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Two NMSU students selected as Fulbright Scholar finalists

New Mexico State University students Rachel Bean and Grace Smith Vidaurre are finalists for the prestigious Fulbright Scholar grant.


Woman standing with trees in the background
New Mexico State University biology graduate student Grace Smith Vidaurre is a finalist for the prestigious Fulbright Scholar grant. If selected, she will study native populations of a parrot species that have invaded cities across the Northern and Southern hemispheres. (NMSU courtesy photo)

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Tim Ketelaar, Honors College associate dean and director of the Office of National Scholarships and International Education, said both students have proposed very competitive scholarly projects.

?Rachel and Grace are talented young scholars with exciting projects,? Ketelaar said. ?We are delighted that they have made it through the U.S. selection process, and now we are anxiously awaiting to hear whether they will be selected in the final round by their host country. We hope to hear soon, as early as late March.?

Smith Vidaurre is a biology graduate student studying an invasive parrot species in Uruguay.

?I?m honored and excited to have made it through the Fulbright semi-finals,? Smith Vidaurre said. ?If selected as a fellow, I will study native populations of a parrot species that have invaded cities across the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We do not know if this species? success as an invader is due to genetic changes, behavioral flexibility or other factors.

?The project I?ve proposed is the crux of what I have worked towards for years as a bicultural scientist. My success thus far reflects support from excellent mentors: our own Tim Wright at NMSU, Michael Russello and Andrew Veale at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan and Robert Fairman and Roberto Castillo-Sandoval at Haverford College. I look forward to working closely with Uruguayan scientists in the near future, beginning with Dr. Enrique Lessa, my Fulbright mentor.?

Tim Wright, associate professor of animal behavior and evolution in the NMSU Department of Biology, is Smith Vidaurre?s adviser.

?Grace is a terrific student who has put together a very interesting proposal to study the behavior and genetics of an invasive species of parrot at their source in Uruguay,? Wright said. ?A Fulbright fellowship would allow her to conduct critical sampling and will also give Grace valuable international experience and connections via her Uruguayan sponsor, Dr. Enrique Lessa, who is himself an NMSU graduate.?

An interdisciplinary studies major, Rachel Bean is studying sustainability. Bean has been working with her adviser Wiebke Boeing, who is an associate professor of aquatic ecology in NMSU?s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology.

?Rachel studied algae for biofuel at NMSU,? Wiebke Boeing said. ?She has a lot to offer and the potential to make a true difference for sustainability. She has an outgoing personality, and will be able to easily adapt to the new culture and convince people to buy into her goals and ideas.?

Part of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs within the United States Department of State, the Fulbright Scholar Program awards approximately 1,600 grants to students in the U.S. annually. The program operates in over 155 countries.

The NMSU Honors College will host a Fulbright workshop at the Conroy Honors Center on Wednesday, April 6, from 3:30-5 p.m. Two Fulbright selection panelists will be available to answer student questions. The workshop will also include a presentation by Study Abroad. Students interested in applying for a Fulbright grant in the future are encouraged to attend. Light refreshments will be served. For information, contact Tim Ketelaar at ketelaar@nmsu.edu or 575-405-3729.