Fulbright Recipients to Teach English Abroad

One student has also been named a recipient of a Scoville Peace Fellowship, the first in UConn history

The cupola above the Wilbur Cross building.

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

A pair of recent UConn graduates will be teaching abroad during the 2024-25 academic year as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English teaching assistantships around the world. Students meet, work, live with, and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.

Lucas Ruiz ’23 (CLAS) will travel to South Korea on an English teaching assistantship, while Lizzy Irizarry ’23 (CLAS), ’24 MPA will be doing the same in Italy.

In addition, Ruiz is spending this summer in Washington, D.C., as a recipient of a Scoville Peace Fellowship, the first in UConn history. This fellowship provides college graduates with experience working with nonprofit public interest organizations that focus on peace and security issues. Through placements in the host organizations, fellows gain practical knowledge and experience in the work of peace- and security-oriented nonprofits.

Ruiz, a native of East Hartford, earned his undergraduate degree in history and worked at UConn Law after graduating, assisting two professors with book manuscripts. His Fulbright will begin in January 2025 when he travels to South Korea for six weeks of English language training and then will be assigned a specific location where he’ll teach– most likely in a rural area.

“The application process really gave me a chance to look inwardly and self-reflect on my interests and future goals,” says Ruiz. “I am very passionate about studying the relationship between South Korea and the United States and inspiring new approaches to peace in East Asia.”

Lucas Ruiz.
Lucas Ruiz ’23 (contributed photo).

This interest was first uncovered when he took a course on war and diplomacy in that area taught by UConn professor of history Alexis Dudden.

“My knowledge of Korea was pretty limited, but taking Professor Dudden’s class uncovered my passion for that area,” says Luiz, who was secretary of the Korean Student Association in his senior year at UConn.

“Lucas is a dedicated and deeply thoughtful student of modern Korean history and U.S.-Korea relations,” says Dudden. “His intelligence and affability blend well with his persistent quest for truth and justice.”

Ruiz, who grew up taking lessons in Chinese, then took a class with history professor Frank Costigliola, which further inspired him in foreign relations, and began to do research in that area between his junior and senior years of undergraduate work.

“I was looking at Korean relationships after World War II and how the two Koreas were divided,” says Ruiz. “I started to really enjoy performing research and learning about how stories were hidden within primary source documents.”

He says he appreciated what Dudden and Costigliola brought to the educational experience both in and out of the classroom and the life insights they provided.

“Lucas is the kind of smart, hardworking, dedicated student who can get a superb education at UConn,” says Costigliola. “Students like Lucas demonstrate the vital role UConn plays in enhancing the lifetime potential of bright students who are first generation or from modest backgrounds.”

Following his Fulbright work in South Korea, Ruiz is looking to attend graduate school, possibly in law or public policy, and is looking toward a career at the U.S. Department of State.

Irizarry, a native of Groton, earned her undergraduate degree in Latino studies with a minor in Africana studies before attaining her master’s in public administration.

She will travel to Rome for her Fulbright orientation and then be assigned to an area in the southern part of Italy.

“I’ve been thinking of doing something like this ever since high school and then I went to an information session on the Fulbright here at UConn,” says Irizarry. “The UConn Writing Center, where I also work, was a big help in giving me feedback on my application. I knew it was going to be competitive because there are only eight spots in Italy.”

Irizarry says her time at the Writing Center helped inspire her to teach English.

“It wasn’t just tutoring the students on how to write, it was more collaborative,” says Irizarry. “It’s great to see the excitement from the students when they feel like they have accomplished their goals. It made me feel that the English teaching assistant would be a good fit for me.”

“Lizzy’s students in the Writing Center are lucky to have her,” says Sarah Bertekap, an instructor of first-year writing. “She’s even offered me helpful feedback on early drafts of my dissertation. Her creativity, strong listening skills, and passion for community building will serve her well in her Fulbright work in Italy.”

The UConn School of Public Policy coordinates an immersive graduate internship program in which students complete nearly 600 hours of work for local public service organizations. Irizarry regularly went above and beyond in her role at Community Partners in Action (CPA), filling that organization’s needs, and led a number of community engagement initiatives around criminal justice reform and fostering welcoming community conversations around reentry.

Lizzy Irizarry.
Lizzy Irizarry (contributed photo).

She was involved in CPA’s Belonging, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (BEDI) efforts and was instrumental in the creation of the organization’s workplace, equity, and anti-discrimination policy.

“With Lizzy’s work, this policy reinforces the organization’s commitment to Equal Employment Opportunities and aims to ensure a workplace free from discrimination, harassment, and racism of all forms,” says Ryan Baldassario, director of engagement for the School of Public Policy. “It was a pleasure to work with Lizzy in the career preparation process and her early days at her internship. Only weeks into the role I was no longer directing her but merely serving as a sounding board for her ideas, passions, and new ideas.”

Irizarry also worked with the Jumpstart program while at UConn, a national program in which college students coach pre-kindergartners on literacy skills. She was also involved in the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center and the Peruvian and Puerto Rican Student associations.

“I am a first-generation student, so this is really big for my family,” says Irizarry, whose mother is from Peru and father is from Puerto Rico. She also has an aunt in Italy who she plans on seeing.

She is considering attending law school following her Fulbright work and would like to work in the federal government.