CHC Students Claim the Prestigious Fulbright and Goldwater Scholarships

When third year CHC student and marine biology major Jenna Travers was at home in Astoria, Oregon over spring break, she decided to take her dog for a drive and get some coffee. While waiting in line, she checked her email and saw a message from the Goldwater Foundation, accepting her application for a STEM scholarship.

Jenna Travers
Jenna Travers

“I opened it, and it was ‘Congratulations’ — and I was not expecting it, but I was still in line for coffee in a drive through so you can’t get out,” Travers said. “I was trying not to freak out about that as I’m ordering coffee, so it was a weird moment.”

According to the Goldwater Foundation website, Goldwater scholarships provide up to $7,500 for sophomores and juniors to focus on their STEM research. Established in 1986, the Goldwater is considered one of the most prestigious scholarships available to undergraduate students studying natural science, engineering, or mathematics with an average acceptance rate of about 8% out of an annual application pool of about 5,000 students.

One of the reasons Travers was skeptical about qualifying for the award is because her research is a blend of social sciences and STEM. While she’s worked in more traditional STEM labs in the past, she is currently researching how glacier retreat affects pacific salmon and the resulting impacts on communities, combining her minors of geography, legal studies, and science communication.  

“My plans [with research] are to continue in that aspect, also bringing in some science communication aspect,” Travers said. “My thesis is looking at narratives of glacier retreat and salmon decline in Washington as well as risk forming about that and how the issue is talked about.”

Travers plans to present her research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium this May and hopes to get her thesis published as a research article. Travers has been drawn to research since her freshman year.

“I think it’s so interesting to ask these questions and go find the answers for yourself, even if it’s a minor question,” Travers said. “My first lab — I loved the research I was doing, but it was like ‘does lipid concentration affect the nutrition value for copepods of lipids and diatoms?’ It may not be a ground-breaking research question, but it’s still so interesting to find out answers.”

Travers believes that the research opportunities she received, both through the UO and the CHC, helped her with her Goldwater application.

“I think that professors here are so open to having students in their lab, especially as undergrads, and that’s really amazing,” she said. “The CHC specifically — they have a lot of opportunities for students through teaching them how to go out and find research, and I also think by [writing] the thesis. You know from day one that you have to write a thesis, so for students who are in the STEM field or STEM-adjacent, that means go and find a research lab.”

Over the summer, Travers will be working with a team in the North Cascades to measure glaciers. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation and said that winning this award reinforced to her that she was on the right track.

“It’s also just really exciting to have that recognition that my work has been meaningful,” Travers said. “Throughout this process, I definitely thought they were going to see that I do social science research and throw it out the window. It was very surprising but also very exciting [that I won].”

The Goldwater Scholarship isn’t the only award that CHC students have landed. Senior Lija Jones, a Communication Disorders and Science major, recently won the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.

Lija Jones
Lija Jones

The Fulbright Program enables students to travel abroad where they will work, live with, and learn from the people of the host country. The fellowship aims to promote mutual understanding across cultures by “allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think,” according to the Fulbright website.

As part of the English Teaching Assistant Program, Jones will be traveling to the Canary Islands to teach English to local students. She heard about the program through her sister and decided to apply since she was planning a gap year after graduation.

“Since I’ve always wanted to work with kids, I felt like this would be a great opportunity to get to learn about a different culture and still hold my interests and work with the children,” she said.

Jones had wanted to study abroad during her time at UO, but because of COVID-19 was not able to have the opportunity -- until now. She’s excited to use the ferry to explore the different islands, along with improving her Spanish.

“I definitely want to immerse myself in the host community and really get to engage in meaningful cultural exchanges, as well as put into practice all my language and teaching skills that I’ve learned for the benefit of the children and the host community,” Jones said.

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Daphne Gallagher and Director of the Communication Disorders and Sciences Program Samantha Shune were extremely helpful in helping her apply for the Fulbright award, as well as encouraging her thesis work as well, Jones said.

“I’m in Samantha’s lab right now, and she’s been a great mentor with my thesis and with my application,” Jones said. “Daphne has just been a huge support for me throughout the entire process, so I think that having connections with the UO faculty is definitely really important.”

As she finishes out her final undergraduate year and defends her thesis, Jones said it still doesn’t feel real that she’s going to be in the Canary Islands. In the future, she wants to work as a speech pathologist and by learning about different cultures, she hopes to serve a broader clientele.

“I actually had a speech sound disorder when I was younger and my speech language pathologist really helped me,” Jones said. “I really want to instill that same confidence that I got through speech language therapy to children I work with.”

For more information and support with distinguished scholarships please visit the UO Office of Distinguished Scholarships: or email


Story by Ella Norton, CHC Communications

Photos by Jasper Zhou, CHC Communications