15 WU graduates embark on Fulbright

| Staff Reporter

As a record number of freshmen flocked onto the Washington University campus this fall, fifteen graduates moved away from the United States, dispersing among different countries to address international challenges as a part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

In recent years, the University has had a relatively consistent number of Fulbright scholars, placing 10 students in the program for the ’09-’10 academic year, 14 in ’08-’09, 13 in ’07-’08 and eight in ’06-’07. The marked increase in scholars this year from last year supports the recent trend of growing popularity and success among Fulbright applicants from the University.

Depending on the number of applications received in a given year, the acceptance to the Fulbright Scholar Program has ranged from 26 percent to 45 percent, but it tends to hover around 38 percent, according to Toni Loomis, the University’s contact for the Fulbright program.

“I think our fluctuations reflect national trends to some extent,” wrote Dr. Amy Suelzer, assistant director of international and area studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and the University’s Fulbright program adviser.

“How large our number of applicants will be depends greatly on a variety of factors, but they are certainly larger than they were five years ago.”

When analyzing the recent success of Wash. U. Fulbright applicants, Suelzer attributed increased acceptance to the growing success of past scholars, which helped later students realize that a Fulbright scholarship was an attainable and rewarding opportunity to be earned.

Furthermore, the growth in the number of English Teaching Assistantships offered by the Fulbright program attracted applications from students looking for short transitional programs abroad after graduation.

Dean Joy Kiefer of Arts & Sciences, notably, has been actively promoting student awareness of competitive scholarships and fellowships, including the Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall and Truman scholarships.

Informing students of these opportunities early can help them prepare for the rigorous applications ahead and increase success rates.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is a program for the international exchange of students and scholars; it is currently operating in more than 155 countries. Founded by U.S. senator James W. Fulbright in 1946, the program aims to promote peace and understanding through educational exchange among participating nations.

Since its founding, the program has produced more than 300,000 alumni, from areas including science, technology and the humanities. More than 7,000 grants are awarded each year to support more scholars. These grants, which fund students for up to a year in their country of choice, are primarily sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

“The goal of the Fulbright is to promote cultural exchange, which doesn’t necessarily happen best through scholarly articles or inaccessible research,” wrote Emily Levitt, who graduated from Washington University in 2010 and is spending seven months in Croatia researching male identity and masculinity in relation to large-scale institutional changes.

Even though the newly awarded scholars have just begun working in their respective countries, the experience has been meaningful already.

“I am right at the beginning of my Fulbright grant, but it has already taught me how little I know about Mexican culture and the impact it has on America and vice versa,” said Kavya Naini, a graduate student who is currently analyzing the Mexican business culture and the relationship between the U.S. and Mexican economies and businesses.

Recent graduate Adina Appelbaum, who is studying migration and refugee issues in Cairo, also encouraged interested students to apply for the program: “Put forth a succinct application that demonstrates a strong topic focus, an impeccably planned out project and feasibility of implementation…The applicant must also convey their ability to go above and beyond to make the most of their opportunity to live abroad.”