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University produces most Fulbright scholars

Thirty-nine Brown students selected to travel, teach English, complete independent projects

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

For the second consecutive year, the University has produced the largest number of Fulbright scholars of any U.S. institution, according to data from The Chronicle of Higher Education published Feb. 18. Though the Fulbright Program notified the 39 award recipients from Brown in May 2017 — and the scholars are currently participating in the program — the group only recently released university rankings by number of scholarship recipients.

“Brown’s emphasis on independent learning and on risk-taking and creativity … contribute to making the Fulbright Program a really good fit for Brown students,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the college for fellowships.

The University has placed among the top 10 institutions with the largest number of Fulbright scholars for the past decade, according to a University press release. But for the 2017-18 academic year, Brown produced 10 more Fulbright scholars than the second-ranked school: the University of Notre Dame, which produced 29 scholars, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“This year’s results were pretty extraordinary,” Dunleavy said. “We’re really thrilled.”

The Fulbright Program, which has existed since 1946, aims to foster “bilateral relationships in which citizens and governments of other countries work with the (United States) to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs,” according to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website. The Fulbright committee looks for “students who are really open to cultural exchange and who really see it as a reciprocal process,” Dunleavy said.

There are two categories of Fulbright grants: the Open Study/Research Awards, which fund students’ independent projects, and the English Teaching Assistant Awards, which allow students to work in schools teaching English, according to the program’s website. There is “pretty much an even split” between the number of Brown students receiving each grant type, Dunleavy said.

Fulbright scholar and former public health concentrator Cindy Abarca ’16 MPH’17 is currently in Poland serving as an English Teaching Assistant, teaching English at the university level.

“Being here has allowed me to participate in events where I get to meet students from different countries and learn a different language and learn different customs,” Abarca said. “It has given me that global perspective that I was looking for.”

In a few weeks, Maaike Tiersma ’17 will head to Chile to begin working on an independent project. An environmental studies concentrator who created a project about seafood environmental certifications, Tiersma is developing a project in Chile that is “kind of like a sociology and environmental crossover,” she said. Tiersma aims to study “the actual farmers and fishermen” and how certifications affect them and their estates, she said, adding that she is also interested in “how they perceive the threat of climate change and if they even really think it’s a threat.”

Dunleavy said that about half of the nearly 100 Fulbright applicants for the next cycle have made it through the first round of the application process and have been recommended to their host countries by the National Screening Committee. Each country’s committee will then follow its own selection process and make the final decisions. The 2018-19 winners will be announced in May, according to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website.