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UA's 3 Fulbright scholars will go far


Two University of Akron alumnae and one current student have been named Fulbright U.S. Student Program award recipients for 2010-11. This is the first time in the University’s 140-year history to have three award winners in the same year.

Receiving the awards are alumna Laura Bertani and senior Matt Zuzic, as well as an alumna who will announce her award later. Each will spend a year abroad researching specialized topics. In addition, Sejla Karalic, a 2009 UA graduate, currently is doing research in China on a Fulbright Student Program grant.

“Having UA students receive prestigious, nationally competitive awards shows the quality of students and programs at The University of Akron,” says Dr. Dale Mugler, dean of UA’s Honors College.

Rare opportunity

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is an educational exchange program that provides opportunities for participants to conduct research geared toward finding solutions for shared global concerns. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide. The program was established in 1946 by Congress to "enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."

In May 2009, UA committed funds to its first professional staff position associated with identifying and assisting students in acquiring fellowships such as the Fulbright. “UA has always been known for groundbreaking teaching, learning and research. This historic event is a testament to the University’s focus on fellowship opportunities and the efforts of our outstanding students and faculty,” says Adam A. Smith, UA’s director of nationally competitive fellowships.

About Laura Bertani

Currently, Bertani is a second-year medical student at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM). She graduated from UA in August 2008 as part of the accelerated medical school BS/MD program with NEOUCOM.  She majored in natural sciences with minors in chemistry and Spanish. A native of the Columbus suburb Upper Arlington, she graduated from Upper Arlington High School in 2006.

As a Fulbright scholar, Bertani will take leave from her medical studies to complete a research project in impoverished Paraguay. Through her project, which will address resource identification and methods of strengthening the country's capacity for education, public health and health policy research, she plans to investigate health systems development, health policy and the capacity for clinical research in Paraguay.

Bertani credits UA faculty and staff members for fostering her passion for research and allowing her to grow and develop in her academic pursuits during her undergraduate career. Her favorite classes at UA were those that allowed her to branch out from her typically science-based curriculum.

UA classes prepared her to make most of award

“I think my two favorite classes at UA were Philosophy of Religion and World Religion Ethics, not necessarily because I am fascinated by religion as the choices might suggest, although I certainly enjoy the academics of religion,” she says. “Rather, I believe I remember these two courses most fondly because they were so vastly different from the science courses that made up the bulk of my accelerated education. They allowed me to develop thought processes and skill sets very different from a typically science-laden curriculum, and to analyze other perspectives on life.”

She also enjoyed her science classes at UA, particularly the higher-level courses that moved past basic concepts into greater detail, such as “Cell Physiology,” taught by Dr. Richard Londraville. “He was an extremely engaging professor and allowed us to explore concepts taught in the lecture through hands-on laboratory work,” Bertani says. “We developed our own research projects as groups to develop both our understanding of lecture material, but also as an understanding of the process of scientific research.”

Bertani emphasizes that UA provided her an ideal academic foundation from which to expand.

“UA prepared me for this opportunity by providing me with the educational experience that allowed me to be in the position I am in today,” she says. “Although my undergraduate education was accelerated, I still feel that I received a quality undergraduate education at The University of Akron. Also, the developing system for Fulbright applicants, although new, was extremely supportive in my application as an alumna.”

About Matthew Zuzic

Zuzic, a UA senior majoring in economics with minors in finance and math, plans to conduct research on currency substitution and its effect on money supply targeting as a Fulbright scholar in Croatia.

His parents, Croatian immigrants, fostered an interest in his heritage, leading him to research international and development topics. He also studied abroad in Croatia during his junior year at UA.

“I am really looking forward to this opportunity. It as always been a dream of mine to go to Croatia and make some positive change,” Zuzic says. “As a Croatian-American, I realize the huge benefits of living in the United States, and I would love the opportunity to do some research there on an important topic for them.”

His primary areas of research, international and financial economics, are fueled by his interest in the operations of the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department and their effect on the economy at large.

Ready to learn and make a difference

At UA, Zuzic is an active member of the school’s economics club. He particularly enjoyed the “Money and Banking” course offered in the economics department, in which he spent time examining the financial crisis as it was happening. He also cites “International Economics” as another favorite class, in which he studied the interaction between countries as the world becomes more globalized.

Zuzic, a 2006 Euclid High School graduate, has a post-graduation job as an investment banker in place with KeyBanc Capital Markets in Cleveland. Although he will have to choose between the Fulbright scholarship and employment, he said he is keeping in mind that Croatia accepts just three Fulbright scholars each year, so his selection is an honor.

Media contact: Sarah Lane, 330-972-7429 or