This year marked Lehigh's largest number of Fulbright applicants in a single year, with 12 named as semi-finalists for the prestigious scholarship program

Mika Kizuka ‘24, a Lehigh University senior and Team USA professional snowboarder, has studied the psychological and rehabilitative benefits of snow sports for people with physical disabilities. Her research found they view the sports as a means of asserting competence and focusing on their abilities, rather than their disabilities.

Her multidisciplinary degree at Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science has allowed Kizuka to study mechanical engineering, computer science, product design, and engineering ethics. So she understands that the creation of adaptive snow sport products and programs will allow many people with disabilities to pursue a life previously perceived as unimaginable.

Kizuka is one of 12 Lehigh students and alumni who are semi-finalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, one of the best-known and prestigious scholarships in the world, which provides opportunities for learning, research, or teaching English abroad in more than 140 countries. If selected for a scholarship, Kuzuka will study in the Netherlands.

“While I was researching what countries and universities I wanted to pursue, I instantly fell in love with TU Delft in the Netherlands, and knew there was no other program in the world that better suited me and my goals,” Kizuka said. “When I read my semi-finalist decision, I felt the relief of knowing that the past 10 months of work have paid off and that I am in the final stretch.”

Lehigh's History with Fulbright

A headshot of Mika Kizuka smiling for the camera
Mika Kizuka

Lehigh has a long history with the Fulbright program, but this year marked the largest number of applicants in a single year, with the 12 semi-finalists coming from a pool of 21 applications.

More than 50% of Lehigh’s Fulbright applicants have made it to the semi-finalist stage in the past two years, according to Bill Hunter, Director of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs at Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs (OIA).

“Just getting to the semi-finalist stage is an honor in itself,” Hunter said. “Fulbright is nationally competitive and very prestigious. If you become a Fulbright scholar, it’s as a marquee moment in your life. It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”

Recipients of Fulbright scholarships will be announced in April. According to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 89 Fulbright alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes, 62 have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 41 have served as heads of state or government,

In addition to Kizuka, this year’s Lehigh semi-finalists and the country they will study in if they receive a scholarship are:

  • Kelley Allen '24G (Sierra Leone)
  • Brooke Cannon '24 (Greece)
  • Racquel Doherty '18G (Spain)
  • Cynthia Gatua '20 (Kenya)
  • Dream Intarachumnum '22 (South Korea)
  • Claire Kirshenbaum '24 (Cameroon)
  • Caroline Mierzwa '23G (Spain)
  • Mericel Mirabal '22 (Spain)
  • Ashley Omoma '18 (Ghana)
  • Jonathan Valenzuela '26 Ph.D (Germany)
  • William Yaeger '24 (Peru)

How Lehigh Can Help

Three men and a woman smiling for the camera
Kelley Allen along with (respectively) Augustine Bangura of Sierra-Agri Foods; Dean Unisa Patrick Kamara; and Dean Musa Sesay of University of Makeni in Sierra Leone.

Lehigh’s Office of Fellowship Advising (OFA) assists students and alumni with applications, provides marketing information sessions and advice, and seeks recommendations from faculty regarding potential candidates. Lehigh’s Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) also assists inbound students who come to Lehigh to study through the Fulbright program.

“It’s not just current students we work with,” Hunter said. “We’ve worked with alumni who graduated eight years ago to become Fulbright semi-finalists and awardees. Six out of our seven alumni who applied last year are semi-finalists. As I tell students, ‘Once Lehigh, always Lehigh,’ and our office is here to work with you.”

Allen said OFA spent hours navigating the Fulbright process and assisting with her application. “This office is a fantastic resource for Lehigh students,” she said, “and more should take advantage of it, because it can really open up a lot of doors for people, as well as help the world in general.”

Allen, who has 20 years of experience in the book publishing world, hopes to use a Fulbright scholarship to advance her studies and field work in Sierra Leone. She is seeking to help entrepreneurs overcome the challenging business environment of that country and establish reciprocal arrangements with businesses in the United States.

“These are people who have experienced the devastation of the Civil War, the Ebola outbreak, and COVID-19,” Allen said. “They’re very smart, passionate people who have been through some really horrible history, but they have a lot of grit and determination, and they are trying to invest, and grow, and make their country a better place.”

Wide Range of Studies

The application projects and areas of study widely differ among Lehigh’s Fulbright semi-finalists.

Cannon wants to study how to best balance tourism and preserving natural landmarks in Greece. Kirshenbaum seeks to teach English in Cameroon Valenzuela’s research will be focused on the alkali metal flux synthesis of a novel nitride that could be used for light-speed data communication.

“Our applications come from all five of Lehigh’s colleges; all majors and minors,” Hunter said. “Fulbright isn’t just for liberal arts. STEM students, finance students, artists; all can find a home in Fulbright.”

OFA relies on faculty to recommend Fulbright applicants, and the search has already begun for the next found of semi-finalists. Faculty members seeking more information or interested in discussing a possible applicant can contact Bill Hunter at Students or alumni seeking to apply for a Fulbright should contact OFA before spring break.