'U' produces most Fulbright scholars from public university

Monday, February 19, 2018 - 7:46pm

The University of Michigan received more Fulbright grants for the 2017-2018 academic year than any research university in the nation, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education. 12 University scholars, including faculty and professionals, received grants, the most of all public and private universities, for the 13th year in a row. Among all public and private universities, the University is tied for third with Princeton University and Northwestern University for most Fulbright students with 25.

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, awards about 8,000 grants each year. The awards are given to U.S. students, foreign students, U.S. scholars and visiting scholars; as well as teachers and professionals. The Fulbright Program seeks to foster international research and the exchange of ideas among people across the globe.

According to Beth Dutridge-Corp, a fellowships adviser at the University, the success of the grant proposals that are submitted by University students and scholars is due to the passion of the applicants from the University as well as the commitment from the staff at the University’s International Institute.

“There’s just a commitment to international education here that just really allows them to do well,” Dutridge-Corp said in an interview with the Daily. “We have staff here who are really dedicated, we make it our goal to meet with students at every point in the process. We read over applications in advising meetings, we lead writing workshops, we really spend the time to put forward as many resources as possible, so that they can really navigate the application and put forth a really strong one.”

Teaching assistant William Mel Paglinawan received a Fulbright-Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program grant through his home government in the Philippines. Started in 2004, the grant works to place native speaker instructors at U.S. institutions. While Paglinawan said U-M was his last choice of four possible placements, he said the Fulbright Program allows him to further his larger career goals and teach Filipino.

“I think being here at the University of Michigan … is both an honor and a responsibility on my part,” Paglinawan said. “It’s such an honor because the idea of becoming part of the one of the best universities in the U.S. and the world but it’s a responsibility on the other hand since I always want to put my best foot forward in order to provide a quality foreign language instruction not only for the sake of the University but also for the sake of the students who want to become better versions of themselves.”

In a press release, University President Mark Schlissel congratulated the University’s Fulbright scholars and students and said the Fulbright Program encourages impactful research and education opportunities abroad.

“I applaud our Fulbright scholars and students for their work to enhance cultural appreciation and achieve positive impact in countries around the globe,” Schlissel said. “U-M’s leadership in international education advances the highest values of peace and understanding, while demonstrating our longstanding commitment to intellectual engagement that knows no borders.”

To apply for a Fulbright grant through the University, students must be a U.S. citizen, a current University student or alum, have completed their undergraduate degree by the time of their start date and have the necessary language skills for their destination. The application consists of the program’s Embark application, a grant purpose statement, an affiliation letter, a personal statement, a foreign language evaluation, three references and all transcripts. Applicants must also receive University endorsement after an interview.

According to Dutridge-Corp, the Fulbright program at U-M receives about 100 applications but about 200 students meet with her to get more information about the program every year.

Henry Dyson, director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, provides students with counseling and resources to apply to large scholarship programs such as the Rhodes and Marshall Scholars programs. While Dutridge-Corp heads the Fulbright program, Dyson said he advises students on whether the Fulbright Program is the best fit for them. Considering 11 countries are currently on the US State Department’s Do Not Travel list with more falling under a reconsider travel warning, assistance from the University when exploring grant options can be a very helpful resource. He described the program as one that requires students to put “all of (their) eggs in one basket” and said ONSF can help students find other programs to suit their specific interests and academic goals.

“What I often do when I talk to students about Fulbright is find out ‘what is it about your Fulbright application that really motivates you?’” Dyson said. “‘Are you applying to a Fulbright in Japan because you really want to study Japanese language, because you’re dedicated to Japan particularly, because you’re interested in teaching English in Asia?’ I may not have something that is all of those things but we might be able to find other good opportunities.”

Dutridge-Corp said she is consistently impressed by the passion of the students at the University, and their willingness to be adventurous with their grant applications.

“We currently have a student who’s over in Belgium who's working on a biology project that is just so fascinating,” Dutridge-Corp said. “When students say they want to go to Belgium or Benin, you just think, ‘How do they choose these locations?’ It’s just awesome that they are willing to go to these locations that not a lot of people are willing to go to, and I think those are the ones that usually stick with me.”

She spoke equally as highly of the scholars who received the Fulbright grants, saying that she felt lucky to be at a university with students and faculty of such a high caliber.

“I think our faculty are just awesome,” Dutridge-Corp said. “U-M is really well known for the level of research and for the amazing faculty that we have, and we think that there are just so many faculty who are really interested and committed to going abroad. The overarching mission behind any Fulbright Program, it’s really a people-to-people program. They are looking for people who want to engage with the community around them, and I think that is something that is very inherent in the students and faculty here at Michigan.”

Dyson said the University’s consistently high rankings in Fulbright grants makes the University a large talking point among higher education circles.

“When I go to national meetings … We are the envy of so many schools,” Dyson said. “If (ONSF) was trying to do all of (the other scholarships) plus Fulbright too, it just gets crazy … Having a dedicated Fulbright office, it’s why we’re as successful as we (are).”

Paglinawan emphasized the assistance he received from the University through funding and the ability to take courses. He also said by completing Fulbright Programs, students can contribute to the legacy of the University while promoting their own educational endeavors.

“I believe the University of Michigan has continued its pursuit of excellence so as part of that, for those students with Fulbright grants, the University has it all so we have to maximize our resources and in return, we students should also take an active role in becoming responsible for our learning by recognizing that we are accountable for our academic success,” Paglinawan said. “Once students’ academic success is achieved, you are all bringing honor and integrity to the University of Michigan.”