Spanish Major Earns Fulbright Award to Colombia

Elle Maier '24

Elle Maier '24 (photo provided)

Spanish major Elle Maier '24 from Fairport, NY, has won a 2024–25 Fulbright US Student award to Colombia. Maier is the fourth Geneseo Fulbright recipient this year and becomes the college’s fourth Colombia award winner for a fully funded position teaching in a university or post-secondary institution.

An avid music lover and cellist, Maier became entranced by the Latin music scene in high school and says they dived into cumbia, bachata, tango, and salsa, as well as the diverse styles in every nation from Guatemala to Chile. “I had traveled very little,” they say, “but when I closed my eyes and listened to reggaeton and salsa, I could imagine myself in Buenos Aires or Guayaquil.”

Since then, Maier’s journeys have taken them to Spain, Bolivia, Peru, and Nicaragua.  A spring semester in Argentina at the National University of Córdoba allowed Maier to “introduce myself to yet another South American landscape and further my Spanish proficiency in preparation for teaching next year.” Intercambio cultural is a two-way process of cultural exchange, Maier says, “so I plan to bring my whole, American, music-loving, literature-inspired self to Colombia as I take in as much of the region's rich cultures as possible.”

“What sets Elle apart is a commitment to and love of learning, consistently going above and beyond what is required to interact deeply with the materials and draw connections across the curriculum,” says associate professor of Spanish Lori Bernard. “Elle will make an exceptional Fulbright English Teaching Assistant because they love to learn and interact with new ideas, people, and cultures, both in and out of the classroom.”

Maier taught with Learning English and Spanish TOGETHER, a learning community founded in 2015 by two former instructors in the Department of Global Languages and Cultures where Geneseo students teach English to Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers. “That work requires qualities in mentoring and teaching, as well as patience and empathy, and Elle has excelled in working with those families,” says associate professor of Spanish Susana Castillo-Rodriguez. On campus, Maier also served as president of Peace Action Geneseo and the student Spanish club La Casa Hispánica.

After their Fulbright year, Maier plans to earn a teaching license and certifications in Spanish and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). They will continue working with immigrant learners through organizations such as the Ibero American Action League that provide translation, educational support, and direct family assistance.

Fulbrights at Geneseo

In six of the past seven 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. 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. Maier, the college’s 54th Fulbright award winner, joins other winners for this award cycle: Lily Shields ’23 (Uganda), Andrew Biittig ’23 (Germany), and Torianna Robleto ’24 (Honduras).

Seniors and alumni who apply for an award through Geneseo go through a collaborative and supportive internal application process. A committee composed of faculty and staff, some of whom are former Fulbrighters, review applications and interview applicants, ultimately making recommendations to the Fulbright Commission. This year’s committee members include Bernard; assistant professor of biology Mackenzie Gerringer; associate professor of German Cyndy Klima; study abroad associate director Emily McCrossen; and associate professor of sociology Lisa Meyer.

The Fulbright US Student 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