USF's Top Tier Fulbright Scholars

Five students are among the recipients of the most competitive postgraduate scholarships


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 20, 2012) – Five University of South Florida students are among recipients of the most competitive postgraduate Fulbright Scholarships offered.  A remarkable professional soccer-playing biomedical researcher, two outstanding musicians, an innovative engineer and a pioneering anthropologist share the honor. 


Zak Boggs, a USF graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and a master’s degree in marketing, and Ryan Salazar, a senior Honors College student majoring in music education, have been awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Program Study Grant scholarships to the United Kingdom. Charles Dillon Swift, another music major, has been awarded the corresponding scholarship to study in Germany. Also headed to Europe is Trina Halfhide who was awarded the Fulbright US Student Program Research Grant scholarship to Norway.  Anthropology graduate student Anne Pfister is receiving the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Research Grant to Mexico.


In each case, the recipient is among a select few and together they represent USF’s first appearance at this top echelon of the Fulbright program. The Fulbright grants will cover their costs of round-trip transportation abroad and maintenance for the academic year.


In the most competitive of the programs, Boggs and Salazar are two of only 35 students to study in the UK; Swift is one of only 80 students to study in Germany; Halfhide is one of only 15 students awarded a full grant for research in Norway; and Pfister is one of only 18 students awarded Garcia Robles Research grants to Mexico.  They are among over 1,600 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2012-2013 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Program. 


“This is another break-out moment for the University of South Florida and adds to a record of notable firsts this year,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox. “Earlier, we were delighted to learn that senior electrical engineering major Jean Weatherwax has been awarded a prestigious Marshall Scholarship for postgraduate study in London. And now we also celebrate the announcement of USF’s first Udall Scholarship winner, Shaza Hussein, who becomes one of just 80 undergraduate students nationwide — and the only one in Florida — to earn the $5,000 award. Clearly, our strategic emphasis on student success has taken root and is bearing handsome results.”


Zak Boggs


Boggs will pursue a master’s degree in medical sciences at the University of Leicester under the mentorship of Dr. Ian Eperon, examining potential cancer treatment pathways through mRNA splicing.  Currently a professional soccer player with the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS), he represents the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the College of Business at USF. His leadership in both areas was transformative as he developed into an award-winning scholar-athlete. He was recognized recently as Humanitarian Player of the Year. The multi-faceted scholar aspires to earn an MD/Ph.D. degree and become a contributor to cancer research.


While at USF, Boggs was the captain of the Men’s Soccer Team and was honored as the USF Student-Athlete of the year, the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and as an ESPN Frist Team Scholar All-American. He was also awarded the John Wooden Citizenship Cup by Athletes for a Better World. Boggs has an extensive community service record with Moffitt Cancer Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and as a volunteer assistant coach for the Foxboro (Mass.) High School Soccer team.


When asked about his motivation, Boggs speaks lovingly and passionately of the grandmother he lost to cancer and the contribution he hopes to make to patient centered treatments and cures. These passions are rooted in Boggs’ upbringing in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains (Vienna, WV), an area infamous for its cancer clusters.


Ryan Salazar


Salazar will pursue a master’s degree in music education at the Institute of Education at the University of London under the mentorship of Professor Lucy Green. Another transformative leader, Salazar represents the USF Honors College and the College of The Arts where he has developed into an award-winning scholar focused on educational reform. Originally from St. Petersburg, Salazar’s commitment to make a difference for children in the public schools is deep and passionate. He plans to earn a Ph.D. in education and pursue a career in public education.


Salazar has been recognized with the USF Undergraduate Research Award for his work with Assistant Professor of Music Education Clint Randles in the fields of informal music pedagogy, innovative musical practices, and teacher preparation. He was selected as one of 20 students from a student body of over 46,000, nominated by faculty in 2011, to receive the prestigious Golden Bull award. This highly selective honor goes to a few undergraduate and graduate students at USF for extraordinary leadership, scholarship and service to the life of the campus.


Salazar has served as the president and student representative to the Dean and Provost on the College of The Arts Council and as the drum major (conductor) of the USF marching band, Herd of Thunder.


The Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers recognized Salazar’s scholarship by selecting him from a national pool as one of 30 students to attend the Institute in 2011. In addition to his academic achievements, Salazar has taught all grade levels K-12 in three different school districts as a reading tutor, substitute teacher and a marching band instructor.


Charles Dillon Swift


A senior majoring in trombone performance, Swift will pursue a one-year master’s degree in musical instrument training in Germany. He will study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock under renowned classical trombonist Jamie Williams. Swift represents the USF School of Music where he has developed into an award-winning trombone performer who has made impressive contributions.


Selected to receive the Presser Award, given to the most outstanding music undergraduate student at a university, as selected by the president and the head of the music department, Swift has also been awarded the USF Presidential Scholar Award, the Dorothy M. Smith Music Scholarship and a USF Talent Grant.


The Satellite Beach, Fla., resident is an accomplished musician and has studied and performed at classical music festivals in Eisenstadt, Austria, Greensboro, N.C., Hot Springs, Ark., and with the London Symphony Orchestra.  He was also a featured soloist at the USF Bone Day. Swift has a published article in the International Trombone Association Journal and is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators. He would like to teach on the university level and perform in a full-time orchestra.


Trina Halfhide


After receiving her master’s degree from USF in environmental science and policy and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies –Trinidad & Tobago in environmental and natural resource management and environmental biology, Halfhide is working toward her Ph.D. in engineering science in the USF College of Engineering


Her research focuses on microalgae and their ability to produce valuable compounds that turn into algal biofuel products. In 2010, she spent five weeks in Norway interning and researching at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, where she will return to fulfill her Fulbright.


Halfhide has published her research in the journals of Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry and Environmental Monitoring and Assessment and presented her research at the IWA Leading Edge Technology Conference. Halfhide has interned at Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission and she has been a water analyst for Environmental Research and Design, Inc.


She is Principal Investigator for the USF Solar Initiative funded by the USF Student Green Energy Fund and received a grant of $160,000 for the initiative. She also works as a research assistant for Sarina Ergas in USF’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


The USF chapter president for Engineers for a Sustainable World, Halfhide is also a mentor for Women to Women, a member of the USF Triathalon Team –Tribulls – and was treasurer for the Geography Club.  She is a recipient of the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Fellowship, mentored by Professors Delcie Durham and Maya Trotz.  In 2009, she received the USF Tharp Endowed Scholarship Fund Graduate Award for students in the sciences.


From Trinidad and Tobago, Halfhide is eager to integrate her newly acquired research skills and knowledge into solving environmental problems around the world. 


Anne Pfister


Enrolled in the USF College of Arts and Sciences, Pfister is pursuing her Ph.D. in applied anthropology with a concentration in biocultural medical anthropology.  Her Fulbright research proposal focuses on cultural paradigms of deafness in Mexico City, and identity and language socialization among Mexican youth.  In 2010, she was awarded a grant by the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean for her preliminary research with the deaf community in Mexico City.


Upon her return to the United States, Pfister will analyze the data collected in Mexico for her dissertation. As a collaborative investigator, her research will be informed by, and shared with the Mexican deaf community through various avenues.


Pfister‘s academic achievements have been noted inside and outside of the classroom. She has been an instructor and her research has been published in Technology and Innovation: Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors. She has also presented her research at the Annual Meeting of the Florida Academy of Sciences, the International Conference for Research in the Social Sciences, the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology and the USF Graduate Student Organization Conference.


In 2011, she was awarded the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant and she was nominated for a Philanthropic Educational Organization Scholar Award, which recognizes excellence in scholarship.


Her volunteer service includes not-for-profit organizations in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Colorado and she has taught elementary and middle school students in Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.


Pfister received her master’s degree from the State University of New York and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.  Pfister, who hails from Denver, is fluent in Spanish and continues to work towards conversational proficiency in Mexican Sign Language. She has been mentored at USF by Fulbright Scholar Daniel Lende, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.


The Office of National Scholarships identifies, recruits and mentors high-achieving students to apply for national merit scholarships across all disciplines. The scholarships and fellowships are for creative, motivated and academically strong students who are leaders in and out of the classroom. For more information, visit or call (813) 974-3087.


The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.