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Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Fulbright-National Geographic U.S. Fulbright

Telling Your Story: 5 Tips and Tricks from a Fulbright-National Geographic Storyteller

September 29, 2021

Katie Thornton recording for her Fulbright podcast in a cemetery in the United Kingdom.

One connection at a time, Fulbright brings people closer together and moves nations closer to a more peaceful world. What better way to build connections at home and abroad than through creatively telling your Fulbright story?

To get your project started, we’ve asked Katie Thornton, an award-winning multimedia journalist and Fulbright-National Geographic Storyteller, to provide tips on crafting the perfect storytelling project through audio, visual, or written formats.

Katie, who finds the most thought-provoking stories in the least expected places, most recently authored A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds, an audio document that looks at how the state’s temperance movement set the stage for its women’s suffrage movement. For her Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, Katie traveled to the United Kingdom and Singapore to produce Death in the Digital Age, a podcast exploring the relevance of cemeteries in an era when land is strained, communities are physically distant, and digital documentation is pervasive.

We hope Katie’s insights help you produce the perfect Fulbright reflection.

1. The most important thing is to just start.

Starting a creative project can be intimidating, but perhaps the hardest part is getting started. The most important thing you can do is to begin–to take your idea and give it life.

Ask yourself: what skills and knowledge do I need to gain before I can turn this idea into a reality? Do I need to educate yourself on a topic? Learn how to edit audio? Make a list, and start checking things off.

Katie Thornton works at her home studio on podcast projects.

2. Use online tutorials to help get the best quality product.

One of the reasons I care so much about audio is because it is an accessible medium–both to produce and to consume. At one point during my Fulbright, I didn’t have access to a studio, and I recorded an NPR story under a sheet in my bedroom. My home “studio” is my closet.

There are tons of ways to use the materials and devices you already have–like pillows, blankets, and your phone–to get good quality audio. There are also a lot of great free and cheap editing programs. Turn to the internet for tips!

Katie Thornton recording in the studio.

3. Listen, gather, and compile.

Listen carefully to the sounds around you, and to a variety of podcasts and audio media. How do different podcasts bring in music and ambient sounds (like cars honking, leaves crunching, birds chirping, people chanting, etc.) to set the scene?

Start recording the sounds that define your daily life and surroundings. Record your thoughts throughout the day, and try putting together a brief audio diary that describes it. Ask a friend or two to do the same, share your pieces, and have a Zoom chat about your audio diaries. You can also try this with writing, painting, or any other creative pursuit.

Katie Thornton (right) working on her audio project in a Singaporean cemetery on 清明節 (Qingming Jie, “Tomb-Sweeping Day”).

4. Be realistic.

Completing a project, like a podcast, can take time. Make a portion of your project (e.g. a few episodes or articles) before you commit to an ambitious publishing schedule. Take into account any logistical challenges you may encounter, including: faulty internet connections, weather conditions, your schedule, etc.

Katie Thornton (left) completes an interview while observing social distancing protocols.

5. Give people a reason to care, seek feedback, and put it out there!

There are very, very few pieces of media that appeal to a target audience of “anyone and everyone.” Think about who your work is for, and why you hope it will resonate with them. If you’re sharing stories or opinions that don’t come from personal experience, be sure to involve, listen to, learn from, and get feedback from people directly involved.

In general, seek lots of feedback. You may be surprised at just how many people–even strangers–are willing to listen/read your work and offer feedback! Allow people to give both general feedback and ask them specific questions about your work.

And then, start sharing! Use tools where you already have a presence–in community groups, via social media, etc. Good luck, and have fun!

Are you an educator looking for ways to use storytelling in your classroom or are you looking for more training to help you with audio storytelling? Click here to view the “Storytelling for Impact in your Classroom: Audio” course, a self-paced, free, online, video-based course designed by Katie in partnership with the National Geographic Society.

Katie Thornton (right) working in the field.

U.S. Fulbright

Back to School: What You Should Know About Securing a Letter of Affiliation

July 12, 2021

By Fulbright Program Staff

Congratulations on deciding to further your education abroad by undertaking an independent research project or graduate degree through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program! You’ve confirmed your eligibility, determined your host country, and selected an award. Now what?

In this post, we will explain how to successfully navigate an important portion of the application process: securing a letter of affiliation from your prospective host institution. As the primary location for your Fulbright experience, successfully engaging a host institution and adviser is critical to your application’s success. Read on to learn how to secure your letter of affiliation:

 

Study/Research Award

The Study/Research Award allows young professionals to design an independent research project, working with advisers at foreign universities and institutions in approximately 140 countries. In general, this award requires a letter of affiliation with the prospective institution.

What is a Letter of Affiliation?

A letter of affiliation outlines a host institution’s support of your proposed Fulbright project. A letter should come from an individual or team at an institution with whom you will be working closely during your Fulbright.

  • Examples of affiliations include universities, laboratories, libraries, archives, non-governmental organizations, etc.

Letters should be appropriate for your proposed project, and the letter writer should demonstrate a clear understanding of your work, outlining how the host institution will support the applicant and project.

Letter of Affiliation Requirements

All affiliation letters are:

  • Dependent on country and award: Check the host country and award pages for the most up-to-date criteria.
  • Printed on institutional letterhead: Make sure it has a signature from the appropriate contact!
  • Not confidential: Applicants receive the letter and upload it into the online application prior to the national deadline.

An applicant may include up to three letters of affiliation if the letters are appropriate and necessary to their project. Adding unfocused letters may confuse application reviewers and distract from your application. For a comprehensive look at affiliation requirements, view the Application Components page and recorded Affiliation webinar.

 

Graduate Degree Grants

The Study/Research Award also includes the “Fulbright Graduate Degree Grants” subtype, which funds study at an affiliated foreign institution or degree program.

What is a letter of affiliation for graduate degree grants?

For applicants pursuing a graduate degree:

  • Your letter of affiliation is the official acceptance letter proving admission into the graduate degree program. This not typically required at the time of the application. All candidates should review their award page for more information.
  • Even if the Fulbright award does not require an official letter of acceptance by the Fulbright application deadline, all candidates are encouraged to reach out to their proposed adviser or department chair to inquire about receiving a letter of support prior to admission decisions, which may be uploaded into the application.

Chiamaka Ukachukwu, 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student to Belgium, celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science with her fellow lab mates in the Jean-François Collet Lab, Institut de Duve.

Tips and Best Practices

A few final pointers for a smooth affiliation process:

  1. Start early! This simple-but-crucial step will give you time to brainstorm, draft, revise, solicit feedback, contact potential host advisers, and everything else that goes into a compelling Fulbright application.
    • “Start your search as early as possible, it will be really helpful. I emailed 15-20 professors at different universities in order to find my affiliation!” Isra Hussain, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student to Austria and 2020 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador
  2. Review the academic literature. Looking into topics and authors within your academic discipline is a great way to acquire more knowledge, better understand your Fulbright project, and determine which professionals may be a resource to you.
    • “I spent a lot of time researching the background of these professors that had responded and reviewing their own research” – Isra Hussain, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student to Austria and 2020 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador
  3. Utilize personal and professional networks. While the idea of creating an independent research project or graduate school application is daunting, your networks are here to help. On campus, reach out to faculty members, a reference librarian, and your Fulbright Program Adviser; off campus, get in touch with your professional and personal connections, Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors, former Fulbright U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars, and the Fulbright Association.
    • “Tapping into your network is really important. Faculty network and faculty relations are a great place to tap into.” – Kurt Davies, Fulbright Program Adviser and Director of Global Awards at New York University
  4. Be flexible. Your patience and flexibility throughout the application process will help both you and your potential affiliate perform your best. Be sure to:
    • Meet your host institution where they are, and adjust the scope of your project based on the resources available. Be prepared to share a basic overview of your proposed research/study project when contacting potential affiliates.
    • Conduct yourself professionally and use a clear, positive tone.
    • Explain the Fulbright Program, including Fulbright’s funding and grant benefits, which prevent financial obligation from the institution.
      • “Open the conversation with a sense of what can I give to your organization, how can I contribute to your ongoing research.” – Kurt Davies, Fulbright Program Adviser and Director of Global Awards at New York University
  5. Cast a wide net. Finding a host affiliation takes time, so pursue multiple leads and ideas until you find the right institution and adviser.

We hope this article provides clarity into letters of affiliation, and helps you create the best application you can. Start early, do your research, and don’t give up. You can do it!

2019 Fulbright Austria participants at the TU Ball at the Hofburg Imperial Palace.

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Fulbright Impact in the Field: Climate Change and Environmental Justice – Experts Discuss Environmental Justice in the Face of Climate Change

May 3, 2021

“It is exciting to see this group tackle the climate crisis from a number of different angles. This discussion is especially relevant as we come off the end of the Global Climate Summit and as governments and other actors set new targets and lay out the groundwork for what the next 10 years of action will look like.”

– Tim McDonnell, 2016 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Kenya, Quartz magazine climate and energy journalist

The Fulbright Impact in the Field: Climate Change and Environmental Justice panel convened scientists, researchers, and other professionals involved in combating climate change. They discussed the latest scientific and policy developments, and looked at how new approaches and international collaborations can be used to combat climate change and pursue environmental justice. These experts also shared their Fulbright experiences and the benefits of their new ideas at institutions and in communities.

Meet the Speakers

Moderator

Tim McDonnell (2016 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Kenya) is a climate and energy journalist at the global business magazine Quartz, covering the clean energy transition.

Panelists

Amber Ajani (2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Pakistan to American University) is a Climate Fellow at the UN Climate Change secretariat and a recipient of the UNFCCC-UNU Early Career Climate Fellowship.
Shalanda Baker, JD (2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Mexico) is the Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and co-founder of Initiative for Energy Justice.
Dr. M Jackson (2011 Fulbright U.S. Student to Turkey, 2015 Fulbright U.S. Student to Iceland, 2018 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Iceland) is a geographer, glaciologist, TED Fellow, Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, and National Geographic Society Explorer.
Dr. Greg Poelzer (2015 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar, 2021 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Co-Lead Scholar) is a Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) and leads the Renewable Energy in Remote and Indigenous Communities Flagship Initiative at the University of Saskatchewan. He is also co-director of a multi-million-dollar Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant.

Key Takeaways

1. We need to ensure that equity is central to our clean energy transition.

How can we ensure our infrastructure investment both reduces climate pollution and benefits marginalized communities?

This is a moment to think about how to “bake” equity into a new energy system, according to Deputy Director for Energy Justice Shalanda Baker. Her position underscores a commitment to address structural issues of energy use and environmental impact. The new Justice40 Initiative, which promises that 40% of relevant federal investment will benefit disadvantaged communities, ensures that every federal infrastructure investment accelerates clean energy and transmission projects in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Dr. Greg Poelzer, a Canadian expert on renewable energy in remote and Indigenous communities, and Co-Lead Scholar of the third Fulbright Arctic Initiative, urges us to focus on the opportunity that the energy transition provides for vulnerable Indigenous communities. He advocates for using strategic environmental assessments in systemic ecosystem review, and bringing in diverse voices for better long-term stability.

2. We need to make climate science communication more effective.

How can we communicate the core meaning of amazing scientific research, so that diverse communities can access it?

Glaciologist and explorer M Jackson uses mediums like film and art, rather than scientific journal articles, to visualize the impact of change. For example, her short film After Ice reveals the breathtaking story of a rapidly disappearing frozen world by overlaying archival imagery from the National Land Survey of Iceland with contemporary footage of glaciers in the South Coast of Iceland. This provides a dramatic look at how the ice has changed over the past 50 years.

3. We need to empower sustainable development decision-makers at the local level.

How do we ensure that policy implementation addresses capacity building and community issues?

Amber Ajani, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Pakistan to American University who now works at UN Climate Change, noted that it is important to include local stakeholders in strategic impact analysis and assessments. The panelists discussed that community “buy-in,” local stakeholder consultation, and the presence local communities in the “drivers’ seat” must come at the early stages of project development, rather than having ideas from the Global North applied to developing communities. For example, ideas that come out of Brussels, Ottawa, or Washington, D.C. to create eco-preserves could have negative impacts on the livelihoods of local Arctic communities. Shalanda Baker reminds us that today’s climate debate is not ahistorical: our current situation resulted from hundreds of years of the Global North exploiting natural resources for economic development at the expense of communities in the Global South. To create equitable climate policy, we need to understand and address this history.

To watch the panelists dive into these relevant discussions, click here.

The Fulbright Impact in the Field panel series is part of the Fulbright Program’s effort to help find solutions to challenges facing our communities and our world. Free and open to the public, this series provides a digital space for Fulbright alumni to share their expert perspectives and explore the program’s impact on local and global communities.

To learn about upcoming Fulbright 75th anniversary events, and see how you can get involved, sign up for the newsletter and visit Fulbright75.org.

U.S. Fulbright

Navigating Your Identity Abroad

April 23, 2021

What does it mean to be an American abroad? Five Fulbright 75th Anniversary Legacy Alumni Ambassadors reflect and analyze how their personal identities affected their Fulbright experience.

Strengthening My American Identity

David N. Bernstein, MD, MBA, MEI
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student to Luxembourg

David N. Bernstein (right) is a Clinical Fellow in Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School. While on his Fulbright in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, David earned a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation from the University of Luxembourg. As part of his degree program, David interned at Silicon Luxembourg, a rapidly growing media and event planning startup designed to highlight the blossoming entrepreneurial spirit within the country.

“Everyone, the American is here!”

I had only been in Luxembourg for a few weeks in fall 2013, but I had already become a regular at Pitcher, a favorite local bar throughout the Grand Duchy. With a pint of Bofferding in hand, I would discuss my experience living in Europe, as well as what it was like to live in the United States, with a few of my closest Luxembourgish friends.

From business to education, and everything in between, my friends and I covered a lot of ground in our conversations. However, I began to realize an error in my approach. As a Fulbrighter, I had committed to representing the United States as a cultural ambassador. Thus, while my opinion was important, I had an obligation to share differing positions and viewpoints held by other Americans to share a complete picture of the United States.

As I reflect on my time in Luxembourg nearly a decade later, I realize that sharing and discussing varying perspectives on life and policy in the United States strengthened my identity as an American. Indeed, the power of the United States is in its rich diversity of people and ideas, as well as its endless opportunities. This idea was solidified sitting on a barstool with a beer in hand, surrounded by my Luxembourgish friends. While I consider myself a citizen of the world, I am forever proud to be an American.

 

Expanding the American Identity

Kristine Lin
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student English Teaching Assistant to South Korea

On her Fulbright, Kristine Lin (left) taught English to elementary students at Jeungan Elementary School in Cheongju, South Korea. During winter break, she used a Fulbright Korea Alumni Foundation Community Grant to support and lead an English camp, which focused on improving student understanding of American culture and traditions through hands-on activities.

Before my Fulbright, I was excited to immerse myself in Korean culture and experience as much as possible. I did not anticipate, however, having to explain my own identity while living abroad. Growing up in the United States, I was used to identifying myself as Chinese; when I arrived in South Korea, that changed.

Living outside of major cities with large foreign communities, I found myself explaining my American identity in response to quizzical looks from local Koreans. I was sometimes the first American they encountered, and I didn’t look like the blonde hair, blue-eyed person they expected.

Using my limited Korean language skills, I explained I was Chinese American, as my parents were born in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and I was born and raised in the United States. I soon took pride in being different than the “typical” American that many expected to see and turned it into a learning opportunity.

It became my mission to teach my elementary school students about the racial and cultural diversity in the United States, and I even recruited another Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to co-teach a winter camp on American culture. Using my racial identity to help teach students was never something that had occurred to me before. However, I found it to be not only an eye-opening experience for my students, but also an empowering experience for myself.

 

Davíd with El Chimboraso in the background, the largest volcano in Ecuador and the closest point to the moon on Earth.

Davíd en route to Quilotoa, a water-filled crater lake and the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Davíd posing next to his año viejo, an effigy made in his image as a loving joke by his friends, that was burned in the traditional Guayaquil New Year Festivals of 2014.

“Hey, We Are Here, Too”

Davíd Morales
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student ETA to Ecuador

Davíd Morales is a scholar, educator, and community activist interested in education as a tool for social change. He is currently a doctoral student and researcher in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education program at Stanford University. He has taught language, culture, and critical thinking in public schools in San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, and in Ecuador as a Fulbright U.S. Student ETA.

The first time I was called a fake American, a half-gringo, I laughed. It was a joke. It was fine. Actually, it was better than fine because I never really considered myself an American anyways, let alone a gringo.

We could get into the complexity of what they, I, we, the world, mean by “American” (as I write to you from one of the two continents baptized “America”s by European colonizers), but it is enough to mention that there is no doubt that the United States has monopolized this identifier.

As for gringo–let’s just say that when I was growing up in the Latinx community of Barrio Logan in San Diego, California, gringos were the white people who lived by the beach with the double garages and the 9-speed road bikes. So, you can imagine my laugh, my “if only they knew” smirk, when my students in Guayaquil—where I was doing my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship—would call me a “fake American,” a “half gringo.”

I was born in the United States to migrant parents from Mexico in search of the elusive “American Dream.” I have navigated this country as a brown boy and a brown man; my Indigenous ancestors account for the pigmentation of my skin that I was ashamed of, along with my language, and culture. I wanted to be white, with everything that being white entails.

After I finally got to learn about my people’s history and culture in high school—the struggles they faced and movements they led, their brilliance and resiliency—I became empowered and sought to reclaim and embrace my identity– a counter-identity to the essentializing “American” identifier.

But after a couple of months, a couple more jokes, and a couple more skeptical comments about whether I could teach English because I am not really an American, it suddenly dawned on me. It happened when I was asked to teach a lesson on Thanksgiving. It’s not just about turkey, mashed potatoes, and laughter around the dinner table every fourth Thursday of November. It is also about broken treaties, pain, remembering, and mourning of one’s ancestors and land. It is not just about a standardized and monolingual version of English, it is also about a fluid, dynamic, and ever-evolving way of using English, inspired by many other languages and ways of understanding the world.

It dawned on me I am, and have been part of, this American experience. So have my parents, so have my friends, so has my community, and so have many others who do not fit the typical American image that is exported throughout the world.

It became important for me to stand in front of my classes and proclaim: “Hey, we are here, too,” and these have been our erased experiences. It became important for me to remain a bit longer with Fulbright—now as an Alumni Ambassador—and to encourage others like me to do the same.

 

Addressing Immigration Through Personal Experience

Cristobal “Cris” Ramón
2008 Fulbright U.S. Student to Spain

Cris Ramón (back right) is a senior policy analyst with Bipartisan Center’s Immigration Project. On his Fulbright, Cris Ramón studied the legal rights of immigrants, specifically analyzing the legal impact of seven sentences issued by the Spanish Constitutional Court against the Ley Orgánica 8/2000, a reform of Spain’s main immigration law.

As the son of Salvadoran immigrants and student of Spanish immigration policy, I saw that Spain, and many European countries, struggled with welcoming and integrating immigrants, and that immigrants in Spain and Europe also dealt with xenophobia and racism.

While on my Fulbright in Spain, my family’s experience in the United States allowed me to speak to different audiences about the benefits of immigration and effective immigration policy. I helped people in Spain understand the complexities of the immigrant experience and the importance of societal integration through welcoming communities. I also spoke with policymakers about the importance of humane migration, using my mom’s story of receiving legal status through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act to note that pragmatic, humane policies can produce better outcomes.

Although I will never know if my conversations changed any minds or policy outcomes, it allowed me to move forward with my career as an immigration policy analyst who produces better policies for addressing the challenges and opportunities that immigration presents to the United States and Europe.

 

Strengthening My Identity in A Foreign Context

Vince Redhouse
2015 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia

Vince Redhouse (left, with the U.S. Ambassador to Australia), the 2015 Anne Wexler Fulbright Scholarship in Public Policy recipient, studied at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he completed an MPhil in Philosophy under the supervision of Robert E. Goodin. Vince’s thesis focused on the topic of political reconciliation between settler states and their indigenous citizens.

I am a member of the Navajo Nation. Throughout my Fulbright in Australia, I was challenged again and again as to what that meant and why that should matter.

Most of the time, these challenges made sense. My Fulbright research concluded that Indigenous peoples ought to be able to secede and that their respective colonial states should support their choice.

Sometimes, though, the challenges were less academic. Those challenges often came in the form of slurs and insults hurled on the streets or while riding public transport, or from people who simply felt like they deserved an explanation to satisfy their curiosity.

I ignored those particular challenges. Explaining one’s ethnicity and background is not a position that minority peoples like to be placed in. Sometimes, though, it’s good to place ourselves in that position so that we can truly educate others. In doing so, we might just discover new things about ourselves.

Throughout my Fulbright, I subjected my identity to the rigors of foreign worlds and foreign ideas, and, in the end, my identity is stronger for it.

U.S. Fulbright

Connecting Indigenous Communities: Native American Heritage Month Q&A

November 18, 2020

This Native American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the contributions of outstanding Fulbrighters who live the Fulbright mission through the ways in which they express their identities and their goals. In this Q&A, Fulbright Student Alumni Ambassador Vince Redhouse shares his experiences in Australia, where he learned about the relationship between Indigenous communities and the law.

Vince Redhouse, 2015 Fulbright U.S. Student in Philosophy to Australia

Vince Redhouse, the 2015 Anne Wexler Fulbright Scholarship in Public Policy recipient, studied at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he completed an MPhil in Philosophy under the supervision of Robert E. Goodin. Vince’s thesis focused on the topic of political reconciliation between settler states and their indigenous citizens. In addition to his master’s program, Vince tutored for a course on Indigenous Culture through ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, was a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, gave a TEDx presentation, and through support from both the ANU and the Lois Roth Endowment, visited Utopia, an indigenous community in the Northern Territory, where he was able to learn firsthand some of the issues Indigenous Australians face.

 

1. Tell us a little about your path to Fulbright. Who or what inspired you to apply?

Vince: My path was different than most. I am a first-generation college student and prior to my junior year of college, I had never heard of Fulbright! I was fortunate that one of my advisers recommended the program to me. There were two things that inspired me to apply: 1. An interest in the relationship between foreign Indigenous people and their settler colonial government; and 2. The opportunity to see if academia was right for me.

 

2. Tell us a little about your Fulbright research topic and project. What did a typical day as a Fulbrighter look like for you?

Vince: My Fulbright was for a two-year research degree: a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Philosophy at the Australian National University. My initial proposal was to examine and apply contemporary deliberative practices to see whether they could be used to dispel the false beliefs that societies hold about Indigenous peoples. What my proposal ended up being, however, was a normative evaluation of how political reconciliation could occur between Indigenous peoples and their settler colonial states. Ultimately, I argued that for political reconciliation to end legitimating settler colonial states, Indigenous citizens must be able to exit the process and reclaim their lands, should reconciliation fail or prove undesirable.

My research process was fairly routine: I commuted to my office(s) and did research at my computer most of the day. My university has an incredible tradition of taking tea twice a day, and I took advantage of that. It was a great opportunity for me to get feedback from professors and other students of all philosophical backgrounds in a friendly and casual environment. I also gave several research presentations, including a talk at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and a TEDx talk, and was a pro bono tutor (i.e. graduate assistant) for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture course taught by ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. I was also a visiting research fellow at the University of Canberra Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. From time to time, I was also able to meet and discuss issues with indigenous leaders and activists throughout the country—even spending a couple weeks in a remote indigenous reserve—as well as with members of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caption: Vince at TEDxFulbrightCanberra, and with former U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry.

 

3. How did your identity play a role in your Fulbright experience?

Vince: My identity as a Navajo was absolutely crucial to my Fulbright experience. A lot of the experiences I described above were available to me solely because I was an Indigenous person from the United States. The Indigenous peoples of Australia were just as eager to learn from me as I was from them! For example, I was invited to tutor a course in Aboriginal history and culture in order to share my experiences as an Indigenous person from the United States. Similarly, I was invited to spend time on a remote Aboriginal reserve, where I saw firsthand the impact of Australia’s Indigenous education policies. I was able to share my own experiences about U.S. educational approaches on Indian reservations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caption: Vince having dinner and hanging out with his philosophy friends.

 

4. What is your biggest takeaway from your Fulbright?

Vince: That indigenous communities across the world should be working together. We share so many historical similarities and are working to fight so many of the same battles every day. I truly believe that if we work together and learn from each other that we can do more than just persevere, we can thrive!

 

Caption: Vince (center back) sharing a meal with co-workers from the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.

 

5. What impact did your research or studies make in your career and local communities?

Vince: My Fulbright experience has had a tremendous impact on my life. It spurred me to go to law school and focus on Federal Indian law, but it also encouraged me to redouble my volunteer efforts working with Native American youth in the southwest United States. Currently, I run a professional alumni mentoring and scholarship program for Native students at the University of Arizona. Since taking over the program, I’ve been able to recruit a larger alumni community to mentor Native students and raise more scholarship funds for our students. My volunteer work collaborates with administrators to create mutually beneficial policy, and my experiences in Australia gave me the confidence to navigate and advocate in that arena.

 

6. How can native/indigenous students be supported and included in international education?

Vince: Fulbright should be more persistent about reaching out to Tribes, Tribal colleges, and international Indigenous communities about Fulbright opportunities. These connections are important not just for promoting Fulbright, but also for helping Indigenous students once they are abroad. Although Fulbright played a role in helping me make connections with Indigenous peoples in Australia, those connections were always indirect (e.g., a Fulbright alumnus introducing me to someone). Given Fulbright’s expansive alumni network and name recognition, I would like to see it strive to make those connections more directly.

U.S. Fulbright

Making the Grade: Five Things Every Applicant Should Know About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Review Process

October 15, 2020

By Fulbright Program Staff

Congratulations on submitting your Fulbright application! Now what? Have you ever wondered what happens to your Fulbright application after you hit “submit”? In this post, we’ll shed light on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program’s technical review and National Screening Committee (NSC) processes, illustrating how an applicant becomes a Fulbrighter.

 

1.  First things first… Technical Review

After you hit “submit,” Fulbright Program staff first conducts a technical review of your application materials. Therefore, it pays to thoroughly review country descriptions and eligibility criteria at the beginning of your application journey to ensure that you meet all requirements. Check out our handy application checklist to make sure you don’t forget to include any application materials, too.

During our technical review, we double-check your biographical data, citizenship, transcripts, letters of recommendation, project plans, and more for eligibility and completeness. Make sure that ALL required materials are successfully uploaded and viewable in your online application portal—you won’t be able to add missing documents later! (Hint: Be sure to view and save a PDF copy of your application before submitting—you’ll have both a copy of your application for your records and be able to confirm that all documents are successfully submitted and readable!)

After confirming an application is eligible and complete, it is moved to the National Screening Committee (NSC) for review.

 

2. The NSC: The Reviewers (and What They Are Looking For)

During “NSC Season,” almost 200 committees meet to review and discuss all successfully submitted applications. Each application is sent to a committee of three reviewers a.k.a. NSC members, for a transparent, merit-based review process.

Who exactly are these reviewers? The individuals that review your application are typically university professors with expertise in either a) your academic/professional field, or b) the country or world region where you propose undertaking your Fulbright. Many are Fulbright alumni, while others have been recommended by Fulbright Program Advisers or other NSC members. Reviewers reflect the diversity of the U.S. higher education community and include panelists from minority-serving institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), and other underrepresented institutions.

Each committee reviews approximately 60-70 applications in advance of a meeting, scoring each submission based on specific review criteria. While all programs and applicants are unique, NSC reviewers look for well-researched, feasible research and community engagement projects, adequate academic and personal preparation for the proposed country or award, and personal attributes and qualities that illustrate a positive and passionate cultural ambassador of the United States to the world. Be authentically you!

 

 

 

 

3. NSC Review Day

Throughout November and December, NSC reviewers gather for review meetings. Committees consist of three reviewers and one staff facilitator who directs the flow of the meeting, answers reviewers’ questions about the Fulbright Program, and records results. At these meetings, reviewers discuss each application using a collaborative approach and are welcome to adjust their scores based on their conversation. At the end of the meeting, final scores are tabulated by the staff facilitator, determining which candidates the committee recommends for further consideration during the host country review process.

 

4. Time & Consideration: The Breakdown

As you may have gathered, the NSC process is a massive undertaking! In 2019, 525 NSC members reviewed approximately 10,400 applications at 175 committee meetings in 6 different cities. From start to finish, more than 11,000 hours are spent screening, reviewing, and scoring each application. And that’s before the in-country review process!

 

 

5. The Decision

Based upon the NSC process, applications are designated as “Recommended” or “Non-Recommended.” All applicants are notified of their application’s status, and recommended applicants become “Semi-Finalists!” Recommended applications are forwarded to their respective Fulbright host countries for an additional round of selection, taking into account Fulbright Commission and U.S. Embassy priorities. During this period, Semi-Finalists undertaking research or graduate degree programs may be asked to submit letters of acceptance or affiliation from their proposed institution, so it’s important to receive all necessary documents as soon as possible. In some cases, host countries may also choose to contact Semi-Finalists for short phone or video chat interviews, in order to get a better sense of the person behind the application.

After months of concentrated effort by both applicants and Fulbright Program staff, host countries will share final application notifications on a rolling basis between February and May. Successful applicants are sent an award offer, and are officially known as “Finalists.” Qualified applicants not selected as Finalists may become “Alternates,” or potential awardees that may receive an award offer, should additional funding become available. Non-selected applicants are encouraged to celebrate their Semi-Finalist status, and reapply for the next award cycle. Even those who are not selected should feel extremely proud of their efforts, and know that many parts of the application can be applied to future endeavors beyond Fulbright, such as applying to graduate school.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program application process is undoubtedly long. We hope this article provides some clarity into the process, and helps you create the best application you can. In writing, editing, and discussing your candidacy with friends, mentors, Fulbright Program Advisers, and other individuals, you may gain greater insight into your passions, your reasons for pursuing a Fulbright, other transferable skills you possess, and insight into our world. Our best wishes for a successful application and bright future!