For the third straight year, and the sixth time since 2005, the University said Monday that more Fulbright grants were awarded to University students than those at any other U.S. institution for the 2012-2013 academic year.
There were 40 University students who received grants this fall — a record for the school. Harvard University came in second place with 31 students and Brown University ranked third with 29 students. The University also held the top spot for most students accepted in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was established in 1946 as a student exchange program for U.S. and foreign students, benefiting more than 155 countries worldwide.
Nearly 1,700 students received grants this year, and more than 300,000 students and scholars from across the world have received Fulbright grants since the program was created 66 years ago, about 44,000 of which are students from the United States.
The 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board oversees the administration and organization of the program in the United States and abroad, and selects the grant-receiving applicants.
Kelly Peckens, an academic program officer and Fulbright program adviser for the University, said Fulbright scholarship recipients at the University benefit greatly from exposure to various cultures and the enhancement of their careers or professional degrees.
“The goal of the Fulbright program for U.S. students is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people of other countries,” Peckens said in an e-mail interview.
Peckens said applicants submit individual academic projects and proposals, and students can seek guidance from University Fulbright advisers or from the University’s International Institute.
She added she is happy with how many students were accepted into the program this year.
“We are thrilled with the University’s continued success in the Fulbright program,” Peckens said. “Our grantees worked very hard to develop their proposals and we are proud to have them representing the University in their various host countries.”
Ken Kollman, the director of the University’s International Institute, said the experiences made possible by Fulbright are “life-changing” and often help people in their future careers.
“For many (participants), it catapults their careers into either newer academic fields or into areas of professional activity involving expertise in a particular country, expertise in particular realms of international transactions and international negotiations,” Kollman said.
Kollman said he is pleased with the hard work of the University students, adding that the advising staff is also dedicated to helping students during the application process for future programs.
“I’m just very proud of them and also wish them the best, and just think they are what this University stands for,” Kollman said. “They can focus on a specific project but at the same time put it in enough context that people that are funding these positions see these as important not only for the people but for the regions and areas of the world that they’re going to.”
LSA graduate and current Fulbright grantee Elizabeth Koselka graduated last spring after studying anthropology and Spanish. She is currently in Madrid, Spain pursuing an English teaching assistantship.
“For me, this is my first real, new experience of really getting to know new people and a new lifestyle, so that is opening my eyes a lot to all of the other opportunities that will follow,” Koselka said in a phone interview. “All of it is an adventure. Every day I challenge (myself) to do something I could not do last year.”
Koselka, an Ann Arbor native, said since her program started in the beginning of September, she has been adjusting to her new lifestyle and trying to immerse herself in the culture.
“I’m also very excited to have that moment where I feel like I belong totally in Madrid,” Koselka said. “I’m definitely still clearly foreign, and I’m looking forward to when people ask me directions. That’s sort of a thrill for me.”
Koselka added that she hopes the program will help in the future when she applies for a Ph.D. in anthropology, and said she ultimately wants to work as a professor of social anthropology.
“I feel much more confident applying for that specific opportunity after having this … field experience,” Koselka said. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to engage and get to know people that I don’t have other things in common with.”
LSA graduate Louis Campana, an English and Russian double major and Fulbright grantee pursuing an English teaching assistantship in Moscow, Russia, said in an e-mail interview he hopes to teach his Russian peers about the realities of American culture.
“I’m hoping to achieve a better understanding of this country, given its rocky history with the United States,” Campana said. “Most of the people I’ve talked to have this fairytale idea of what constitutes America and it’s been great gaining and clarifying that perspective. It’s amazing how much more I’ve learned about our country by living here, and I kind of want to take that knowledge back home.”
Andrew Kohler, who received his Ph.D. in musicology from the University, is in Germany using his Fulbright grant to continue research for his dissertation on German composer Carl Orff. He said in an e-mail interview the grant also provided him with a six-week course to improve his German.
“Fulbright also provides a network of support, both in terms of the other grantees, who have proven to be wonderful friends, and through the office, which has been helpful in getting us settled with all of the necessary paperwork,” Kohler said.
Kohler added that though gathering data and using the grant to finish his dissertation by May 2014 is his primary goal, he also hopes to also enjoy his time in Germany on a personal level.