Six URI sophomores awarded 2024 NOAA Hollings Scholarships

URI raises total of recipients to 48 since scholarship program started in 2005

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 15, 2024 – The University of Rhode Island is proud to announce that six sophomores have been awarded the nationally competitive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship for 2024. The award is the most prestigious scholarship granted to undergraduates in the marine and atmospheric sciences.

The Hollings Scholarship program aims to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, promote public support for environmental stewardship, and prepare students for careers in public service at agencies like NOAA. Awarded annually to about 120 students nationwide, the scholarship provides $19,000 in funding for two years of undergraduate study along with a paid summer internship at a NOAA facility anywhere in the United States.

The 2024 URI Hollings Scholarship recipients, all students in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, are:

  • Mary Brantley, a member of the honors program majoring in marine biology from Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Grace Dandeneau, a major in marine biology and animal science from Foster, Rhode Island;
  • Alec Duffy, a marine biology major from Elon, North Carolina;
  • Grace First, a marine biology major from Canton, Connecticut;
  • Nicole Kobasa, a member of the honors program majoring in marine biology from Mansfield, Massachusetts;
  • Brooklyn Mitchell, a major in marine biology and wildlife and conservation biology from Westerly, Rhode Island.

“We are incredibly proud of our students for earning these prestigious scholarships,” said Kathleen Maher, director of the Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities. “The Hollings Scholarship program provides an invaluable opportunity for them to gain practical experience in the marine and atmospheric sciences, and we are thrilled to see their hard work and dedication recognized.”

“The Hollings Scholarship has been a transformative experience for our students, providing them with the resources and support they need to pursue their passions in the marine and atmospheric sciences,” said Jacqueline Webb, professor of biological sciences and the George and Barbara Young Chair in Biology, who coordinates the Marine Biology Program. This year, she and Maher provided encouragement, guidance, and feedback to 23 Hollings applicants.  

“We are excited to see what the future holds for these talented individuals as they continue their academic and professional journeys.”

Grace First

Recipients will meet their national Hollings cohort for a conference at NOAA Headquarters in May 2024. In the summer of 2025, the students will work alongside leading NOAA researchers during their internships, gaining valuable experience in their fields of study. They will report on their work at NOAA Headquarters at a conference at the end of that summer and will also receive funding to present their work at two scientific conferences of their choosing.

Grace First hopes the Hollings Scholarship and NOAA internship open up new avenues for her. She has been interested in sharks, skates and rays since she was a child, and she’s added to that knowledge in her studies at URI and in an internship last year, she said. 

Alec Duffy

“My main goal for the NOAA internship is to further my field research experience,” said First. “I got research experience last summer through a coastal and environment fellowship with [biological sciences professor] Brad Wetherbee and I really enjoyed it. I’m excited to experience a new field through NOAA.”

“I was ecstatic to hear that I was named a Hollings Scholar. I startled my roommate shouting in excitement when I first found out,” said Alec Duffy, who hopes to do research on deep sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems or sea floor mapping during his internship. “I’m grateful to my friends and family for supporting me and especially Dr. Jacqueline Webb and Kathleen Maher for helping me through the application process.”

Mary Brantley

For her internship, Mary Brantley wants to conduct fisheries research that may be used for conservation. “I’m currently focused on sharks and am interested in this type of research because sharks, as top predators, have an incredibly important role in the ecosystem,” she said. “The internship will hopefully give me the opportunity to connect with top scientists and fellow marine science students from across the country, as well as conduct research on species not found in Rhode Island.”

Brooklyn Mitchell

Brooklyn Mitchell said she’s interested in doing research on corals or reef fishes during her internship – areas she hasn’t studied yet. “Although I’m fascinated by coral reefs and would love to be involved with reef restoration, I am hoping my Hollings internship helps to solidify my focus.” she said.

Next fall, Nicole Kobasa will travel to Bermuda to take classes and do research on coral reef ecology. She hopes to use what she learns during her NOAA internship, where she is eager to improve her research skills and explore topics that she may want to specialize in.

Nicole Kobasa

“I have always loved being outdoors and interacting with marine wildlife whether it is at an aquarium or the beach,” she said. “I have developed a passion for protecting marine species and their environment and I hope to use environmental education to inspire other people to feel the same.”

“It has been my goal to get the Hollings Scholarship since junior year of high school so it is definitely a great feeling to see all my hard work pay off,” said Grace Dandeneau, who would like to work on conservation and research of cetaceans and sea turtles. “I hope the internship and scholarship will give me the means and opportunity to explore research that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish on my own in Rhode Island.”

Grace Dandeneau

This year marks the 16th consecutive year that URI students have been named Hollings Scholars. Since the start of the program in 2005, 48 URI sophomores have been awarded Hollings Scholarships, which have provided close to $900,000 in scholarship funds and career boosting internships. This year’s recipients are the second largest cohort of URI Hollings Scholars; in 2022 eight URI students were selected, more than any other institution in the country. 

For more information on the program, go to the Hollings Scholarship website.

URI students interested in applying for the Hollings Scholarship are encouraged to contact Kathleen Maher in URI’s Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities. While institutional endorsement through the office is not required for the Hollings, the office has offered guidance and support for candidates since it opened in 2009. For more information, email