Two UIC alums, medical student awarded Fulbrights

Left to right: Meagan Gravelle, Joanna Paul and Emily Shi earned Fulbright Awards and will be abroad in Norway, Germany and Taiwan. (Photos provided by Gravelle, Paul and Sui)

A UIC medical student and two recent graduates will be abroad during the 2024-25 school year as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program for cross-cultural understanding. 

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Award recipients are selected by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board based on leadership potential, academic and professional achievement and public service.

Meagan Gravelle received the English Teaching Assistant Award under the Fulbright program. They earned their master’s degree in teaching history and an ESL endorsement in 2023 from UIC, where they also were in the Graduate College and worked in the gender and women’s studies department. They will be based at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in As, Norway, starting in August. Gravelle will collaborate with university and high school educators on culturally responsive teaching for international and immigrant students. 

Gravelle will work with students on English language academic writing and speaking through the exploration of American culture, current events, history and government. 

“In my late 20s, I decided to change careers and begin graduate school to become a history teacher,” Gravelle said. “I love teaching. So far, my favorite topics to teach at the secondary level have been government/civics and psychology. In these spaces, students get to interrogate the world around them.”

Currently a Chicago Public School teacher, Gravelle said their family moved often while they were growing up, and schools were their community. At age 11, Gravelle traveled to Guatemala to serve as a U.S. ambassador at the Children’s International Summer Villages program, where they met other children from around the world. Gravelle also studied in India as an undergraduate at Roosevelt University. Their former career was working in IP law.

Graduate advisor Robert Johnston, a professor in the department of history, and UIC Fulbright advisors Benn Williams and Lindsay Marshall helped Gravelle with the Fulbright application process.

Joanna Paul also received the English Teaching Assistant Award under the Fulbright program. She earned master’s degrees in public health and social work in May and will start work as a Fulbright English teaching assistant at an elementary school in Berlin, Germany, in September. She also hopes to volunteer, travel around Europe and practice the German language.

“I am passionate about early childhood policy and advocacy, child development, trauma prevention and ensuring access to safe, stable and nurturing environments for young children and their families,” Paul said. 

Paul was raised by two public health professionals who instilled in her the values of health equity and social justice, she said. As an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, she studied psychology and sociology, exploring how people’s experiences are shaped by larger forces such as racism, sexism and classism. During her master’s degree programs at UIC, she was fortunate to have several internships, she said, which allowed her to do policy work at the nonprofit Start Early, engage in direct therapy with traumatized children and conduct research on preschool expulsions.

Having lived in Berlin for six months in 2016, she is “thrilled to return to Germany to continue building community while practicing my German and growing both personally and professionally.”

UIC Fulbright advisors Williams and Marshall and associate professor Kate Zinsser in the psychology department helped Paul with her application.

Emily Shi is in her third year of medical school at UIC, studying in Peoria, after graduating from UIC in 2021 with a degree in chemistry. Under the Fulbright program, she received the National Taiwan University Master’s Degree Program Award in Global Health, a two-year commitment she will begin in September.

She will focus on Taiwanese women’s perception of menstrual pain and how those perceptions affect the diagnosis of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition that happens when endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus and causes pelvic pain. Her aim is to earn a master’s degree in global health at National Taiwan University and learn the skills she needs to become a physician and researcher.

“Living and studying in a country that captures Asian culture and traditional health philosophies will allow me to deeply understand the population I hope to focus on both during the Fulbright and in my future career as a global women’s health researcher,” she said.

As an undergraduate at UIC, she was part of the Peer Health Exchange, a campus organization that hosted health education workshops in Chicago Public Schools. The experience taught her how research-driven interventions can help address health disparities. She continued her health advocacy work online as a UIC medical student, discovering strong ties between health outcomes and cultural contexts.

“My background in these contexts helped me realize how cultural forces are particularly relevant to OBGYN, which I am interested in pursuing,” Shi said. “These forces are oftentimes magnified within reproductive health, and I’d like to understand how they contribute to poor outcomes and women’s health disparities.”

After her second year of medical school, Shi built an eight-week research elective which then served as a research project for her Fulbright application. Dr. Gelila Goba and Dr. Stevan Weine in the College of Medicine and UIC Center for Global Health mentored and inspired Shi to seek the Fulbright and research global health issues, she said.

At UIC, three Fulbright program advisors guide students and alums through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Kim Germain, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and External Fellowships, advises undergraduate students and alums. Two Graduate College staffers advise graduate and professional students and grad-level alums: Williams, fellowships and awards coordinator, and Marshall, graduate writing specialist and academic advisor. The three advisers led information sessions in April and encourage potential Fulbright applicants to reach out to them now, as the 2025-2026 competition is already underway.

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