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Three Mount Students Named Fulbright Semi-Finalists, Contend for Prestigious Award

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UPDATE: Samantha Solis and Alyse Spiehler were selected as Fulbright scholarship finalists for Argentina and Mexico, respectively. This is the first time the Mount has two students win the prestigious scholarship in the same year. The Mount is also waiting on a third student, Brigid Flay, C'17, to receive word on her application for the Fulbright ETA Award to Kazakhstan.

The finalists were announced during a press conference at Mount St. Mary's University on Tuesday, March 28.

Emmitsburg, MD - Three students from Mount St. Mary’s University - Brigid Flay, C’17, Samantha Solis, C’16, and Alyse Spiehler, C’17 - have become Fulbright semi-finalists. As a result, each is one step away from attaining a grant, which would allow them to continue their academic pursuits abroad.

According to Fulbright, the state of Maryland had only two individuals from the bachelor’s institution category that received Fulbright Awards for the 2015-16 academic year, and both were from schools with larger enrollments than the Mount.

“It is highly unusual that all three of our applicants have advanced to the semi-finalist round,” says Jamie A. Gianoutsos, Ph.D., competitive fellowships director and assistant professor of history at Mount St. Mary’s. “Such an achievement speaks to the quality of our students and their ability to compete on the national stage.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to provide research, study and teaching opportunities through grants in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students.

Flay, Solis and Spiehler all applied for English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. 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.

Gianoutsos also notes that this is not the first time the Mount has had a student attain this honor. John-Paul Heil was a finalist for the Fulbright ETA to Italy in 2015, and although he won the award, he declined in order to pursue his doctorate in history at the University of Chicago.

If selected, the students will not only work in their host country, they will also interact in other facets of life and day-to-day tasks. This immersion allows Fulbright award winners to develop a deeper understanding of the culture and beliefs of the people they’re staying with.

The Competitive Fellowships Committee, comprised of Gianoutsos, Thane Naberhaus, Ph.D., and Garth Patterson, Ph.D., oversaw these applications and conducted the Fulbright on-campus interviews.

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 please visit

Mount students recommended by the Fulbright’s National Screen Committee

Brigid Flay

Brigid Flay

Applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Kazakhstan

Brigid Flay, C’17, is an economics and philosophy double major, with a minor in Conflict, Peace and Social Justice.

Flay applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Kazakhstan because of her passion for Central Asia and desire to learn the Russian language.


“Kazakhstan interests me due its considerable ethnic and religious diversity and its significance in Soviet history,” says Flay. “Through my former travels, I discovered a pressing need for native English teachers in Kazakhstan, and I hope to bridge the gap between cultures by being an enthusiastic teacher and engaged learner.”

After the ETA, Flay plans to pursue a doctorate in international relations, focusing on Central Asia and the former Soviet region. It’s her ultimate goal to work in the foreign service, continuing to promote global peace and cooperation.

Brigid is grateful for the professors who wrote recommendation letters for her, namely Patrice Flynn, Ph.D., Richard Buck, Ph.D., and Michael Barry, Ph.D.

Samantha Solis

Samantha Solis

Applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Argentina

Samantha Solis, C’16, recently completed her undergraduate coursework as of December and was an English and Spanish double major, with a minor in creative writing.

Solis applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Argentina due to a love for Latin American literature found early in her college career, followed by a love of teaching when she began tutoring Spanish.


“Argentina in particular interests me for its rich literary history, as it is the home of literary giants such as Jorge Luis Borges,” the recent graduate said. “My three years tutoring as well as my time as a Student Organization of Latinos leader at my school have fostered communication skills and patience, both valuable teaching tools.”

In terms of her future plans, Solis adds, “After graduation, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. program in English literature, with a focus on 20th and 21st century literature by Latinx writers. I am interested in how these writers navigate the question of belonging, particularly for people marginalized within their ethno-racial groups, such as women, Afro-Latinx people, and queer people.”

Solis is thankful for all of the professors and administrator who wrote her recommendations. They included Thomas Bligh, Ph.D., Diana Rodriguez-Lozano, Ph.D., and Chianti Blackmon (former director of the Center for Student Diversity).

Alyse Spiehler

Alyse Spiehler

Applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Mexico

Alyse Spiehler, C’17 is a philosophy and English double major.

Spiehler applied for the Fulbright ETA Award to Mexico. “Although I am an American by birth, the most formative years of my childhood were spent in General Cepeda, Mexico,” says Spiehler. “Since then, I have loved Mexico’s cultures and customs, and desired to return to the country both for my own formation and to serve the Mexican people.”


Lifelong learning is a passion Spiehler has as well. “Specifically, I am considering various master’s programs in philosophy so that I can enrich my understanding of neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. I am also interested in pursuing work in nonprofit organizations and in local school systems,” says the soon-to-be graduate. “While I am not sure which of these options I will decide upon, the Fulbright ETA program in Mexico would be a valuable opportunity to aid my future work in the service to others.”

The professors who wrote her recommendations include David Rehm, Ph.D., Sarah Scott, Ph.D., and Jessy Jordan, Ph.D., and she is very appreciative of their support.


Student Fulbright Support Team

Special thanks to the Mount St. Mary's University faculty and staff members who worked to advise individual applicants, review campus applications, and conduct preliminary review and campus interviews:

Mike Barry, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Business, Accounting and Economics

Chianti Blackmon
Former Director of the Center for Student Diversity

Christine Blackshaw Ph.D.
Associate Professor Foreign Languages and Literatures

Thomas Bligh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

Richard Buck, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy

Patrice Flynn, Ph.D.
Professor of Business and Economics

Jessy Jordan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy

David Rehm, Ph.D.
University Professor of Philosophy

Diana Rodriguez-Lozano, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures

Sarah Scott, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

Elaini Tsoukatos Ph.D.
Associate Professor Foreign Languages and Literatures

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