Three recent graduates of Meredith, Briana Petrusa, ’21, Bailey Birtchet, ’21, and Delaney Rhodes, ’20, have been awarded Fulbright scholarships. The Fulbright Program funds scholarships for students to study, conduct research, or teach English abroad.
Petrusa will use her Fulbright grant to conduct research on Parkinson’s Disease at the Kahol Institute of Neuroscience in Madrid, Spain. She will also be coaching a youth soccer team and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House during her time abroad to fulfill the community engagement pillar of the Fulbright.
As someone who grew up with an interest in both medicine and Spanish, Petrusa’s ultimate goal is to become a bilingual physician. With a double major in Spanish and chemistry, she was able to combine her passions and forge her ideal career path with the help of her professors at Meredith.
“It is important to me to be able to communicate in more ways than just English so I can help a wider range of patients,” said Petrusa. “The Fulbright program is a culmination of everything I’m interested in, and it’s another stepping stone for me to be able to increase my communication and research skills to become a better physician in the future.”
Birtchet will also continue building on her studies from Meredith through the Fulbright program, with her award funding research in graphic design. She will be studying in the Netherlands at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, St. Joost School of Fine Art and Design.
During her time at Meredith, Birtchet has built a strong academic and professional record – which made her a strong applicant for the Fulbright. One significant experience she had was an internship with Clean, an integrated branding agency.
“My advisors at Clean helped me refine my skills through challenging but rewarding projects, and my portfolio of work improved dramatically during my time with the company,” said Birtchet.
The graphic design student learned an entirely different set of skills through her internship with Harassment Free NC, where she enjoyed creating social media posts and other creative materials. “Helping raise community awareness about sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and other social issues has been a rewarding, and educational, experience for me as both a designer and an activist,” she said.
With her Fulbright research focusing on sustainability, Birtchet’s designer/activist mindset will serve her well in the Netherlands. The project she will be working on there is “Designing for a Sustainable Future: Synthesizing U.S. and Dutch Graphic Design Priorities.”
English major Delaney Rhodes, ’20, also received a Fulbright award. Rhodes’ grant will allow her to teach English in South Korea.
“This past year has held a lot of uncertainty for all of us as we continue to wait and do our parts to be able to return to some normalcy from the virus, so having a path laid out ahead of me and a new adventure to look forward to has given me a lot of hope and excitement for the future,” said Rhodes.
Experiential learning opportunities like study abroad and internship are what motivated Rhodes to pursue the Fulbright program. One of the aspects she is most excited about is getting to experience a new culture.
“Meredith College encourages students to take opportunities that may be outside of their comfort zones to learn more about the increasingly global society that we are each a part of,” she said. “I look forward to furthering my understanding of Korean culture and learning to see aspects of my own culture with new perspectives.”
This was the most competitive year for Fulbright with a record number of submitted applications. Since many programs were cancelled last year because of the pandemic, Fulbright considered both current and previous applicants when awarding this year’s grants.
Petrusa, Birtchet, and Rhodes were three of the 11,000 students who applied for Fulbright grants this year. As recipients, they will join the ranks of over 400,000 Fulbrighters who have gone on to occupy a wide range of professions since the program’s inception in 1946.