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Just another workday for Robert Kaufman '08 is, well, not just another workday — his office is a classroom in Norway.

Kaufman is a participant in the Fulbright Program, a government sponsored fellowship that gives college graduates grants to pursue research and teaching projects abroad. This year Brown ranked first in the Ivy League and third in the nation in the number of Fulbright scholarships received by its graduates, falling behind only Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

According to the Institute of International Education, Brown has 29 Fulbright recipients pursuing projects during the 2009-10 year, the highest number in its history. Brown enjoyed a 27.4 percent admittance rate into the program this past year. The national acceptance rate hovers around 20 percent, according to Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the college for fellowships and pre-law.

Kaufman, who is currently a TA at the University of Oslo in Norway, described his Fulbright experience as "too good to be true." An English and Religious Studies concentrator while at Brown, Kaufman now teaches "American Civics and Politics" and is learning  Norwegian.

Kaufman was one of 106 applicants from Brown last year. The other Fulbright recipients are scattered over 23 countries, including India, Peru and New Zealand.

Congress established the Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the Department of the State, in 1946 to "enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."

The program offers grants to more than 1,500 American students each year to travel, research and work in more than 140 countries.

Renee Ahlers '09 is participating in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program in Toluca, Mexico. She was inspired to apply by a friend who postponed going to law school and spent a year in Israel with the program.

Ahlers taught English as a Second Language for four years at Brown and decided to continue her work through the Fulbright Program by conducting workshops with students at a language facility in Toluca.

"I get to talk to them about the U.S. culture and they get to tell me about the Mexican culture," Ahlers said of her teaching experiences.

She said when she decided to apply for the program the summer before her senior year, Dunleavy office was "really great" in helping her prepare her application.

Dunleavy said the application process starts in the spring when Brown holds a "Fulbright fair," in which alumni who have recently returned from the program speak to students about their experiences abroad. In the following weeks, Dunleavy said she also offers examples of successful Fulbright applications and begins to meet with potential applicants.

"I talk with students about their ideas with projects and kind of brainstorm with them," she said.

When students return to Brown the following fall, graduate students at the Writing Center help students with their personal statements and project proposals. Kaufman said he was especially appreciative of this aspect of the University's fellowship advising as he submitted 27 drafts of his personal statement to the center.

At Brown, students are asked to submit their applications a month before the mid-October deadline to allow Brown's Fulbright Committee to assess each application. The committee then interviews applicants and offers them feedback before sending the applications on to the Fulbright Program.

The University submitted earlier this month 96 applications for next year's program, according to a Brown press release.

Dunleavy said she encourages students considering the Fulbright program to "start early and really look into the program and specific country."

Kaufman said he believes his years at the University prepared him for the Fulbright Program, adding that while many American students may be hesitant about going abroad and living on their own in another country, Brown students have learned "to be self-reliant."
Dunleavy agreed that there is something about Brown students that made them especially successful in the Fulbright program.

"I think our students are self-starters and independent learners and risk takers," Dunleavy said. "Our students are quirky enough that they feel like they don't always need to go on to the next step (immediately)." 

"It's a perfect match for Brown's approach to education," she said.

 


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