TU grad wins ‘Triple Crown’ of language grants, scholarships

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi ’24 earns Fulbright, Critical Language scholarships, achieves university’s first Boren Fellowship winner

By Kyle Hobstetter

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi standing in front of the College of Liberal Arts
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi '24 just graduated with her master's degree in global humanities. She also just won three of the most prestigious grants and scholarships in education. (Alex Wright / Towson University)

Triple Crowns don’t just mean something in baseball or horse racing. For TU’s Ashley Hajimirsadeghi, it means winning three of the most prestigious grants and scholarships in higher education.

Her version of the Triple Crown consists of:

  • Winning an award from the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The Fulbright awards provide grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs outside the U.S.
  • Earning a Critical Language Scholarship, which is an immersive summer opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America's engagement with the world.
  • Becoming TU’s first recipient of the National Security Education Program’s David L. Boren Fellowship, which funds research and language study proposals in world regions critical to U.S. interests. Due to her commitments with the Fulbright and Critical Language Scholarship, Hajimirsadeghi had to decline the Boren Fellowship.

She capped off the academic year by graduating with a master’s degree in global humanities from the College of Liberal Arts on May 23. It’s been pretty exciting for Hajimirsadeghi, who says getting these opportunities is years in the making.

“It feels like a dream, because as a middle schooler, my dream was always to go to China,” she says. “I went to Korea in high school through a State Department scholarship, but I never thought anything like that would happen again. And so getting all these grants and scholarships is like a fever dream in some ways.”

This summer, Hajimirsadeghi will travel to Korea for her Critical Language Scholarship. It is the second time she has been awarded the scholarship—she received her first while completing her bachelor’s degree at the Fashion Institute of New York. The first scholarship also saw her studying in India instead of Korea.

She will return to the U.S. in August and then two weeks later travel to India for 10 months to work on her Fulbright project titled, “Rising Tides, Nationalism, and the Age of Anxiety: Documentary and Ethnographic Poetics.”

While many think that these types of awards go to students who study political science or STEM-related fields, Hajimirsadeghi applied based on both her global humanities degree and her history as a writer and artist.

“I have a career as a poet, a writer and a journalist, so my Fulbright project is actually an arts grant on writing ethnographic poetry,” she says. “So fusing together the theory and education I did in this master's degree with my arts background to create documentary poetry.”

Meet TU's other Fulbright Scholarship winner, Taylor Richardson

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When applying for these scholarships, Hajimirsadeghi worked with Towson University’s Office of Competitive Fellowships and Awards to make sure she was prepared for the process.

Through collaborating with director Mary Devadas, she found faculty and staff to read and edit her essay—she ended up having five drafts when all was said and done—and was also given a faculty mentor in associate professor Sarah Gunning, who works in TU’s English department.

Devadas says that like most TU students, Hajimirsadeghi was very modest about her achievements. “Tigers please come out of your hiding place,” Devadas likes to joke.

But once Devadas got in contact with her, Hajimirsadeghi readily accepted a chance to apply for these scholarships.

“While working on Ashley’s Fulbright I learned about her extensive portfolio that had the makings of a diplomat working for the U.S. Department of State,” Devadas says. “Chris Powers in the Office of International Initiatives and I were happy to work with her on her Boren Fellowship application and I am very proud of her hard work that enabled her to win her triple crown!

“I hope that many Tigers will come to the table to apply and put TU on the global map of awards. I want all our TU students to DREAM BIG just like Ashley!”

And while understanding languages comes easy to Hajimirsadeghi, she speaks nine including Chinese and Bengali, asking for help was a little bit more of a challenge.

“I grew up in an immigrant household where it’s a mentality that you have to do everything for yourself,” she says.

Hajimirsadeghi is a first-generation student whose father was from Iran and whose mother was from the United States.

“But I realized it was nice to have a community because this was not a solo act,” she says. “Most of the time you must build community when you do these programs. Dr. Devadas and the entire university were so supportive. It was nice to have people dedicated to helping you with applying to these programs.”

TU’s Office of Competitive Fellowships and Awards 

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