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Honors Alumnus Wins Fulbright

Meet Isabella Errigo, 2020 Honors Graduate and Fulbright Recipient

When BYU Honors Alumnus Isabella Errigo learned she was awarded a prestigious 2022 Fulbright Research Grant, she felt stunned. For several days, Errigo double-checked the award letter to make sure she read it correctly. The news has begun to sink in, and she is excited to travel to Ecuador to build on her master’s research about the impact of land use on aquatic systems. Errigo is a 2020 Honors Program graduate and is finishing her master’s degree in environmental science and sustainability from the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences at Brigham Young University.

During her undergraduate experience, Isabella completed an international development internship in Thailand where she worked with a small nonprofit organization that taught hill tribe villagers to live in a more environmentally and economically sustainable way. After her internship, she said, “I felt committed to learn about and contribute to greater socio-ecological resilience and environmental justice both locally and worldwide.”

Mentored research, especially her Honors thesis, also helped her discover her interest and passion for science. Working with Dr. Ben Abbott as her thesis advisor, Isabella researched “Human Health and Economic Costs of Air Pollution: An Expert Assessment,” published as her Honors thesis (see her thesis here). She said, “My time working for Dr. Ben Abbott [Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences] as an undergraduate student connected me with my [Fulbright] affiliate in Ecuador and helped me develop the skillset I need to execute my proposed [Fulbright] project . . . Additionally, the professors I have worked with have introduced me to new interests and provided me with more support than I could have ever hoped for. Their time, attention, and belief in me have helped me learn a lot, create new goals, gain confidence, develop as a person and a scientist, and find success in many forms.”

Isabella graduated with University Honors in 2020, and put her Honors experience and thesis research to good use right away as she began work toward her master’s degree here at BYU.

“Isabella possesses deep research skills and an innate ability to lead through consensus,” said Cory Leonard, associate director of the Kennedy Center for International Studies. “She navigates politics and differing perspectives effectively while focusing on getting results. These diplomatic skills will serve her well in helping ensure that her scientific research makes a wider impact.” Leonard first met Errigo through his Model UN class and later hired her as his teaching assistant.

Errigo begins her Fulbright experience in September. She will spend 10 months in Ecuador’s Choco Region researching how different types of land use in the Amazon affect biodiversity. Last fall, Errigo visited Ecuador for the first time and got a glimpse of what she will be doing for her Fulbright research. She is eager to begin her fieldwork, be in a new place, meet new people, and experience life amid such a rich culture.

Errigo said, “Despite Ecuador’s small size, it has an amazing amount of diversity. Not only is it one of the five most biodiverse countries in the world but also multi-ethnic with a wide variety of spoken languages and many different types of ecosystems.”

Errigo’s advice to those thinking about applying for a Fulbright Award is to just do it. She said, “Applying for such a big program can be daunting and completing the application is a lot of work, but it is totally worth it. I recommend working with your advisors and mentors. I could not have submitted my application if it weren’t for the many faculty and staff at BYU who supported me throughout the process. Talk to your mentors, tell them what you are interested in, and ask them for help. They want to see you succeed and are uniquely qualified to help you do so.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program funds over 2,200 awards each year for recent graduates and alumni to pursue graduate study, conduct research, or teach English in one of over 140 countries around the world. Those interested in learning more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program can contact the BYU Office of National Scholarships and Prestigious Fellowships at to schedule an appointment to speak with a Fulbright advisor.