Is a Fulbright in your Future?
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire continues to be a top producer of Fulbright student fellows in the master’s institution category.
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But what is a Fulbright? Can business students participate in this prestigious program, which was established by the U.S. Congress in 1946 and is considered by many to be the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government?
To learn more about the Fulbright program, BizWire contacted Cheryl Lochner-Wright, study abroad coordinator in the UW-Eau Claire Center for International Education, who is also the university’s campus Fulbright adviser.
BizWire: What is the Fulbright U.S. Student Program? Can business students apply to the program?
Lochner-Wright: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program was established to provide future American leaders with the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly global environment. It is one of the many competitive, merit-based grant programs offered through the Fulbright Program and administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Fulbright applicants are U.S. citizens who are graduating seniors, graduate students, and young professionals who wish to study, assistant teach English, or conduct research abroad. A bachelor's degree (or equivalent) is required by the start of the Fulbright grant period.
Fulbright currently offers grants in more than 135 countries. Four countries—Australia, Mexico, Netherlands and Spain—offer grants specifically for business. However, business students are not limited to applying only for these grants. Many countries have no restrictions on the academic disciplines accepted. Disciplines accepted by each country are listed in the Country Summary on the Fulbright website at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/program_regions_world.html.
Grants lengths and dates vary by country, but the majority of grants are for 9-12 months. Again, specific information can be found in the Country Summary on the Fulbright website.
BizWire: What does a Fulbright grantee do?
Lochner-Wright: There are two basic types of grants. Grantees who receive study/research grants are typically based at a university where they take courses and conduct research in an area relevant to their discipline. Grantees who receive English teaching assistantships (ETAs) teach English at the level specified by their host country. Possibilities include everything from elementary to university students.
BizWire: Tell us more about the research or service project.
Lochner-Wright: Research proposals for study/research grants are in the grantee’s academic discipline. Ideas for projects can come from a variety of sources. It could be a topic a student has researched for a course, explored through student/faculty collaborative research, or gained knowledge of through an internship or participation in a student organization. For example, Sarah Janes, a UW-Eau Claire graduate who received a study/research grant to Mexico for 2009-2010, expanded research she began in a geography class at UW-Eau Claire to study the effects of immigration to the U.S. on the immigrants’ home communities in Mexico.
In general, a successful study/research project
- builds on research/academic work the student began as an undergraduate
- is well-thought out and can be completed in the time available and with the resources at hand
- has a component that necessitates being in the host country (e.g., could not be done solely through e-research/library research)
- has the support of someone at the institution where the student proposes to carry out the research
Successful ETA projects tend to expand the grantee’s involvement in their host community. For example, Eau Claire Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Whitney Zahn is using her experience as a member of the university’s forensics team to start a speech team at the German high school where she will be teaching English.
BizWire: Are grantees on their own during the Fulbright experience or does the program connect them with others in that country?
Lochner-Wright: It varies by country. In all cases, Fulbright students have a host country contact. Some countries offer extensive orientation programs; others connect students with mentors. Exactly what is provided will be explained in the Country Summary on the Fulbright Web site.
BizWire: Does the Fulbright grantee get paid during the experience? What about expenses, who covers them?
Lochner-Wright: Full grant benefits for study/research and English teaching assistantships include 1) round-trip transportation to the host country, 2) maintenance for the academic year, based on living costs in the host country, and 3) Limited health benefits.
In addition, full grants, depending on the county and the program, may include 1) research, books, and/or suppliesallowances, 2) mid-term enrichment activities in many countries or world regions, 3) full or partial tuition, 4) language study programs, and 5) pre-departure and in-country orientations.
Grantees with projects that require extensive research support, in-country travel, study materials, or equipment should explore additional funding from other sources to supplement their Fulbright funding.
BizWire: What obligation does the grantee have to the Fulbright Program once he/she returns back to the United States?
Lochner-Wright: Fulbright expects a mid-term and final report.
BizWire: Is there a certain type of person the Fulbright Program looks for its student program?
Lochner-Wright: Fulbright is looking for students who have been actively engaged in their undergraduate education and who will be actively engaged in their communities abroad. A strong academic record, evidence of involvement outside of the classroom, and a plan for community involvement abroad are key.
BizWire: Does an applicant need to be fluent in a second language?
Lochner-Wright: This depends on the country. Language proficiency requirements can be found on in the Country Summary on the Fulbright website at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/program_regions_world.html.
BizWire: What is the application process?
Lochner-Wright: Applying for a Fulbright is a lengthy and rigorous process. As part of the application process, the applicant must write a proposal for study and a personal statement describing how the experience will benefit him/her personally and professionally, submit a letter of support from a host institution (study/research only), submit transcripts, provide personal references, and participate in a personal interview.
Information about the 2013-2014 Fulbright grants will be available May 1 on the Fulbright website at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/overview_timeline.html. I hold a Fulbright information meeting in late April/early May, to coincide with the launch of the current application cycle. However, students are welcome to make appointments with me at any time to discuss the scholarship/process.
The UW-Eau Claire campus deadline for applying for a 2013-2014 Fulbright grant is October 1, 2012.
BizWire: What tips do you have for a student interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Lochner-Wright: Successful Fulbright grantees are students who have made the most of their undergraduate education. They have
- Taken courses that enrich their academic career and/or are of interest to them, not just settled for courses that are easiest to fit into their schedules.
- Gotten to know their faculty members as mentors.
- Participated in student/faculty research opportunities.
- Made their service learning count by choosing projects they believed in, not just those where they could
- Taken advantage of leadership opportunities by running for office in a student organization and/or participating in leadership training opportunities offered on campus.
Many Fulbright grantees have studied abroad; however, this is NOT a requirement of the program. If a student does study abroad and hopes to apply for a Fulbright one day, gaining a truly cross-cultural perspective by getting involved in his/her community abroad is much more beneficial than spending all of his/her extra time traveling.
Finally, students can increase their chances of getting a Fulbright by 1) applying to a country that encourages applications from graduating seniors, and 2) applying to a country where there are few applicants.