Two recent World Studies alums selected for 2020-21 Fulbright student scholarships

July 20, 2020

leslie bolda and cole williams

Five recent graduates from Virginia Commonwealth University have been awarded Fulbright scholarships for 2020-21—two of whom are graduates of the School of World Studies. The Fulbright scholarships are highly competitive awards funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These academic year awards can fund independent research or creative projects, graduate study or English teaching opportunities in more than 140 countries around the globe. Fulbright student scholars also serve as cultural ambassadors from the United States to their host countries.

Leslie Bolda, a May 2020 graduate with degrees in chemistry and Spanish from the College of Humanities and Sciences; Colleen Connolly, a May 2020 graduate with a degree in graphic design from the School of the Arts; Emma Cregan, a 2017 graduate with a degree in kinetic imaging from the School of the Arts; Brianna Griffin, a May 2020 graduate with a degree in psychology from the College of Humanities and Sciences; and Cole Williams, a 2016 graduate with a degree in religious studies from the College of Humanities and Sciences, were selected as Fulbright student scholars for 2020-21. In this year’s competition, approximately 2,100 Fulbright scholars were selected from a field of more than 10,000 applicants.

With the addition of Bolda, Connolly, Cregan, Griffin and Williams, VCU has had 64 Fulbright scholars since 2006.

“The Fulbright Scholarship is an amazing opportunity for these recipients,” said Jill Blondin, Ph.D., executive director of the VCU Global Education Office. “Not only is it prestigious and highly competitive, but it promotes intercultural exchange and understanding in a way that will have a lasting impact on the recipients and so many others.”

Bolda was selected to serve as an English teaching assistant in Argentina. After completing her Fulbright, she will continue to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry education at the University of Iowa. Eventually, she plans to work as a chemistry educator. Spending a year teaching English in Argentina will allow Bolda to improve her Spanish skills to the point where she plans to work as a bilingual educator. Throughout her undergraduate years, she worked to encourage younger students to continue their fascination with STEM topics. She also taught martial arts. Bolda was inspired to apply for a Fulbright because of her experience spending a semester abroad in Granada, Spain. She grew up in Richmond and attended J.R. Tucker High School.

Williams was selected to serve as an English teaching assistant in India. He began studying Hindi with the support of a Critical Language Scholarship in the summer of 2016. After graduating from VCU in 2016, he completed a master’s degree in religion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During that period, he began tutoring English language learners and became interested in pursuing a career in English as a second language or international education. After his Fulbright experience, Williams plans to continue working as an English teacher abroad or as an ESL teacher in the U.S. He grew up in Virginia Beach and attended Princess Anne High School.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fulbright scholarship for 2020-21 is suspended until January 2021. All five Fulbright scholars are hoping to be abroad for most of 2021.

Bolda, Connolly, Cregan, Griffin, and Williams applied for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program through VCU's National Scholarship Office, which serves as the Fulbright Program Adviser for VCU. The office assists VCU students and alumni who wish to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships. The office is currently recruiting candidates for the 2021-22 Fulbright competition. Rising seniors, graduate students and recent alumni who are interested in learning more about Fulbright opportunities should make an appointment to meet with a member of the National Scholarship Office staff.

Read the full VCU News feature to learn about the other recipients.


By Tom Gresham
University Public Affairs
(804) 828-6051
tmgresham@vcu.edu