Recent Graduates Selected for Prestigious Fulbright Grants

Malisa Heard and Mohammed Jagana

L to R: Malisa Heard and Mohammed Jagana

September 13, 2018

Two recent graduates of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were chosen for the highly competitive Fulbright US Student Program. Since 2008, the University has had 33 students participate in this prestigious program.

Malisa Heard applied for a Fulbright award while studying abroad at the University’s Paris, France location during the Fall 2016 semester, with encouragement from Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., Assistant Provost for Global Initiatives and Associate Professor of French. Originally from Covington, GA, Ms. Heard had never been outside of the US before attending college.

She majored in Psychology and will teach English in Côte d’Ivoire for a year before pursuing either law school or graduate school. Ms. Heard previously tutored English language learners through the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies’ Free Adult Literacy Program and plans to apply some of the skills she learned to her Fulbright post.

“In my role, I will not only teach, but also share stories and anecdotes about American culture, always mindful that I am a representative of the Fulbright program and my country,” said Ms. Heard. “I feel as if I am a cultural ambassador.” —Malisa Heard

Experiencing life abroad is a priority for Ms. Heard. “I went to Paris without knowing anyone else in the program,” she remarked. “I was able to connect with other St. John’s students as well as locals. I am confident that I will be able to do the same in Côte d’Ivoire, and make more lifetime connections.”

“When Ms. Heard arrived at St. John’s, she was set to major in Chemistry,” noted Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Provost for External Scholarships and Fellowships, and Associate Professor, Department of History. “It is amazing what a liberal arts education can do, because within a year, she had changed her major to Psychology and was minoring in French, studying abroad, and planning to make a difference in the world in a way she had never thought possible.”

A native of Seattle, WA, Mohammed Jagana chose St. John’s because of its suburban-like campus and metropolitan location. For his Fulbright destination, he decided on the Netherlands “for its innovative approaches to education” and due to his interest in comparative politics. He has already been accepted to several law schools, but plans to defer admission for a year so that he may focus on the Fulbright experience.

“My hope is to learn more about the various cultures, identities, and perspectives that make up our world,” observed Mr. Jagana. “I firmly believe that cross-cultural understanding and inclusion are vital components of global progression.” —Mohammed Jagana

Mr. Jagana served on the Multicultural Advisory Committee as well as the President’s Society—the highest honor society for undergraduate students at St. John’s. He was also selected for the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students at St. John’s and the Stanford M.B.A. Future Leaders Program.

Most recently, Mr. Jagana interned with the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, as well as with St. John’s University’s Office of General Counsel. He previously served as a legislative research fellow for the New York State Senate’s 14th District and recently volunteered at the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, FL, with St. John's Serves.

“Mr. Jagana is an old-fashioned, New York success story,” said Dr. Tuchscherer. “The eldest child in his family, he left the comforts of Seattle for New York City. He never looked back, and has distinguished himself as one of the top students from St. John’s in recent years. One would be hard-pressed to find a student with his range of achievements and accomplishments.”

Mr. Jagana will teach English at an MBO college (a school oriented toward vocational training) in Amsterdam, and conduct research on the country's education system in conjunction with the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

“Through my numerous interactions with individuals throughout the US, and from around the world, I hope to show that what is so amazing about our country are the various identities, colors, perspectives, and beliefs we possess, and how eager and open I am to learning more about theirs so as to advance cross-cultural understanding.”