Spanish Major Earns Fulbright Award to Colombia

Bryan Gilman-Orozco

Fulbright award winner Bryan Gilman-Orozco ’23 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Bryan Gilman-Orozco ’23, a Spanish major from Hudson, MA, has won a 2023–24 US Student Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to Colombia. Gilman-Orozco becomes the 49th Geneseo Student Fulbrighter and the third for Colombia, following Sarah Phillips ’18 and Isabelle Cirulli ’19.

“As a Jewish Latino raised in Massachusetts, I grew up with a serious conflict of identity,” he says. “My father, a Colombian immigrant who sacrificed his home for a better life, told me stories of his childhood in the impoverished areas of Cali, but his eyes always lit up when he spoke of his former Colombian home.”

Believing that new, sometimes challenging, environments are necessary for growth, Gilman-Orozco once worked in a restaurant alongside Latino immigrants from Guatemala, exchanging stories and creating a bond. “In that kitchen, I discovered a purpose,” he says, “to foster connections by means of culture in order to inculcate a fundamental acceptance of other heritages.”

Gilman-Orozco is grateful that Geneseo’s Global Languages and Literatures department emphasizes studying culture as well as language. “I came to understand that the language was far more than a set of irregular verb conjugations,” he says. “It was a tool I could use to connect with others and learn about the world, especially my Colombian roots.”

“Bryan focuses on building rapport with everyone around him, regardless of any socioeconomic or ethnic background, and he handles very well new environments or situations,” says Wesley Costa de Moraes, assistant professor of Spanish. “He clearly understands that in Colombia he will be acting as a true cultural ambassador of the United States and will represent his country with enthusiasm, responsibility, and cordiality.”

Gilman-Orozco likes to say his Jewish and Colombian ancestors “killed giants and fought with angels and were resolute in the face of guerilla warfare and drug cartels.” Yet those words will have little meaning unless he gives them context: “Culture is best experienced and appreciated through appreciating people’s lives and history, something I will do with the Colombians by teaching English and sharing my story while I learn about theirs.”

Gilman-Orozco will graduate summa cum laude this May. After his Fulbright year, he plans to enroll in a graduate program in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Oxford or University College Dublin. His aim is a professional teaching career in the US specializing in English as a Second Language.

Fulbrights at Geneseo

The Fulbright Foundation provides grants for individually designed study or research programs, graduate degrees, or English teaching assistant programs in many foreign countries. 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.

Gilman-Orozco is the third awardee of the seven semifinalists so far in this year’s competition, joining Julia Grunes ’23 (Israel) and Elizabeth Wisniewski ’23 (North Macedonia), along with alternates Samson McKinley ’23 (Taiwan) and Laura D’Amico ’18 (Italy). Reporting for the 2023–24 cycle will continue through April.

The 2024–25 US Student Fulbright competition application is now open to students and alumni. The program 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