Three UNC Asheville students awarded 2014 Fulbright Scholarships

Press release from UNC Asheville:


Graduating UNC Asheville senior Kyle Cavagnini and recent graduates Hannah Clark and Gillian Scruggs have been selected for prestigious Fulbright Scholarships, which fund research and teaching experiences abroad. The three were selected this spring for the quality of their proposals and their academic and professional achievements, among other factors. These scholarships, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, have now been awarded to 41 students and graduates of UNC Asheville.

Kyle Cavagnini will spend his year as a Fulbright Scholar in Norway as a researcher at the K.G. Jebsen Center for the Study of Neuropsychiatric Disorders at the University of Bergen. Employing techniques and knowledge he acquired during undergraduate research at UNC Asheville, Cavagnini will test a hypothesis on the chemical regulation of a brain protein that may have a role in cognition and neuropathic disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.

A double-major in chemistry and philosophy, Cavagnini says he is keenly interested in “science in the broader context of society … thinking about how the work I do at the lab bench can affect politics, policies, public discourse and ethics. … A United Nations initiative on bioethics and global health is led by faculty at Bergen, and I hope to connect with that work.” In recommending Cavagnini for the Fulbright Scholarship, Dr. Clive Bramham, M.D., Ph.D, head of Neuroscience at the University of Bergen, said, “Cavagnini has the kind of cross-disciplinary thinking that breaks new scientific ground.”

Cavagnini had been accepted for fall semester by The Johns Hopkins University’s doctoral program in biological chemistry, and he plans to reapply to that program upon his return from Norway. Cavagnini, who attended A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, will graduate from UNC Asheville on May 10.

Hannah Clark will spend her Fulbright year in Germany, teaching American culture and the English language to pre-collegiate students in North Rhine-Westphalia. Of German heritage, Clark has had lifelong interest in German culture and language. During her junior year, she studied abroad at the University of Heidelberg, and upon her return, she was excited to find UNC Asheville’s German Department had been strengthened. “I came back to a department with two new faculty members and burgeoning student interest,” she said. “It was so heartening to see UNC Asheville recognize its value. German is a very relevant language now politically.”

Clark graduated from UNC Asheville in December 2013 with a double major in German and psychology. She was a University Research Scholar, earned distinction in both of her major areas, and graduated with summa cum laude honors. Additionally, Clark has worked as senior consultant at UNC Asheville’s Writing Center, acting as a writing coach for students and helping manage the center.

This summer, before leaving for Germany, Clark will travel to Rhode Island to work as a research intern with the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, where she will help conduct a longitudinal study of HPV (human papillomavirus). A graduate of Chapel Hill High School, Clark envisions a career in psychology and plans to pursue graduate studies in the field when she returns to the United States.

Gillian Scruggs is headed for Brazil, the host nation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. “I think Brazil has added more teaching assistantships so they can beef up their English program in anticipation of the influx of travelers,” said Scruggs. “I want to be teaching,” said Scruggs, who has been working as an outdoor science teacher at Mountain Trail Outdoors School in Hendersonville, N.C., “and I’m excited to go back into teaching language.”

Scruggs earned her high school degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts and arrived at UNC Asheville expecting to study music or perhaps psychology. But Spanish classes and a study-abroad trip to Chile led to a focus on language; Scruggs also learned Portuguese as part of her foreign language studies. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC Asheville in 2011 with distinction in Spanish, summa cum laude and University Scholar honors.

Combining her interests, Scruggs may find herself teaching ecology as well as English in Brazil. “One thing I hope to do there is to foster food knowledge and teach garden ecology,” said Scruggs. “Fulbright asks its scholars to come up with volunteer side-projects, and mine may be working with Slow Food Brazil or a similar group. I’m hoping the experience in Brazil will help me decide the best graduate school and teaching career path I can pursue when I return.”


About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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