For the fifth year in a row, students from the University have been awarded upwards of 20 Fulbright Scholar Program grants.
A list of top U.S. producers of Fulbright students for the 2009-2010 academic year published by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows that of the University’s 111 applicants to the U.S. Student Program, 28 have thus far received and accepted the grants.
Additionally, the University ranked near the top in the Fulbright Scholar Program, with seven faculty members receiving grants.
According to Amy Kehoe, Fulbright coordinator for the University, the names of the 2009-2010 recipients from the University have yet to be released in print. They are expected to be made public either today or tomorrow.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program functions as an international exchange program for students and university professionals and faculty, allowing them to conduct research, undertake graduate study and teach in schools globally.
Last year, 144 students – a record high for the University – applied for the Fulbright program, with a combination of 31 undergraduate and graduate students receiving grants. The University has led the country in Fulbright winners in three out of the last five years.
Mark Tessler, director of the University’s International Institute, said that while it would be nice to have the most grants every year, it’s not a realistic goal. He added that despite the fact that the University has fewer grant recipients this year, it still remains a Fulbright powerhouse.
“If we’re three or four students less this year, I don’t think that’s really important,” he said. “We’re really proud of the program and to be in the company of these other universities.”
Leading the research institutions in recipients this year are Northwestern University with 32 grants, the University of Chicago with 31 and Brown University with 29.
Tessler noted that within the top 10 institutions, the University of Michigan is the only public university.
“Everybody else on that list, they are all private schools with a very different funding base, a very different student clientele,” Tessler said. “Our participation in the Fulbright program is our pride and joy.”
Kehoe wrote in an e-mail that she was delighted but not surprised that the University received so many awards.
“I did see the ranking and was pleased to see that Michigan is yet again a top-producing Fulbright institution,” she wrote.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham wrote in an e-mail that she was happy to see University students were once again among the top grant winners.
“The University of Michigan is gratified by the Fulbright Scholarship program’s continuing recognition of the extraordinary caliber of our students,” she wrote in the e-mail.
Applicants submit their application materials in September for the subsequent year, and recipients are announced the following October. In recent years, the Fulbright has sent around 1,550 students and 1,250 scholars to over 155 countries, spending close to $275 million annually in grant money.
According to Schuyler Allen, senior program officer for the Fulbright Student Program Outreach team, the University of Michigan has produced 317 student recipients since 1993. Their areas of study have ranged from public health to music composition to East Asian language and literature, with geographic locations spanning the globe — everywhere from Sri Lanka to Guatemala.
University alum Salem Ghandour spent the last year in Malaysia on a Fulbright scholarship studying energy policy reforms in the country. He wrote in an e-mail that he sat down with Malaysia’s prime minister and other top government officials during his time there.
Ghandour wrote that although he is disappointed that the University’s Fulbright office does not interview candidates, he thinks one of the reasons the University is so successful in the Fulbright process is because the office is so organized.
“Despite my complaints about the Fulbright office at Michigan, I have to admit that they organized, on a very regular basis, lots of information session about Fulbright and were very clear with deadlines and when to get the application started,” he wrote in the e-mail. “I knew, after attending a few sessions, that discipline was key. And indeed, the info sessions were spot on.”