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Florida Poly Welcomes International Students to Further the Global Presence in Polk

August 25, 2023 News, Talent Pipeline

As the 2023-2024 academic year begins, Florida Polytechnic University once again plays a role globally, welcoming six international students and researchers and sending one of its students to Canada. 

Such exchanges are critical to Polk County’s place in a growing global marketplace. 

Florida Poly is a powerful economic engine within the state of Florida. By attracting world-class talent and intellectual capital, we are setting the stage for our region to be at the forefront of economic competitiveness,” said Mustapha Achoubane, senior advisor for international relationships at Florida Poly.  

Two students and three researchers are part of the United States’ Fulbright Program. One is a Charlemagne Prize Fellow from the Netherlands.  

“Welcoming distinguished scholars through prestigious programs, such as Fulbright and Charlemagne Prize Academy, helps build a culture of research innovation and serves as a strategic vehicle to foster economic growth in our region,” Achoubane said. “For the last 75 years, Fulbright has been a strong mechanism for excellence around the world. Research and development play a very important role in boosting economic development. It gives our faculty and industry partners the opportunity to interact with distinguished scholars who combine academia and applied solutions to the industry. At the same time, those scholars serve as ambassadors for the community at large. They are building economic bilateral ties with their host and home institutions and countries.” 

In the last five years, 28 Fulbright scholars have attended Florida Poly to study, learn and pursue academic and professional projects. 


The researchers at Florida Poly as Fulbright Chairs — working with professors to advance their work — are:  

  • Jasmina Casals-Terré, a professor at the University Polytechnic of Catalunya, Spain, whose research focuses on environmental engineering. 
  • Alejandro Rolan Blanco, also a professor at the University Polytechnic of Catalunya, who researches in the mechanical engineering field. 
  • Wenfang Xie, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, whose work is in the field of computer engineering. 

“I’m thrilled to work with Edwar Romero-Ramirez while I am on my Fulbright assignment at Florida Poly,” Rolan Blanco said. “We aim to establish a well-grounded research collaboration between Florida Poly and the Polytechnic University of Catalunya.” 

Romero-Ramirez agrees, envisioning a “long line of collaboration. Dr. Rolan Blanco has vast experience working with smart sensors for fault detection in power systems and wind turbine technology. Smart sensors help to ensure fault detection and safe operation of systems, especially with the intermittency of renewable energy sources. Joint work will evaluate the modeling of such systems and the application of the technology.” 

The Students

Alexander Burkhart and Jan Henry, graduate students from Germany, are pursuing degrees in data science. They are part of the Fulbright program. 

“The community at Florida Poly is incredibly welcoming,” Burkhart said. “I am excited to start my master’s program in data science and build an everlasting learning experience with my new colleagues at Florida Poly.” 

Sabine Kerssens, a Dutch systems engineer, arrived at Florida Poly as part of the European Charlemagne Prize Fellowship. This is awarded annually to a select few Ph.D. candidates, professionals and career researchers. She is working with Florida Poly faculty to research the effectiveness of European research institutes at commercializing advances in knowledge and using them for economic, social and environmental impact. 

As part of the Fulbright Program, Florida Poly student Mathew Deltano will study at York University in Toronto as a Killam Fellow. He is a junior studying computer science with a concentration in software engineering,  

Making the Grade

The students and researchers selected to participate in the programs are vetted before being accepted. 

“Scholars go through a rigorous and competitive selection process conducted by Fulbright and the U.S. Department of State,” Achoubane said. “Before they are selected, they must state their host institutions of choice that align with their research scope. Florida Poly is the only all-STEM university in the state of Florida. There is a strong synergy between Florida Poly and other STEM institutions around the world.” 

Although Florida Poly is the state’s newest university, it has gained a reputation of being among the best in its first decade of existence. It has been ranked first in Top Public Schools, third in Regional Colleges in the South and 59th in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs at schools that do not offer doctoral degrees, among others. 

“Yes, Florida Poly is a young university, but the cutting-edge research that is happening on campus, combined with a continued focus on STEM disciplines and our unique location, prove to be irresistible for many scholars who are looking to expand their worldview and complete a Fulbright program,” Achoubane said. 

Helping Economic Development

Exchanges such as these help Polk County become a little more global. 

“These exchanges put Polk County on the global map,” Achoubane said. “Once the scholars are here, they engage with the community in various ways, which benefits local businesses and organizations. These exchanges help to build a solid economic infrastructure within the county for future case studies between Polk County and international communities for economic development, and to have the academic bonds to support innovation and acquisition.” 

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