Occidental Students, Alumnus Win Six Fulbrights

Jim Tranquada

Five graduating Occidental seniors and one recent alumnus have been named winners of prestigious Fulbright scholarships to teach and conduct research overseas. A sixth senior was named an alternate.

Also this year, for the first time an Occidental alumnus has been named an Fulbright Alumni Ambassador—one of just 20 Fulbright alumni selected each year to serve as representatives and recruiters for the program.

The six winners are among the 122 Oxy students and alumni who have been awarded Fulbrights since 2003. Occidental has been one of the country's top producers of student Fulbright awards for 15 consecutive years, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Complicating matters for this year’s class of Fulbrights is the global pandemic. They have been informed that all 2020-2021 Fulbright research and English-teaching programs have been postponed until at least January 2021.

Occidental’s 2020-21 Fulbright winners are:

  • Camille Brzechffa ’20, a biology major from Morristown, N.J., who hopes to conduct research in Poland.

  • Lilianna Henkel ’20, a sociology major from Cotati, who hopes to teach English in Spain.

  • Habiba Hopson ’20, an art and art history and Spanish studies double major from Pittsburgh, who hopes to be teaching English in Colombia.

  • Darla Howell ’20, a group language major from Los Angeles, was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan. Instead she chose to become a speaking and writing fellow at NYU Shanghai.

  • Peter Johnson ’19, a comparative studies in literature and culture major from St. Louis Park, Minn., hopes to be teaching English in Germany.

  • Thomas Robertson ’20, a group language and diplomacy and world affairs major from Newport Beach, hopes to conduct research in Burkina Faso.

John Chen ’20, a diplomacy and world affairs major from Wailuku, Hawaii, was named an alternate for a teaching assistantship to Vietnam.

Fernando Abarca ’14, a politics and Spanish studies major from Palo Alto who was a 2018-19 Fulbright in El Salvador, was named a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador—the first Oxy alumnus to be selected for this honor. Ambassadors are chosen annually through recommendations from Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassy staff, area managers and the Fulbright Student Program Outreach Division. Currently, Fernando is working on a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at UCLA.

The Fulbright program, which covers travel, education and living expenses, is a program of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs established in 1946 under legislation introduced by Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.