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Seven Queens College Students Receive Fulbright Awards

-- Unprecedented Number of QC Awardees for the Prestigious International Program; Students Also Win Jeannette K. Watson Fellowships and Salk Award --

Flushing, NY, May 14, 2015 – When a college has more than one student who receives the highly competitive Fulbright grant to study, conduct research, or teach abroad, that achievement is reason to be proud. But this year, Queens College sets a record for itself, boasting no fewer than seven graduating students who have been awarded grants for 2015-2016 from the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. In the “Master’s Institutions” category in which Queens College is judged, only two other American colleges last year received more than seven grants. Two of the newest Fulbright students will be spending a year in Brazil; two in Taiwan, and the others will be in Sweden, Cyprus, and South Korea.

Noting that the Fulbrights are among the most prestigious awards in academia, President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez says, “We are very proud that our students are being recognized so frequently by the Fulbright Program. These honors speak highly of both the quality of the students that Queens College attracts and the skill and dedication of the faculty members who teach here."
Just-named recipient Eric Becker says, “Living abroad will be, I think, an experience that is crucial to being a global citizen rather than merely a citizen of a globalized world.”
This year’s exceptional showing for the college follows an earlier honor: last February, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which administers the program, named Queens College as one of the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. students.
Eric Becker, who is receiving an MFA in creative writing and literary translation, will be living in Brazil. There he will conduct research and translate into English the literature of Portuguese writers Edival Lourenco and Eric Nepomuceno. A native of Minnesota who moved to Jackson Heights, Becker says that the Fulbright will allow him to grow as a literary translator, working directly with the authors.
Carla Spensieri, receiving an MA in education, will also be in Brazil but will be working as an assistant to a Brazilian professor in a class of undergraduates who hope to teach English as a career. Proficient in Spanish and English, Spensieri says she applied for a Fulbright in Brazil because “Portuguese is another language I want to learn.” The future linguist lives in Flushing.
Carlsky Belizaire and Karissa Caputo, members of the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, will be working in Taiwan. Belizaire, who is Haitian American and speaks Creole, spent a month in China and a month in Japan through QC’s Study Abroad program. With his Fulbright grant, the Valley Stream resident will be able to explore his interest in Asian culture. Caputo, who had a double major in education and Spanish, will be teaching English to elementary or middle school students on the island of Kinmen, where she hopes to volunteer at the local orphanage. Caputo, who lives in Jericho, speaks Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
Sarah Chung, a Korean American proficient in the Korean language, will be a teaching assistant in the land of her ancestors. The undergraduate, who majored in political science and education, lives in Douglaston. Kathryn Cox, who lives in Ridgewood, studied elementary education and mathematics as a student in the Macaulay Honors College. She hopes that her upcoming teaching experience with English language learners in Cyprus will further her goal of teaching non-native English speakers in New York City. “As a future educator, I realize my role is critical in helping children who struggle with a language barrier,” she says.
Alyssa Blumenthal (Macaulay Honors College), who is earning a CUNY BA degree, has received a Fulbright Study/Research Award. She will be spending a year in Sweden, researching renewable natural gas at the Bio-Gas Research Center of Linköping University. Blumenthal has an unusual combination of majors: music performance, arts management, and sustainable and renewable energy engineering. In the Queens College music community, she played the euphonium (a brass instrument). Blumenthal, a Long Beach resident, helped to create a sustainability app, and held internships with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Graduating senior Ebrahim Afshinnekoo (Macaulay) has won another major award—the Salk scholarship. Given annually to eight individuals who plan careers in medicine and the biological sciences, it is the most prestigious award bestowed by the City University of New York. In 2013, Afshinnekoo assisted with a study based at Weill Cornell Medical School that took DNA swabs from NYC subway stations to produce a baseline pathogen map useful in public health, bioterrorism threats, and disease surveillance.  He was the co-lead author on the findings with a senior investigator at Weill Cornell. An Iranian American who lives in Nassau County, Afshinnekoo has been accepted to New York Medical College and is on the wait list at Weill Cornell Medical College.
And undergraduates Isaac Deonarine, majoring in computer science, graphic design, and art history, and Sarah Franco (Macaulay), a music major who has performed at Carnegie Hall, have received the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. Watson Fellows receive paid internships over three consecutive summers, which provide high-level work experience and the opportunity to participate in leadership seminars.
Queens College is cited each year by the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. Learn more at


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