Creative Writing Student Earns Fulbright Award to Israel

Julia Grunes '23

Fulbright winner Julia Grunes '23 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Julia Grunes ’23, an English (creative writing) and psychology double major from Monroe, NY, has won a 2023–24 US Student Fulbright award to Israel. She will spend the year as an English Teaching Assistant in Netanya, a Mediterranean resort city in central Israel. She becomes Geneseo’s 47th US Student Fulbright awardee and the first to Israel. 

At Geneseo, Grunes serves as co-managing editor of the SUNY-wide literary magazine Gandy Dancer and was previously the poetry editor of Iris Magazine. At her placement school, Grunes plans to start a literary magazine to connect American and Israeli culture and the larger community by mixing Hebrew, English, and Arabic writing to demonstrate that “a literary product can be made that unifies even amidst conflict.”

“Julia is a brilliant young writer. She is probably one of the five best students I have worked with in 30 years of teaching,” says Rachel Hall, professor of English and creative writing. “Her stories are beautifully executed, nuanced, and peopled with convincing and complex characters. The writing shimmers with intelligence and insight.”

Grunes grew up attending the synagogue in her hometown, where she learned the Hebrew alphabet, basic Hebrew phrases, and history of the Jewish homeland. Family visits to the country in 2013 and 2017, followed by a Birthright trip in 2022, motivated her to seek a long-term immersive experience in Israel.   

Grunes is a member of the Jewish student organization Hillel at Geneseo, which is committed to providing a pluralistic, egalitarian, and inclusive community, encouraging Jewish students to grow intellectually, spiritually, and socially. Hillel International is the nation’s largest Jewish campus organization on 850 colleges and universities, supporting more than 140,000 students.

After her Fulbright year, Grunes plans to enter an MFA or PhD program for creative writing. “A year in Israel is the only way for me to truly explore my heritage and find my voice as an author before applying to a graduate program,” she says. “As a writer, I wonder ‘What right do I have to tell a person’s story, a people’s story?’ Through the lens of an outsider, I don’t know if I have a right. Immersion in Israeli culture will allow me to create the connections that will allow me to write in a more nuanced and concrete way.”

Fulbrights at Geneseo

In five of the past six years, Geneseo has been named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in its annual article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. For the 2017–18 Fulbright cycle, Geneseo was the first dedicated SUNY institution to be named a Top Producer of US Student awards in any category—bachelor’s, master’s, research, or special-focus four-year institutions.

The Fulbright US Student Program provides grants for individually designed graduate study, research programs, or English teaching assistant programs in many foreign countries. Grunes is the first awardee of the seven semifinalists in this year’s competition, and reporting for the 2023–24 cycle will continue through April.

The US Student Fulbright competition is open to students and alumni. It is administered at Geneseo by Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills, who can be reached at and 585-245-6002. For more information about the Fulbright and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, visit Fellowships and Scholarships.

—Michael Mills