Pretty Zakadan

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has been one of the most prestigious ways available for students to experience studying abroad. Zakadan joins a long list of celebrated and accomplished “Fulbrighters” to earn this honor.

The first thing CUW’s visiting Fulbright Student, Pretty Zakadan, wants you to know is that yes, “Pretty” is her real name—and that she was surprised to have it get so much attention here.

“When I first came here, I thought, ‘This is America, an English-speaking country, I have an English name, no one will comment about it,'” she says with a laugh. “But I get a LOT of comments about it! ‘Pretty, that’s your name, really?’ Yes, it is.”

The next thing she’d like you to know is how grateful she is to her family for helping her become all that she is. In particular, she appreciates her brother, Ahmed, who she says has been a “very, very, very big supporter,” and her mother, Safaa. “My beautiful, beautiful mother,” she says. “She’s the reason I have reached everything I have today. I wish she could be here with me.”

But what she really wants you to know is how excited she is to be visiting from her native Egypt to spend a year at Concordia University Wisconsin working on her master’s in rehabilitation science.

“Completing my master’s degree abroad has been a dream for me since I was a student,” Zakadan explains. “So this is a great opportunity for me. And getting to know different cultures, and different people, with different perspectives than I get by myself, not through any media or anything, this is amazing.”

75 Years of Broader Horizons

The Fulbright Scholarship was started by the program’s namesake, J. William Fulbright, who served as a United States senator from 1945-1974. As chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, he launched the program that bears his name in 1946. Since then, nearly 400,000 “Fulbrighters” from more than 160 countries have taken part in international exchange through the program.

Zakadan is here from as part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which “brings graduate students, early career professionals, and artists from abroad to conduct research and study in the United States.” It’s a prestigious program, with a rigorous application process that can last a year or more. Those who are selected are rewarded with an unmatched experience that can also be a launching pad to great accomplishments.

Pretty Zakadan gives a presentation on her Fulbright Student experience at the Concordia International Center during International Education Week.

In 75 years, Fulbright students and scholars include 61 Nobel Prize laureates, 40 heads of state or government, 76 MacArthur Foundation fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 16 U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

It’s not only the students and scholars who benefit, but also the schools involved. It’s only the second time CUW has hosted a Fulbright student, something interim provost Leah Dvorak hopes CUW can become more involved with. In particular, she’d love it if more students here would apply to become Fulbright students abroad.

And it’s not just for students. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers the opportunity for faculty members and other scholars (even retired ones) the opportunity to travel abroad for a year to teach and/or conduct research.

One thing that she thinks may be holding people back is the idea that because the program is so famous and so selective, would-be applicants may think they don’t have a chance of winning a scholarship. “But you never know until you try,” Dvorak says.

“If you look at the universities that send the most students, it’s schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Michigan, on down the line. All very elite institutions. And people might think, ‘Oh, we’re not in that league.’ But I would say, ‘Well, why not CUW?’ We have a lot of brilliant scholars here; we have a lot of fabulous students.

“We just have to start thinking of ourselves as being competitive for these things, and just go for it, and before you know it, we will become competitive for them. It only takes one, and then we’ll be on our way.”

A Full, Bright Future

As for Zakadan, she’s already on her way. She acknowledges that living and learning in America has been “a big adjustment,” but also that “thanks to people all around me, it has been a great thing to be here.”

The Fulbright experience will help her both by looking great on her resume and by providing insights and experiences you can only get through truly immersing yourself in another country. She has her sights set on one day earning a Ph.D., but also says she has “a lot to do” back in Egypt. “I’m learning so much that will help me be a better teacher and help students back in Egypt.”

Hopefully, the young woman named Pretty, who speaks excellent English, will one day share that questions about her English name helped spark meaningful conversations that led to lasting relationships that contributed to a beautiful experience here at Concordia University Wisconsin.

For more information about applying for a Fulbright scholarship at Concordia University Wisconsin, visit the Study Abroad scholarships page at

— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at or 262-243-4380.

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