College marks top spot as national Fulbright producer

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November 1, 2011

12:32 AM

The College of William and Mary now stands out amongst Virginia universities as a result of being named a top producer of Fulbright students in the United States by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

As the only university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of 42 colleges nationwide recognized on the list, published Oct. 23, the College secured its spot among the top institutions in the nation.

“The fact that we’ve been recognized in this way speaks to the caliber of our students and the quality of the education they get here,” Director of Fellowships Lisa Grimes said in an email. “We’ve been on the list for a few years, but we don’t want to get complacent.”

Approximately 1,600 American students are awarded Fulbright scholarships annually, according to the U.S. Department of State. Twelve students out of the 57 who applied from the College were awarded Fulbrights this past year, although two declined.

The number of students from the College awarded Fulbrights steadily increased from two students in 1992 to 10 students in 2010. Grimes noted that the significant increase in applicants in 2005 has propelled the College to the top of the list.

“Six years ago, we saw a big increase in applications,” Grimes said. “We went from having, at most, two dozen applications a year to around 50, and we’ve leveled off there. I think one factor in this change was a shift in students’ attitudes toward taking a year to do something different before going on to work or to graduate or professional school.”

Fulbright grants offer opportunities for students to teach and pursue research outside of their own countries while being subsidized by government funds. Recipients of the grants come from a variety of disciplines, including the performing and visual arts, mathematics, various sciences, engineering and technology.

Interested students at the College receive advice about their applications with the Charles Center’s Peer Scholarship Advisors, who are trained to assist students with various scholarships, including Fulbrights. Peer Scholarship Advisors work with three to five applicants before the submission deadline and offer advice on students’ statements.

“The students here are already high caliber,” Peer Scholarship Advisor Brian Comiskey ’14 said. “As PSAs, we just want to help them revise their personal statements for the application.”

The Peer Scholarship Advisors seem impressed with the Fulbright applicants they have assisted.

“I’ve found that many of our applicants are very insightful, very driven to succeed and very interested in their field of study,” Peer Scholarship Advisor Mike Schilling ’13 said. “To apply for a Fulbright, you really have to be interested in a cultural exchange.”

The College currently has 10 alumni studying abroad as Fulbright scholars: Christopher Adams ’09 (China), Aaron Branch ’11 (South Korea), Paolo Busante ’11 (Portugal), Laura Evers ’11 (Romania), Amanda Goodman ’09 (Norway), Meredith Howard ’11 (South Korea), Monica LoBue ’11 (Germany), John Pothen ’11 (India), Michael Tsidulko ’11 (Bulgaria) and Julia Zamecnik ’11 (Turkey).

The College submitted 47 applications for Fulbright grants this fall, cementing its place among institutions such as Yale University, the University of Michigan and Princeton University.

“We were extremely proud after hearing the news about the list,” Schilling said. “We’re proud of the institution for producing that many and we’re obviously proud that we got to work with a lot of them.”

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