Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship


The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship was launched in 2013 as a new component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It sends U.S. citizens abroad to engage in an academic year of digital storytelling projects in up to three countries on globally significant themes. This Fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society.

The wide variety of new digital media tools and platforms has created an unprecedented opportunity for people from all disciplines and backgrounds to share observations and personal narratives with global audiences online. These storytelling tools are powerful resources as we seek to expand our knowledge of pressing issues and build lasting connections between Americans and citizens of other countries.

The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship accepts proposals to undertake an in-depth examination of a globally relevant issue or issues in one country, or in multiple countries, by comparing and contrasting how that issue is experienced from one country to another. Utilizing a variety of digital storytelling tools, including text, photography, video, audio, graphic illustrations, and/or social media, Fellows will tell their stories, or the stories of those they meet, publishing their work on a dedicated blog hosted on the National Geographic website. Stories deemed by National Geographic to be of interest or merit may be considered for publication on other National Geographic platforms. In addition to receiving Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.), Fellows will receive instruction in digital storytelling techniques applicable to Fellows’ projects, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, and other relevant training from National Geographic staff prior to their departure. Fellows will be paired with one or more National Geographic editors for continued editorial direction and mentoring throughout their Fulbright award period. Fellows will provide material for the blog at least once per week, and will have the opportunity to develop additional content for use by National Geographic and the U.S. Department of State.

Visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website for complete application, eligibility and program details.

Fulbright-National Geographic Fellows

2016-2017 Fellows

Christina Botic 
Serbia and Croatia 
Shifting Cultural Landscapes of Former Yugoslavia: Charting the Impact of Mass Migration 
Christiana Botic is a Serbian-American documentary photographer and filmmaker who, while traveling to Serbia to document her own family history, learned that, like many families in the former Yugoslavia, it was influenced by migration and impacted by the creation of borders. She will travel to Serbia and Croatia to document the impact of mass migration of Syrians and other refugees/migrants on the cultural landscape of these two countries, divided by the EU border. Christiana plans to travel the Balkan Route and create an interactive map featuring stories of those who are moving through or residing along this path. Currently based in New Orleans, she received her BA in Screen Arts and Cultures from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Lauren Ladov 
Seed Stories 
Lauren Ladov is a local food systems advocate and educator based in Atlanta, who received her BA from Emory University with a dual focus on Film and Media Studies and Philosophy. Through partnerships with local farms and nonprofits, Lauren facilitates food education programming, manages community gardens, and develops training and multimedia resources for educators. In working with youth in urban gardens, she witnessed how growing food has the power to heal communities, both physically and spiritually. For her Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling project, she will share stories of the seeds sown in India by connecting with those striving to create sustainable, community-centered food systems. This project will produce educational media materials and platforms to engage and empower youth as advocates for future generations of seeds, farmers, and diverse ecosystems. 

Tim McDonnell 
Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda 
How Climate Change Is Fueling a Food Crisis in Africa 
Tim McDonnell is a digital multimedia journalist based in New York City. He will document how a changing climate is compounding longstanding problems with food insecurity and rural poverty in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. These three countries are all exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, but host unique challenges and opportunities as a result of their distinct political and environmental climates. His reporting will address science, technology, economic development, public health, and other stories at the intersection of climate change and agriculture, using video, blogging, and other digital reporting tools. Tim has a BA in English and Ecology/Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and is currently Associate Producer for Climate Desk, a collaboration of Mother Jones, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Slate, The Atlantic, Wired, Grist, Newsweek, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which produces multimedia journalism on climate change. 

Kevin McLean 
Malaysia and Ecuador 
Looking Up: An Expedition into the Rainforest Canopy 
Kevin McLean is an ecologist studying wildlife in tropical forest canopies using motion-sensitive cameras (camera traps). As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow he will travel to Malaysian Borneo and the Ecuadorian Amazon to survey canopy wildlife in two of the most biodiverse areas of the world. As he collects his scientific data, he will use writing, photos, and videos to provide a view of some of the least-known species in the forest. His research and stories will be made available to the public through a museum exhibit which will highlight canopy wildlife and the conservation threats they face. Kevin studied Earth Systems at Stanford University and recently completed his PhD in Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Ishan Thakore 
South Africa and Nicaragua 
Taming Rivers 
Ishan Thakore is a multimedia storyteller and global health researcher who uses film and writing to tell powerful stories. His project focuses on the tension between economic development and water resource management, and the trade-offs countries might make for economic growth. He will be documenting stories of people and industries impacted by South Africa’s Orange River Project and proposed canal in Nicaragua, and he'll create a series of short films portraying a nuanced look at the individual benefits and costs of large-scale development. Before his Fulbright, Ishan worked as a researcher/fact checker for the television show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. His research experience also includes work with USAID’s Digital Development Team, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, and Structured Stories NYC. Ishan has a BA in Public Policy from Duke University.


2015-2016 Fellows

Ari M Beser will travel throughout Japan to tell the stories of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Using photo essays, videos, and articles, his Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship will give voice to the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by nuclear technology today. These survivors, Hibakusha in Japanese, will be the subject of his blogumentary “Hibakusha: The Nuclear Family.”

Ryan Bell is a writer and photographer who travels the world documenting “cowboy” cultures. He’s ridden with the horsemen of Argentina, Canada, Mongolia, and the American West. For Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship project titled “Comrade Cowboys,” Mr. Bell will explore rural Russia and Kazakhstan where pastoralists are working to rebuild cattle industries decimated by the fall of the Soviet Union.


Janice Cantieri, is a journalist and recent graduate who will be spending her Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship traveling for nine months between the Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. She will use written stories and journals, images, and video footage to tell the stories of the Banaban Islanders, who were displaced to Fiji in 1945, and the stories of those currently facing displacement from Tarawa, Kiribati to Fiji as the sea level rise inundates parts of the islands.


Hiba Dlewati is a Syrian American writer who will spend nine months moving throughout Jordan, Turkey and Sweden to document and narrate the stories of the Syrian diaspora using multimedia storytelling. By the end of her Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, she hopes to produce a film that expresses the frustrations and triumphs of a people without a place, or perhaps, a people of many places.


Christina Leigh Geros, a Tennessee native, is a designer, researcher, and educator who received the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship to use videographic, photographic, and written narrative to give voice to the Ciliwung River and communities through an interactive website, cartographically registering each story and exposing the relationships between urbanism, ecology, and politics. 


2014-2015 Fellows

Michael Waldrepis a documentary filmmaker and multimedia artist who traveled to Mexico City to examine its people and neighborhoods.

Anthropologist Erin Moriarty Harrelson tapped into her own experience as a deaf person to explore the emergence of deaf culture in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Filmmaker Daniel Koehler is creating a documentary examining culture change among the San people of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.

Artist and educator Mimi Onuoha traveled to the United Kingdom to explore the chasms and intersections between the real and online lives of a diverse group of Londoners.

Ann Chen, an artist and researcher, mapped the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada using collective storytelling and citizen science.