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Fulbright Program Adviser

U.S. Fulbright

How to Build a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution: University of Houston

May 22, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a “Fulbright Top-Producing Institution“? In the coming weeks, a variety of institutions will discuss their efforts to recruit, mentor, and encourage students and scholars to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs. We hope these conversations pull back the curtain on the advising process, and provide potential applicants and university staff with the tools they need to start their Fulbright journey. 

By Ben Rayder, Director of National Fellowships and Major Awards at University of Houston

Question: Your outstanding students are one of many factors that led to this achievement. What makes your students such exceptional candidates for Fulbright grants?

The students at the University of Houston (UH) are hardworking and reflect Houston’s incredible diversity. They bring real-life experience to their applications, whether they are working part-time to pay their tuition or are the first in their family to attend college. They also represent the many ways in which one can be an American. The University of Houston is the 5th most diverse school in the country, so our applicants are invariably some of the best representatives of the United States. I am constantly motivated to support these candidates and I believe that they inspire others with their stories.

 

What steps have you taken to promote a Fulbright culture on your campus?

Each year we kick off the new application cycle with a Fulbright Day and invite the IIE office in Houston to participate. This gives future candidates an initial opportunity to learn more about the program and pose application-related questions to a panel of Fulbright finalists who have not yet departed on their grants. I prefer that our candidates receive a student perspective in addition to everything that I have to share. I also send targeted emails to communications directors, faculty, department chairs, and others to spread the word about the Program. At a school of 46,000 students, building relationships with faculty and staff is important in order to reach as many students as possible.

 

How has your institution benefited from increased engagement with the Fulbright Program (reaching campus internationalization goals, international expose for your campus, etc.)?

One of the ways that UH has benefited the most from increased engagement with Fulbright is through faculty participation in National Selection Committees (NSC). After serving on NSCs, our faculty have a much better sense of the selection criteria and what makes for a strong candidate. Although these factors obviously vary by country, their experiences have helped immensely in informing the advising process and in conducting campus committee interviews. I encourage all FPAs to promote this opportunity to faculty, serve themselves, or observe an NSC.

 

Your advisory team of faculty and staff (FPA, Liaison, etc.) provided exceptional guidance throughout the rigorous Fulbright application process. What does this process look like on your campus, and what are some of the most important pieces of advice you give your Fulbright applicants?

At UH, I collaborate with a faculty liaison in the Honors College, Richard Armstrong, to organize campus committee interviews and advise students. His connections with faculty make it possible to populate committees with relevant and committed faculty from across campus. In the weeks leading up to the national deadline, we ask selected faculty who participated in the campus committee interviews to provide some final feedback to our candidates, since it can be a challenge for one FPA to advise dozens of applicants alone.

In addition to the customary pieces of advice that we give applicants (show, don’t just tell; explain how Fulbright fits into your larger trajectory; etc.), we encourage them to own the regional diversity that they bring to the program. As an NSC member and Fulbright alumnus, I can always appreciate when a student talks about how they will incorporate some regional flavor into their teaching lessons or research. People abroad are genuinely curious about Texas. Most of our students have grown up here and can speak to the nuances and stereotypes that are likely to make for great cultural exchange opportunities.

 

What advice do you have for other universities & colleges that want to increase the number of Fulbrighters produced by their institution?

Start recruiting early and celebrate success. The fellowships profession is no longer a cyclical one. Even before the majority of semi-finalists have been notified and the application portal has opened, I have already started to develop marketing materials, contact liaisons across campus, and promote Fulbright Day to students. In some cases, I am advising students on personal statements and statements of grant purpose in February. I am fortunate in the sense that many of our students live in the Greater Houston Area and can visit over the summer. However, this is not the case for many of my colleagues in the profession. Students naturally become distracted with other opportunities over the summer months, so it is helpful when I can identify candidates and start them on their applications in the spring.

This is the first time that the University of Houston has been named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution. In the previous three years, our total number of applicants has more than tripled and our total number of recipients has increased six-fold. The potential has always been there, but we needed some success stories to create more momentum for Fulbright at UH. Even before we reached Top Producing status, we celebrated every recipient and the benefits of applying for a major award. Word of mouth goes a long way. As more prospective candidates have seen their peers applying for and receiving Fulbright awards, we have seen the emergence of a tangible culture of success.

U.S. Fulbright

How to Build a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution: Appalachian State University

May 15, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a “Fulbright Top-Producing Institution“? In the coming weeks, a variety of institutions will discuss their efforts to recruit, mentor, and encourage students and scholars to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs. We hope these conversations pull back the curtain on the advising process, and provide potential applicants and university staff with the tools they need to start their Fulbright journey. 

By Joanie Andruss, assistant director, Nationally Competitive Scholarships at Appalachian State University

Question: Your outstanding students are one of many factors that led to this achievement. What makes your students such exceptional candidates for the Fulbright Program?

I’ve found that our students tend to seek out diverse combinations of academic, service, and leadership activities, which contribute to what makes them such exceptional candidates for the Fulbright Program. Caroline Webb, an English Teaching Assistant in Timor-Leste, embodies this. She majored in psychology, had a passion for American Sign Language, was highly involved in campus as a Student Leadership Consultant, collaborated with faculty on research, studied abroad, was a teaching assistant, played a range of Appalachian instruments, and was a member of an interdisciplinary living-learning community known as the Watauga Residential College. This list of noteworthy accomplishments isn’t unique only to Caroline, but represents the range of involvement that many of our students engage with on our campus.

 

What steps have you taken to promote a Fulbright culture on your campus?

Our campus’s involvement with the Fulbright Program includes sending U.S. Students, Scholars, and Teacher Exchange participants, as well as hosting visiting Scholars-In-Residence. In late 2017, a group of faculty, staff, and administrators convened to form a Fulbright Week planning committee. This first group set the tone for the following years, and Fulbright Week events have become a regular part of campus programming each spring. During our Fulbright Week, we host receptions celebrating past and prospective Fulbright Scholars and Students, and offer a series of programming and advising for applicants. This serves as a kick-off event for continued support throughout the application cycle and year for faculty, staff, and students.

Efforts in promoting a Fulbright culture on our campus have also been enhanced through involvement in the 2018–19 Fulbright Program Advisor Development Initiative. This two-part training provided an in-depth opportunity to develop a more nuanced understanding of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, further engage faculty, staff, and students across the multiple Program options, and offered additional opportunities to engage with Fulbright on our campus through outreach visits and faculty referrals to serve on National Screening Committee panels.

 

How has your institution benefited from increased engagement with the Fulbright Program?

Appalachian State University has had a successful history of engagement with the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, being named a top producer in that category four times since 2010. Appalachian encourages and supports its faculty members in applying for Fulbright awards because the university’s leadership recognizes the benefits of the program. This engagement provides faculty the opportunity to share academic knowledge with colleagues and students in other countries and to bring new knowledge, global understanding, and connections back to our campus community.

More recently, our institution recognized the need to further support students in their own pursuits of nationally competitive awards. This resulted in the creation of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, which offers outreach, mentorship, and advising throughout the entire application and selection process for a range of competitive awards, including the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Within the first Fulbright application cycle after the creation of the office, we had four finalists, with three ultimately accepting the award for the 2019–20 grant year. This earned us the distinction of Top Producing Institution for Fulbright Student Programs.

From the student and applicant perspective, the process of applying for Fulbright U.S. Student awards has also had a significant impact on their connection with our institution and their preparation for their futures after graduation. A current Fulbright semi-finalist described that going through the application process gave her “even further appreciation for and faith in my alma mater.”

 

What advice do you have for other universities and colleges that want to increase the number of Fulbrighters produced by their institution?

My advice might be most relevant for universities and colleges with a small number of previous Fulbright U.S. Student recipients. These institutions therefore have limited examples of successful peers. Prior to the 2019–20 Fulbright year, only five Appalachian students had received a Fulbright award during the program’s history. So one of my challenges starting out was to encourage students to redefine what they thought Fulbright was and who it was for. I sought students who might not normally attend an information session, but could be great candidates for Fulbright if only they could start envisioning the program as a possible opportunity. I also worked to correct misperceptions of why we had so few prior recipients — not because our students weren’t competitive, but because they weren’t aware of the opportunities or didn’t have history with the award that other campuses might have. I tried to help applicants envision themselves as being part of a cohort that could change that reality and provide an inspiring model to those that would come after them.

Some concrete approaches include:
• Establishing an on-campus review process with earlier pre-application elements, such as a low stakes intent to apply “deadline” or first draft “deadline” that encouraged prospective applicants to move through each of the stages in smaller, more manageable pieces.
• Tracking students that either had indicated some initial interest in Fulbright or who had worked with me on other awards, such as the Gilman International Scholarship, and then targeting them specifically, saying I thought they could be a good candidate for Fulbright.
• Helping students examine which particular Fulbright award was the right fit for the right reasons.
• Developing an on-campus review process that emphasized a supportive experience for students with a diverse committee of faculty and staff, many of whom were prior Fulbright alumni themselves or perhaps future Fulbright U.S. Scholar applicants.
• Conducting post-application assessments to measure students’ perspectives on how the process impacted key learning outcomes, then communicating those outcomes to the next round of prospective applicants: “Yes, Fulbright is competitive, but this will be a valuable process regardless of the outcome.”

We now find ourselves being recognized as a Top Producing Institution for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. I attribute the work focusing on developing student self-efficacy in tandem with tangible advising practices and application procedures to have made a lasting impact. This all happened within a context of support from university leadership, a Nationally Competitive Scholarship Advisory Board, and an enthusiastic and engaged group of faculty, staff, and students campus-wide.

U.S. Fulbright

Have Questions About What It’s Like To Be a Fulbright U.S. Student? Ask a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador.

July 20, 2017

Are you interested in applying for a Fulbright U.S. Student grant and have questions about what it’s like to be a Fulbrighter in a particular country or field? Are you currently working on a Fulbright U.S. Student Program application? Are you a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) who would like a Fulbright alum to present on campus and share information about what’s involved in applying to Fulbright and what the experience is like in-country? Reach out to a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador!

The 2017 cohort of Fulbright Alumni Ambassador bios are now available on our website along with each ambassador’s contact information. We encourage prospective applicants and FPAs to contact Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors for tips, testimonial and advice – all throughout the academic year. Good luck!

 

 

U.S. Fulbright

It Takes a Fulbright Village: My Journey Toward Becoming an Effective Fulbright Program Adviser

April 7, 2015
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University of Iowa Fulbright Program Adviser Karen Wachsmuth (fourth from left) at a University of Iowa Fulbright Student Organization Brown Bag lunch on Nov. 14, 2014

I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, but helping students devise the “right strategy” for applying for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award has been a daunting task. As the Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) at the University of Iowa, a Big Ten institution with more than 30,000 students, it’s my job to assist students in their quest for this unparalleled, life-transforming opportunity. As someone who chose the risky and highly competitive path of pursuing classical music as a career, I thrived on the concept of “following my passion.” Encouraging students to do the same comes easily to me. Although I immediately felt an affinity with the challenge of excellence that Fulbright represented, the “correct path” to a Fulbright award seems more elusive. The steps to a career in music–yes, “practice, practice, practice”–were well-defined and easy to grasp. But how does an applicant best prepare for a Fulbright? What are the most important criteria? By the end of my first Fulbright competition season, I felt slightly dazed. My mind was numbed by too many questions, just like the unfortunate character Meno being questioned by the “stingray-like” Socrates in Plato’s dialogue. I had completed the submission process, but was unsure as to whether or not I had been truly effective as an adviser.

The questions I had about my role as an FPA, which requires me to wear different hats, were many. To start with, Fulbright awards—teaching, research, study, creative work—come in all shapes and sizes, varying by country, language requirements, candidate profile, etc. How do I create awareness of these diverse and exciting Fulbright opportunities on my campus? How should I recruit the most appropriate applicants? What are the key steps in advising? What tools do I need to be more effective? What are the most important criteria for a successful application? And, without years of experience with the position coupled with some success, how can I know which strategies work? Lastly, how can I best encourage and support these ambitious students during the process?

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