Tony Zhou ’19, left, with his mentor Tinenenji Banda, J.S.D. ’14, Cornell alumna and a lecturer in the Private Law Department of the University of Zambia.

Student works for global change through Fulbright program

Even as a high school senior, Tony Zhou ’19 knew he wanted to pursue a path beyond borders. That’s why – with an eye on the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and its international relations minor – he applied to Cornell.

Now, through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Tony is spending his post-graduation year assessing court efficiency and access to justice in rural Zambia.

Zhou is working with colleagues at the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research on his third stint in Zambia. “Joining a community of people working for change and seeing their growth along with my own – that’s what really made me want to return after I graduated,” he said.

Zhou is one of nine Cornell students and new alumni in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Other participants are: 

  • Amy Allen ’14, College of Arts and Sciences: Ukraine, “Stigmatization and Healthcare Engagement of HIV Positive, IV Drug Abusing Women in Ukraine”;
  • Kate Ellen Dean ’12, ILR School: Brazil, English teaching assistantship;
  • Naomi Egel, doctoral student, government: Switzerland, “Regulating the Weapons of War”;
  • Kendra Kintzi, doctoral student, development sociology: Jordan, “Powering Change: Renewable Energy and Socio-ecological Transformation in Jordan”;
  • Dustin Liu ’19, ILR School: Malaysia, English teaching assistantship;
  • Etinosa Obanor ’18, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: South Korea, English teaching assistantship;
  • Preethi Ravi ’19, College of Human Ecology: India, “Intra-household factors contributing to gender-based nutritional inequalities in India”; and
  • Darin Self, doctoral student, government; Indonesia, “Competing for Power: Identifying Institutional Influence in Authoritarian Regimes.” 

Promoting research and teaching in more than 155 countries, both the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship Program for doctoral students are funding opportunities that the Einaudi Center is equipped to direct. The center provides counseling, workshops and application advice, which has helped more than 80 Cornell students and alumni gain entry into those programs in the past five years.

“The Fulbright program is competitive, and it can take students just about anywhere in the world,” said David Holmberg, Cornell’s Fulbright adviser. “But you need to think thoroughly about where it is you plan on going.”

Zhou, who majored in economics and philosophy with a minor in international relations, first worked abroad as a freshman through the Einaudi Center’s Institute for African Development (IAD), which provided a summer mini-grant for a community-oriented project in Kenya. There he worked with doctoral student Gelila Abebe Alemayehu on a Project for Peace, establishing an economically sustainable community kitchen with a local disabilities center.

As his interest in sub-Saharan Africa grew, Zhou went on to intern in Zambia during his next two summers. He contributed to a multi-year project on access to justice by researching court efficiency in urban Zambia. During his time in Lusaka, he worked under the guidance of Tinenenji Banda, J.S.D. ’14, part of IAD’s network of Cornell alumni spanning the African continent.

Now Zhou is back in Zambia conducting his own related research through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

“In the course of daily life abroad – the people you meet, the culture you’re immersed in and the vibrancy around you – that’s made me realize that I want to spend more time abroad,” he said. “My Fulbright was one of the best ways for me to do that.”

Zhou has some advice for students considering applying for a Fulbright.

“I think what matters above all else and shines in your application is your genuine interest,” he said. “Apply with a purpose. Even if you’re not sure about it, you will find your purpose in the process. Ask yourself: What role does this opportunity fill in my life?”

Priya Pradhan ’22 is a writing intern at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli