For the third time in four years, the University of Michigan has more Fulbright Program grant recipients than any other school.

A total of 31 students — 21 undergraduate and 10 graduate students — won the prestigious grant this year, the University announced Wednesday morning.

Harvard University was the second highest grant-getter with 29 recipients, followed by Yale University with 26, Northwestern University and the University of California–Berkeley with 24 and the University of Chicago with 23. Nationwide, about 1,500 grants were awarded.

Last year, the University also led the nation with 37 grant winners, a school record.

Amy Kehoe, Fulbright coordinator for the University, said a record-high 144 University students applied for grants for 2008.

Fewer students — 112 — applied this fall for the 2009 grant cycle, Kehoe said. She said anytime the number of applications tops 100, though, it’s a good showing for the University.

Kehoe said the number of University students applying for Fulbright grants has doubled since she took her job five years ago. She credits the University’s success to the caliber of University applicants, the support of University faculty and the individual consultations and reviews that the International Institute conducts with each applicant.

In an interview last month, Kehoe said that in recent years international programs have seen a “groundswell of support,” and credited the University’s recent success in the Fulbright Program and the media-attention surrounding the grants as part of the reason for the University’s high number of applicants and grant recipients.

The Fulbright Program is the largest international exchange program in the country. Each year, the U.S. Department of State awards the grants for student research projects in more than 150 countries.

Students apply in September for grants for the following year. Many of the winners announced today have already begun their research abroad. University students’ projects include teaching English to German high school students, studying the national health care system of Oman and studying the modern Finnish violin repertoire.

Recent University alum Lara Finkbeiner, who is in Quito, Ecuador conducting a research project on Colombian refugees living in Ecuador, said she was confident in her proposal but that waiting until the spring to find out if she won took a toll.

“All I remember is tearing it open and seeing the acceptance letter and just being overwhelmed by how grateful, relieved, and gratified I felt,” she said in an e-mail message shortly after getting her acceptance letter in the mail. “I worked so hard on the application and thanks to the support of my family and my great professors at U of M (who not only wrote me recommendations, but also helped me refine multiple drafts of my proposal) I was able to make my dream come true.”

To apply for the grant, students must submit a summary of their research plan and demonstrate that they are proficient in the language of the country to which they plan to travel.

Due to the record-high number of applicants last year, the University did not offer an interview to undergraduate applicants because there were not enough faculty and staff to meet with each applicant.

Last year was a temporary exception though, Kehoe said. Since adding more staff this year, the University has resumed offering the interview option to all applicants, she said.

In an interview Wednesday, Provost Teresa Sullivan said she was proud of the University’s showing.

“I’m really pleased that the faculty have really rallied in large numbers to help get students ready for the Fulbright competition,” she said. “It’s terrific that we had so many who won, but even better we had so many who tried.”

Mark Tessler, director of the University’s International Institute, said in a written statement that the University was delighted with the grant winners.

“The University of Michigan is committed to enriching our academic programs by facilitating educational and research opportunities overseas for our undergraduate and graduate students,” he said. “We had a large number of students apply again this year and are delighted that so many of our students appreciate the value of study and research abroad.”

— Daily Staff Reporter Kyle Swanson contributed to this report.

The University’s 2008-2009 Fulbright Recipients

Katharine Allen, MA – Oman

Chelsea Ams, BA – Germany

Sara Baumann, BA – Bangladesh

Jessica Boullion, BA – Germany

Lisa Calhoun, MA – Kenya

Denny Chan, BA – Macao

Elizabeth Davisson, BA – Germany

Lynn Eckert, BA – Croatia

Lara Finkbeiner, BA – Ecuador

Heather Fuller-Iglesias, MS – Mexico

Salem Ghandour, BA – Malaysia

Vaike Haas, MA – Estonia

Brook Hefright, BS – China

Laura Hilburn, BA – Czech Republic

Emily Holt, MA – Italy

Kristen Hopewell, MA – Switzerland

Dana Kaersvang, JD – Netherlands

Jeanine Markley, BM – Finland

Neeraj Mehta, BA – Denmark

Lauren Milewski, BA – Hong Kong

Rhana Natour, BA – United Arab Emirates

Kirstin Northenscold, BA – Germany

Katharine Raff, MA – Italy

Peter Rock, MA – Estonia

Abigail Sebaly, BFA – Australia

Jonathan Shaheen, BA – Netherlands

Sarah Shepherd, BS – Nepal

John Sloan, BA – Germany

Joseph Torigian, BA – China

Huong Trieu, BA – China

John Zimmerman, MS – Sri Lanka

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