal studies in 2020, was awarded a U.S. Fulbright Student Program extension—a rare honor—to spend a second year in Bulgaria helping students hone their skills in speaking English. In addition, Alan Gravano, who earned his Ph.D. in English in 2007 and now teaches at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award in Italian American studies. As a result, he will spend the next academic year in Italy teaching and doing research as part of the public university system there. 

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Lynch is excited to also keep sharing her interest in speech and debate with high schoolers in Bulgaria. The former University of Miami debate team president said that while serving as their debate coach, she had very positive responses from the students. And she looks forward to spending another year helping students in the small city of Dobrich. 

“I have truly loved my experience here in Bulgaria and wanted to continue building the debate program and to provide students with more opportunities to grow and compete in an activity that I enjoy so much,” Lynch said. “I feel lucky to go to school each day and leave feeling better than when I arrived.” 

Visit the Office of Academic Enhancement to learn more about prestigious awards and fellowships that are available for students and faculty members.


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