Roughuiyatou Ba, Class of 2020 alumna, has been selected for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a nationally competitive Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs-sponsored initiative, which provides grants for independent study/research projects, graduate study, or English Teaching Assistantships in a country abroad for up to one academic year. Not only do Fulbrighters gain valuable experience for their future goals, but they also have the opportunity to engage with local communities in the host country, aligning with Fulbright’s mission of cultural exchange. Alumni Anes Ahmed and Fatu Amara, who also applied for Fulbright, were selected as semi-finalists in this year’s award cycle, a highly notable achievement in such a prestigious competition.

Roughuiyatou graduated from the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business with a Bachelor of Science in International Business, as well as a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. She proposed an independent research project to study the benefits of Senegal’s 2020 Start-Up Act on business entrepreneurship, especially among women who have started their businesses with assistance provided by this initiative. She plans to interview entrepreneurs by affiliating with Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide des Femmes et des Jeunes (DER), which registers and trains new business owners. Roughuiyatou will also assist the entrepreneurs she will meet in Senegal in promoting their businesses via social media platforms, a skill further enhanced by her experience working as a Digital Enhancement Coordinator at the NYC Mayor’s Office. Roughuiyatou will begin her grant period in Senegal this coming fall.  

“I am very grateful to Fulbright for accepting me!” said Roughuiyatou. “I could not have achieved this without the unwavering support from the CSI faculty and staff, especially Michele Callahan [Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor in the Office of Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities]. I’ve always admired the program for providing a multicultural experience and I knew I wanted to participate somewhere in Africa because of my deep admiration for the continent. I am very excited about going to Senegal to complete my research study and ultimately become a Fulbrighter for life.”

While at CSI, Roughuiyatou served as a CSI Student Government Senator and Delegate for the CUNY University Student Senate. Extending her service to the community, she became a Student Organizer for New York Communities for Change, working on social and economic justice initiatives. After graduation, Roughuiyatou participated in the NYC Service Fellowship Program, which allowed her to spend a year gaining practical experience in service programming at the City governance level.  

As a Global Communications Intern in the United Nations Development Program, Roughuiyatou has also acquired significant experience from working on initiatives related to trade agreements and business expansion in Africa. She eventually aspires to complete a Master’s in International Development with a focus on small developing economies, and wishes to contribute to development in West African countries through policy work to promote entrepreneurship. Roughuiyatou additionally plans to pursue foreign service within the United States Prosper Africa initiative, which promotes increasing two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa to continue creating partnerships, mutual understanding, and cultural exchange. During her Fulbright grant period, Roughuiyatou will also volunteer at the Dakar English Language Center to teach business terminology to middle and high school students.  

Semi-finalist Anes Ahmed, Class of 2021 Salutatorian, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Writing. In his Fulbright application, Anes proposed an independent study project in Morocco, to research the use of magical realism in the works of Moroccan authors under the supervision of a mentor at Mohammad V University in Rabat. Anes became acquainted with The Olive Writers organization in Casablanca about two years ago, which he continues to assist in their mission of helping disenfranchised young writers in developing their creative writing and performing their works before an audience.

The other semi-finalist, Fatu Amara, Class of 2020, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and minors in Psychology and Political Science. Fatu applied for a Fulbright grant to complete a Master’s in Public Health at Cardiff University in Wales, to explore the UK’s National Health Service and governmental response in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the homeless population. To engage with the local community, Fatu had also proposed to use her artistic creativity on a project intended to bring together artists and public health professionals to analyze paintings as an ethical medium for displaying images of humanitarian crises. Last year, Fatu became CSI’s first student to be selected for the NYC Urban Fellows Program. She is currently building upon her experience through this program by working within the NYC Administration for Children’s Services on COVID-19 recovery policy and programming.

Fulbright applicants receive much support from their colleges, which interview each candidate by a committee in order to evaluate their proposals and provide them with feedback. The application opens in March and is due in early October. These months are spent honing research interests, identifying affiliations, and building a strong application that makes a case for how the student’s goals will be furthered by their experience throughout the grant period, as well as how they may bring benefit to both the host country and the U.S. Several faculty and staff have volunteered their time to serve on the CSI Fulbright evaluation committee over the years, some of whom have been awarded grants through the Fulbright Scholar Program (separate from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright Scholar Program awards PhD holders and mid-career professionals), including Professor Jane Marcus-Delgado in the Department of Political Science and Global Affairs, and Distinguished Professor Sarah Schulman and Assistant Professor Jason Bishop in the Department of English. Additional members of the committee include Gerry Milligan, Director of College Honors Programs and Professor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures, as well as Stephen Ferst, Director of the Center for Global Engagement. Joining in this year, Associate Professor Heidi Bertels in the Chazanoff School of Business played an instrumental role in advising Roughuiyatou’s application toward its success.

Callahan also serves as the Fulbright Program Advisor for CSI students. “I’m grateful for the enormous amount of support we have for our students from our highly experienced committee members. I couldn’t do this alone,” said Callahan.

Upon becoming a semi-finalist, a student’s application is sent to the host country to which they have applied, where the final decision is made to award a grant. Awardees are typically notified of their selection between March and May, depending on the timeline of each individual host country. Fulbright grants provide generous funding to travel and live within the host country, giving students an incredible global experience.

By Michele Callahan