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Fulbright Announces Three Mount Students as Semifinalists

Donna Klinger

Fulbright semi feature

Three Mount St. Mary’s University seniors have been named semifinalists for the prestigious and highly competitive 2021-22 Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Julia Baer, Nathaniel Bald and Kerri Czekner are one step away from attaining a grant, which would allow them to continue their academic pursuits in New Zealand, Rwanda and Italy, respectively.

“This year, the Fulbright received a record-breaking number of applications, up 12% from last year’s number. This makes it even more impressive that the Mount had three out of four students reach semi-finalist status this year,” said Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., associate professor of history and director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships. “Through Fulbright, students have the opportunity to further their education, conduct research and immerse themselves in a new culture.” She noted that this is the first year that Mount students proposing research rather than English teaching or foreign study have advanced to semi-finalist status.

Baer and Czekner applied for a Research/Study Grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and Bald applied for the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to provide research, study and teaching opportunities through grants in over 140 countries to recent undergraduates and graduate students. The Research/Study Grant allows recent college graduates and young professionals to develop and execute a unique research project for a specific country. The ETA programs enable award winners to join local English teachers in their respective countries to provide assistance through teaching the English language as well as communicating and representing American culture.

baer-2.jpgJulia Baer, a double major in biology and chemistry, seeks to conduct research on the biogeography of microbial communities in volcanic Antarctic habitats in the laboratory of Craig Carey, Ph.D., at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Last year, Baer was the recipient of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent national undergraduate award for students intending to pursue research careers in natural science. During her time at the Mount, she has conducted summer research on the microbiome of blue mussels at the University of Connecticut Avery Point and performed computational protein docking experiments in the Lombardi Lab at the Mount. Baer has served as a resident assistant for three years. She is grateful to the professors at the Mount and the University of Connecticut who wrote recommendation letters for her: Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., and Garth Patterson, Ph.D., at the Mount, and Michael Finiguerra Ph.D., at the University of Connecticut - Avery Point.

czekner-2.jpgA biochemistry major and English minor, Kerri Czekner strives to conduct cancer research in the melanoma laboratory of Dr. Luisa Lanfrancone at Istituto Europeo di Oncologia in Milan. Kerri is a Founder’s Scholarship recipient and also creative nonfiction editor of the Lighted Corners literary magazine. Last summer she developed a research project to create a portable spectrophotometer for the food and beverage industry that is capable of measuring color intensity and hue. Associate Professor of Chemistry Garth Patterson, Ph.D., advised Czekner on this project. She also has worked in the lab of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Isaac Mills, Ph.D., for more than three years. Czekner is grateful to Mills as well as professors Nick Hutchings and Dana Ward, Ph.D., for writing recommendation letters for her. Professor Emeritus Michael Sollenberger, Ph.D., completed Czekner’s Italian language evaluation.

bald.jpgNathaniel Bald, a triple major in French, German, and economics, is pursuing the opportunity to assist in English teaching for 20 hours a week with university professors in their classrooms in Rwanda. As a university-certified tutor in his three majors, Bald is a natural teacher and mentor.  In Fall 2019, he participated in the Semester of Service program, working with Associate Professor of Sociology Layton Field, Ph.D., and Mount CARiTAS (Community Advancement Resources in Training, Assessment and Service) at a research-based internship. Through the internship Bald developed a client needs survey for the Thurmont Food Bank and researched global and local food insecurity through the Matthew-25 Series project. Bald also is a distance runner on the Division I track and field team; has written for Tolle Lege, the student journal of theology and philosophy; and has given talks and led retreats for the Center for Campus Ministry. Bald appreciates the recommendation letters that Field, Professor Marco Roman, Ph.D., and Brendan Johnson, assistant director for campus ministry and social justice, wrote for him.

The Competitive Fellowships Committee, comprised of faculty members Director Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., Associate Director Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D., Josey Chacko, Ph.D., Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D., Michelle Ohanian, Ph.D., and Garth Patterson, Ph.D., oversaw these applications and conducted the Fulbright on-campus interviews. The Career Center also provided interview support.

Baer, Bald and Czekner are all Mount St. Mary's University Honors Program students. 

According to Fulbright, applicants who reach this stage will be notified if they have been selected, designated as an alternate or not selected between early March and late May, with dates to vary by country.

For more information on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit


Donna Klinger