Alumni Ambassadors

Nishanta "Nishi" Rajakaruna

Nishi Rajakaruna headshot
Job title
Professor of Botany
Academic year
Sri Lanka - 2016-2017; South Africa - 2022-2023
Environmental Science
Sri Lanka - Serpentine Geoecology of Sri Lanka: Descriptive, Experimental, and Applied Studies; South Africa - Serpentine Geoecology of South Africa: Building Capacity via Teaching, Research and Mentoring

Dr. Nishanta “Nishi” Rajakaruna is a professor in the Biological Sciences Department at California Polytechnic State University. He has taught botany for 20 years and received two Fulbright Scholar Awards, to Sri Lanka and South Africa, as well as two Fulbright Regional Travel Program Grants, to India and Madagascar. On his Fulbright awards, he conducted collaborative research on the diversity and ecology of ‘harsh’ substrates such as metal-rich soils. In his host countries, he visited high schools, universities, and American Corners, and promoted opportunities for higher education and research in the United States. 

Nishi established long-term studies with his host country collaborators on the diversity and ecology of plants and lichens growing on understudied serpentinite rock outcrops of Sri Lanka and India, as well as in South Africa and Madagascar. His research has led to peer-reviewed publications with host country co-authors, including both colleagues and students. In his host countries, he has given seminars on opportunities for higher education and research in the United States, as well as on his global research on basic and applied geoecology. He has secured grants from the National Geographic Society to continue this collaborative work and has received the highest faculty honors from his university: Outstanding Faculty Advisor, Distinguished Teaching, and Scholarship Awards. Since his Fulbright experiences, Nishi has focused on outreach and mentoring, as well as promoting cultural and educational exchange at his home institution. He serves on the Fulbright Student Research Award and ETA Selection Committee and has advised both students and scholars on applying to Fulbright. 


Ask Me About: 

  • Promoting Fulbright opportunities for U.S. students, faculty, and staff 
  • Building community among Fulbrighters in the host country 
  • Promoting Fulbright opportunities for non-U.S. citizens 
  • Being a cultural ambassador for the United States as a naturalized U.S. citizen 
  • Balancing your professional expectations with your role as a cultural ambassador 
  • Engaging with the American Corner, Fulbright Commissions, and Public Affairs offices at U.S. Embassies in your host country 
  • Contributing to the Fulbright mission after a Fulbright 
  • Balancing your research and teaching statements in the Fulbright application with your statements on cultural ambassadorship and outreach efforts