Illinois State University’s Benicia Colon of Grayslake, Illinois, has received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for the 2018-2019 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

She joins Kylie Ashton Maurer and Sydney Velez as the third recipient of a Fulbright Student Award for the academic year.

headshot of Benicia Colon

Benicia Colon

Colon of Grayslake, Illinois, will conduct research in Colombia, where she will also teach English in a post-secondary education setting. Colon, who earned a master’s in school psychology from Illinois State, will also engage in a community project of her own design, focusing on developing social emotional opportunities to support youth and families. Upon her return from Colombia, Colon plans to begin a Ph.D. program in comparative and international education.

Maurer of Normal, Illinois, earned an English teaching assistantship. A senior Spanish major, she will head to Colombia for a period of 10 months, during which she will teach English in a post-secondary education setting. While her teaching activities will consume much of her time, Maurer will also engage in a community project of her own design, developing an educational farming program for low-income/underserved communities. Upon her return from Colombia, Maurer hopes to be a multilingual nature educator focused on inspiring and empowering disenfranchised communities.

Sydney Velez posing at an airport terminal

Sydney Velez

Velez is  a senior public relations and English studies major from Oak Park, Illinois. Her Fulbright award supports formalized, advanced study at a Spanish institution of higher education. The award will pay tuition and living expenses as she pursues a master’s degree in corporate communication from the Instituto de Empresa (IE), Madrid, for a period of 11 months.

“The University community is incredibly proud of the achievements of Benicia, Kylie and Sydney,” said University President Larry Dietz. “Their efforts—and the Fulbright Program itself—embody the Illinois State goal of shaping informed and engaged global citizens.”

They are one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research, and teach abroad for the 2018-2019 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Illinois State University by Fulbright Program Adviser Lea Cline, and Fulbright Scholar Liaison Erin Mikulec.

The logo of the Fulbright Awards with the word Fulbright in all caps over a globe.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants —chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential—with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,900 U.S. students, artists, and early career professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English, and conduct research annually in over 140 countries throughout the world.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation by the United States Congress to the U.S. Department of State and managed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

In the United States, the Institute of International Education administers and coordinates activities relevant to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit