Laura Hankins, Alli Preece and Adalí Flores-Mendoza.
Pictured left to right: Laura Hankins, Alli Preece ’21 and Adalí Flores-Mendoza.

Three St. Thomas Students Named Fulbright Semifinalists

Three University of St. Thomas students are semifinalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year: senior Laura Hankins (neuroscience), Alli Preece ’21 (Spanish and political science), and Adalí Flores-Mendoza (communications studies, Spanish, and English with emphasis on professional writing).

Flores-Mendoza and Preece applied to teach English in South Korea and Colombia, respectively. Hankins applied to do a combination of a research project and teaching English in Austria.

There were more than 8,500 applications for Fulbright grants for the 2023-24 year.

“I’m always impressed by our Fulbright applicants here at St. Thomas. As I learned more about Adalí, Alli and Laura through their preparation for Fulbright, I was simply blown away by their incredible drive and depth of experience,” Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Manager Laura Bru said. “In meeting each of these students, I found myself sharing their excitement for what they hope to do in South Korea, Colombia and Austria.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects, English Teaching Assistant Programs or, in Austria, a combination of the two.

“Being a semifinalist is really exciting. I have been working toward the possibility of teaching in South Korea since I was a freshman. I chose South Korea because of its food, pop culture and scenery,” Flores-Mendoza said. “On a personal note, it means even more because of my family’s background. I am a first-generation daughter of Mexican immigrants. My mom came to the U.S. for a better life than in Axochiapan, Morelos, Mexico. Because of her constant sacrifices and effort to help me through school, I have had a better resourced life. If I were to become a finalist, I would be taking all of her sacrifices with me.”

A candidate will submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S.

“I feel very honored to be selected as a semifinalist for the 2023-24 Fulbright combined teaching and research award! If I am selected, I will spend nine months in Vienna, Austria, teaching English at an Austrian school while I pursue my own independent chemistry research project on nanoscale chemotherapy drug delivery systems with a research professor from the University of Vienna,” Hankins said. “Over the past four years, many St. Thomas professors have helped me prepare me to be a strong candidate for this program.”

During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

“Since being named a semifinalist for the same award last year, I have done some international travel and built really meaningful relationships in my own community in Minneapolis, both of which I feel have better equipped and enthused me about this opportunity,” Preece said. “The chance to teach English in Colombia through Fulbright really feels like a culmination of my academic successes, lived experiences and personal passions. And, of course, I am so indebted to the St. Thomas staff and faculty as well as my family and friends, whose support and guidance not only strengthened my application, but also made me a better candidate.”

The St. Thomas faculty recognize the potential in students and work closely with them on their applications.

Current students and alumni interested in applying for Fulbright are encouraged to learn more by visiting OneStThomas.