URI student and recent graduate awarded prestigious Fulbright grants

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-2116 |

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 21, 2017 — A University of Rhode Island senior and a recent graduate of URI have been awarded Fulbright grants to teach or conduct research abroad.

Alexia Williams

Alexia Williams, a senior sociology and elementary education major from Johnston, was awarded a grant through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program enabling her to travel to Spain to teach English next fall. Hilary Lohmann, who grew up in Summit, N.J., and received a master’s degree in marine affairs from URI in 2015, earned a Fulbright research grant to conduct research at a marine protected area in Barbados.

Williams enrolled in a three-week January term course in Barcelona in 2016 and soon decided she wanted to return for an extended stay. “Three weeks in Spain was just a tease,” she said. “That’s where my heart is, so I’m looking forward to going back and spending more time learning about the people and the culture.”

She will spend that time in La Rioja, a province in northern Spain known for its wineries and summer festival. Proficient in speaking and reading Spanish, Williams will teach English to elementary grade students while living on her own in a private apartment.

“Fulbright winners also serve as cultural ambassadors, so that adds another perspective about what I’m about to do,” she said. “I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas about teaching practices with teachers in La Rioja, which has one of the top educational systems in Spain.”

At the end of the nine-month program, Williams plans to pursue a graduate degree in special education and eventually work her way up to a job in education administration.

Hilary Lohmann

Lohmann has spent the last two years in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Coral Reef Management Fellow for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, studying and protecting the coral reef ecosystem at East End Marine Park in St. Croix. She was awarded a Fulbright last year but had to turn it down due to her commitment in the Virgin Islands.

In Barbados, she will spend 10 months studying a marine protected area designed to balance the needs of the natural resources with the needs of the local people.

“In the ever-changing natural environment that we seek to protect, this project will help to clarify the relationship between people and the environment and thus increase the social justice of protected area policies,” she explained.

Lohmann said she will collect and link biodiversity, livelihood and governance data to advise the policy and management decisions of the marine park. The project will serve as a framework for future efforts aimed at aligning protected area and human development priorities.

Upon completion of the research project, Lohmann will pursue a career designing and managing humanitarian conservation projects that assist communities with programs that sustain the environment, livelihoods and families.

The U.S. Fulbright Student Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by providing high-achieving students with the opportunity to study or teach abroad. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, which will fund Williams’ trip to Spain, places grantees in schools overseas to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker in the classrooms. The Fulbright Study/Research Awards program, which is funding Lohmann’s project in Barbados, enable applicants to design their own research projects to work with institutions abroad.

J. William Fulbright was a prominent and gifted American statesman of the 20th century. His political career of over thirty years in the U.S. Congress was distinguished by his unequaled contribution to international affairs and marked by his tenure as the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He had profound influence on America’s foreign policy, and his vision for mutual understanding shaped the extraordinary exchange program bearing his name.

With the support of the United States government and through binational partnerships with foreign governments, the Fulbright Scholarship Program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges in all areas of endeavor, including the sciences, business, academe, public service, government, and the arts and continues to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.