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ASU students awarded Melikian Center undergraduate research fellowships


Group of students posing in front of screen with someone on Zoom

From left: Kenan Podzic, Pradyoth Velagapudi, Mia Osmonbekov and Iroda Makhmatjonova. Arnulfo Acedo is pictured on screen via Zoom. Photo courtesy the Melikian Center

March 07, 2024

By Victor Johnson

The Melikian Center at Arizona State University has awarded its 2024 undergraduate fellowship to five outstanding recipients: Arnulfo Acedo, Pradyoth Velagapudi, Kenan Podzic, Mia Osmonbekov and Iroda Makhmatjonova.

The fellowship awards undergraduates in any major, who have a demonstrated interest in the politics, economy, history, religion, language or culture of any of the countries of Eurasia and Eastern Europe.

Winners receive a scholarship of $1,000; get to work directly with faculty members working on the region of Russia, Eurasia, and East Europe; gain experience in research design, event planning or administration; and have the opportunity to meet with scholars and diplomats.

This year marks the fifth cohort of fellows. Learn more about the 2024 fellows:

Arnulfo Acedo, a first-generation Hispanic student from Tucson, Arizona, is pursuing a global studies degree with double minors in Spanish and political science. His academic focus centers on the Balkans and the North Macedonian government.

"This past summer, I participated in a study abroad program in Greece and North Macedonia, immersing myself in the intricacies of Balkan politics, economics and social dynamics," Acedo said. "My experience particularly drew me to North Macedonia, a country with a rich yet challenging history, a fledgling democratic government and a growing economy."

Pradyoth Velagapudi, a dedicated computer science major, has a profound interest in history and foreign relations. His career aspirations lie in fields related to foreign interests or national security, where he hopes to leverage his technical skills for impactful policymaking.

Velagapudi says his involvement in the Model UN program and SUNMUN at ASU has sharpened his understanding of global issues and diplomacy. His curiosity about the intersection of technology and policy provides him with a sense of purpose in his academic and professional endeavors.

Kenan Podzic, a second-year student majoring in political science and economics, is a first-generation Bosnian student whose academic interests revolve around Eastern European politics and ethnic relations.

Podzic is currently collaborating with Melikian Center Faculty Affiliate Danko Sipka on a research project involving the collection of materials for an upcoming online course. 

Mia Osmonbekov, a second-year student studying journalism with a minor in Spanish, hails from the Kyrgyz Republic. Her academic pursuits are centered around Central Asia, a region she is deeply passionate about. She says her dream is to become a foreign correspondent, tackling pressing issues such as the influence of Russian mass media on Kyrgyz politics and analyzing the outcome of China surpassing Russia as the Kyrgyz Republic’s main trading partner.

This summer, Osmonbekov plans to pursue an immersive internship in Argentina to further hone her journalistic skills and broaden her global perspective.

Iroda Makhmatjonova, a first-year student majoring in political science and nonprofit leadership management, has recently embarked on her academic journey at ASU. Currently residing in Turkey, Iroda has a keen interest in international relations and diplomacy.

She is fluent in five languages — including English, Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek and Turkish — and is currently learning Hindi.

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