Five UAB students selected for prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Five Blazers will work, live with and learn from people in their host countries during their time in the Fulbright program.
Written by: Michelle Cook and Samil Baker
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

Fulbright FinalistsFrom left to right, top to bottom: Skylar Summers, Simona Shirley, Emily Magda, Pranav Kakulamarri, and Claire ThomasFive University of Alabama at Birmingham students have been selected to receive Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards, and an additional three students have been named alternates.

“Our students continue to excel in the prestigious Fulbright competition,” said UAB Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Pam Benoit. “Their dedication and hard work throughout this highly competitive selection process are remarkable. Our faculty and the National and International Fellowships and Scholarships team do a terrific job of helping students navigate applying to renowned study programs and placing among the country’s best scholars and researchers.”

Of the UAB students, one recipient was selected for a Fulbright Study/Research Award and the other four have been selected to serve as Fulbright English teaching assistants. The ETA programs place recipients in classrooms abroad to assist the local English teachers while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States. Our ETA recipients come from various academic backgrounds, and each will serve in a different country.

UAB’s 2022 Fulbright recipients are:

  • Pranav Kakulamarri, a neuroscience major and native of McKinney, Texas, will teach as an ETA in the Czech Republic.
  • Emily Magda, a political science and international studies double major from Pike Road, Alabama, will teach as an ETA in France.
  • Simona Shirley, an international studies major and native of Mountain Brook, Alabama, will teach as an ETA in Spain.
  • Skylar Summers, an English major from Decatur, Alabama, will teach as an ETA in Taiwan.
  • Claire Thomas, a chemistry major and native of Miramar Beach, Florida, will conduct research in Bochum, Germany, at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

UAB has three students named alternates. Luke Jaskowski, a chemistry major, is an alternate for a Fulbright Study/Research Award to France. Michael Ho, a neuroscience and French double major, is an alternate for a Study/Research Award to Belgium. Demetrius Smith, a 2021 alumnus in psychology, is an alternate for the English Teaching Assistant award to Montenegro. All recipients and two alternates are members of the UAB Honors College.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants to study, teach and conduct research in more than 160 countries. Award selections are made based on academic and professional achievement and a record of service and leadership potential in applicants’ respective fields.

During their time as Fulbright grantees, scholars will work, live with and learn from people in their host countries. The program’s goal is to promote mutual understanding through academic engagement, cultural exchange and community engagement. 

“Fulbright has so much in common with UAB’s shared values that it’s easy to see why so many Blazers apply for this program each year,” said Michelle Cook, Ph.D., director of UAB Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships. “These students are about to embark on an experience that will shape their lives. UAB has a lot to celebrate.”

Fulbright recipients address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 awarded the Nobel Prize, 84 receiving Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 serving as a head of state or government.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

In the United States, the Institute of International Education supports implementing the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on behalf of the United States Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.    

For more information about UAB’s Fulbright application process, contact