Fulbright finalists continue long line of excellence

By Jim DeLa

Evan Teal and Kaithleen Coñoepan are New College's newest Fulbright Scholarship finalists.
Evan Teal and Kaithleen Coñoepan are New College’s newest Fulbright Scholarship finalists.

Kaithleen Coñoepan and Evan Teal have known each other since their first week on campus. In May, both are graduating.

And now, they have another bond — Both Novos have been named Fulbright Scholarship finalists and are preparing to spend a year abroad teaching and doing research.

Teal, a biology/chemistry AOC, will use his research grant to study fungi inside mosquitoes at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya. His research could provide clues as to why certain species carry diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Coñoepan, a classics/Spanish language and literature AOC who earned an English Teaching Assistant Program grant, will teach young students in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa.

Both have traveled abroad before. Teal did similar research at the Centre in Nairobi during an independent study project. That research, he says, formed the basis of his thesis, which he defended April 26.

“I’m really excited to go work with people I’ve already formed good relationships with, and also help people in the process,” said Teal.

Coñoepan previously spent a year in Spain, thanks to a Gilman Scholarship.

“I love teaching, and I’ve worked with kids in the past,” she said, “so I’m excited to be doing this,” she said.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. According to the program’s website, it is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

The Department of State  awards approximately 2,000 grants annually in all fields of study, and it operates in more than 140 countries worldwide. Fulbright U.S. student alumni populate a range of professions and include ambassadors, members of Congress, judges, heads of corporations, university presidents, journalists, artists, professors, and teachers.

New College’s fellowships coordinator, Nicole Gelfert, said earning a Fulbright is “an extraordinary accomplishment. It’s a distinction that I think will continue to be of great value throughout their careers.”

To date, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has selected 81 New College graduates to  participate in the program in over 30 countries, with the first New College awardee dating back to 1968.

“We have such an extraordinary track record,” Gelfert said.

Teal and Coñoepan said the application process, which took nearly a year to complete, was arduous but worth it. “My essays went through about 12 revisions,” Teal said. Coñoepan said they supported each other through the process. “The last days, when we were turning in our applications, were during finals. We were really tired.”

Both said they’re looking forward to their adventures. Coñoepan wants to see the volcanoes on the islands. “I’d like to learn Swahili,” Teal said.

After their trips, Teal and Coñoepan hope to continue their education.  “I’m applying for more fellowships,” Teal confided. “I’m a maniac. I’ll be going to grad school.”

For Coñoepan, perhaps a shift to study international relations or public policy to reach her goal: “A high-paying job.”

Coñoepan and Teal lauded the New College experience. “I’m thankful for my professors here at New College,” Coñoepan, said. “They’re the ones who really helped me out through the process.”

The application for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for 2020-2021 is now available. Applicants can pursue this award opportunity as rising fourth years, or as recent graduates. Students interested in learning more about Fulbright and/or applying should contact Nicole Gelfert at ngelfert@ncf.edu. The deadline to officially submit interest and commitment to pursuing an award this upcoming Fulbright cycle is May 31.  

— Jim DeLa is digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida. 


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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