Two Valparaiso University Alumni Named Fulbright Scholars


Payton Hodson ’22 and Momin Mirza ’22, ’24 M.A., have been selected to receive grants and enter the Fulbright Scholar Program. Through Fulbright, these Valpo graduates will have the opportunity to meet, work, learn and live with the people of their host country while teaching and furthering the skills that will help them in their future careers. Hodson will be teaching abroad in Ecuador, while Mirza will be teaching in the Canary Islands near Spain. 

“It’s a huge honor to have earned this prestigious opportunity, I still can’t believe it,” said Hodson. “Fulbright has been on my radar ever since I had an incredible experience studying abroad in Costa Rica between my junior and senior year at Valpo.” 

A psychology and Spanish double-major with a minor in humanities, Hodson was also a student in Christ College — The Honors College, played on the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Team, and is a member of three honors societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Pi, and Psi Chi. She is currently finishing up a two-year post-undergraduate Orr Fellowship in Indianapolis where she has been employed at CREA LLC. As an Orr Fellow, Hodson has been serving in a multitude of roles, including DEI Programming and Education Coordinator, and was a member of the DEI and Continued Learning Fellow Leadership Teams. 

Outside of her Orr Fellowship, Hodson has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana as a Youth Mentor, and with Indy Reads, both in their nonprofit bookstore and as a bilingual tutor for adult learners in ELL Conversation Circles. Heading to Ecuador for Fulbright, Hodson will bring her experience in mentoring and teaching to a new setting while immersing herself in the community and culture. 


Mirza graduated from Valparaiso University with a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and a minor in humanities from Christ College — The Honors College in 2022, then with a Master of Arts in English studies and communication in 2024. He was involved in the Exercise as Medicine Club, Sigma Tau Delta, Math Club, and the Rifai Institute, where he helped to increase interfaith dialogue and organize the Muslim community on campus. Mirza and Hodson were in the same Christ College cohort during their time at Valpo, and both went on the study abroad trip to Costa Rica. 

Outside of academia, Mirza works with Compass International Family Center — an organization that helps international peoples learn and thrive in Northwest Indiana. There, he teaches middle school aged children to repair bicycles, ensuring they have the independent mobility to get around town. 

“If I can join something like that in the islands, I’d like to see where I can be of assistance to the needs of the community,” Mirza says. 

Hodson and Mirza are among a select number of U.S. citizens who earned opportunities to study, conduct research and teach abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected based on academic and professional achievement, as well as a record of service and leadership in their respective fields.

“Payton and Momin are unfailingly curious about the world, seeking ways to deepen their understanding of the Spanish language and to actively facilitate cross-cultural learning and dialogue, for themselves and for others,” said Anna Stewart, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Leadership and Service. “They leaned into such opportunities as students in the Valpo community and beyond, and I’m excited for their next chapter as they head to Ecuador and Spain as Fulbrighters.”

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

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