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Nonso Akunwafor and Vishnu Alavala will be fellows in the Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes this year. (Contributed photo)

Two VCU students selected as fellows for Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes

Nonso Akunwafor, a freshman studying urban and regional studies, and Vishnu Alavala, a freshman studying biology, will go abroad this summer as part of the program.

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Two Virginia Commonwealth University students have been selected to attend the Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes, one of the most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programs operating worldwide.

Nonso Akunwafor, a freshman studying urban and regional studies in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and a member of the Honors College, and Vishnu Alavala, a freshman studying biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and member of the Honors College, were selected as student fellows to participate in the institute.

The Summer Institutes form part of the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission’s work to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. 

Akunwafor will attend a three-week academic and cultural program at the University of Bristol, exploring the intersection of arts, activism and social justice.

“I have always wanted to go abroad, not for an expensive vacation or resort stay, but rather to immerse myself in a different culture,” Akunwafor said. “By studying in the U.K, I will be immersing myself in the life of a local. Moreover, the prospect of studying a topic that deeply interests me makes me even more excited. From this experience, I hope to make connections, learn new things, come out with improved leadership skills and a deeper appreciation for other cultures.”

Alavala will attend a three-week academic and cultural program at the Glasgow School of Art and University of Strathclyde. Through lectures, seminars and study visits, participants will learn about the development of Scotland as a technological nation.

“Upon learning I earned a place in the Summer Institutes, I was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of developing my perspective at the intersection of art, technology, humanities and design in the vibrant city of Glasgow,” Alavala said. “Through the program, I can fully challenge myself to engage with international researchers in line with my interests in scientific discovery. I’m certain the experience will prepare me to thoughtfully practice medicine for diverse patients. I hope the people I meet and the skills I gain will transform my approach to addressing inequities in Richmond during my time at VCU and beyond. I cannot wait to apply myself and mobilize my passions through this experience.”

The award covers participants’ major costs and provides them with a distinctive support and cultural education program, including comprehensive pre-departure guidance, enrichment opportunities in the U.K. and an opportunity to be part of the Fulbright alumni network.

The commission selects participants through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards, the Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

VCU’s National Scholarship Office assists students and recent alumni with the application process for Fulbright UK Summer Institutes and other esteemed awards. To learn more about external funding opportunities, schedule an appointment with a member of the NSO staff.