UW-Eau Claire one of top schools in country when it comes to producing Fulbright students

| Mike Knuth

When it comes to producing Fulbright students, there are few universities in the country that have an edge on UW-Eau Claire.

When the list of schools that produce the most Fulbright grant winners was released by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, UW-Eau Claire was tied for 14th among all public and private institutions in the country that offer master’s degrees. The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the lists of top-producing schools each year, and UW-Eau Claire Fulbright Program adviser Cheryl Lochner-Wright was thrilled to see the Blugolds break into the top 15 (see 2015-16 list).

“It is satisfying to see the recognition, and it is such a credit to our students,” Lochner-Wright said. “Every time I see our success as a university, it makes me think that it would be great to see more students apply. Many don’t think they have a chance, but clearly, we can compete.”

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Every year, more than 1,900 students in 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants. The grants offer the students the chance to study, conduct research or teach English in another country. UW-Eau Claire had three students win Fulbright awards in 2015-16, and four more students are semifinalists for 2016-17 (see related story).

Since 2006 UW-Eau Claire has produced 17 Fulbright students. That success is a testament to UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to providing students with a world-class education.

“We take great pride in preparing students for success,” Chancellor James Schmidt said. “We challenge our students to study abroad, to engage in high-impact learning and to set audacious goals. UW-Eau Claire’s tradition of excellence with the Fulbright Program is truly something special, and it speaks to the quality of our students and our faculty.”

Lochner-Wright, who has coordinated the program at UW-Eau Claire since 1997, is quick to credit the students and her colleagues on the campus Fulbright committee, Dr. Maria DaCosta, professor of economics; Dr. David Lonzarich, professor of biology; and particularly Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Honors Program.

“Our Honors Program is a great feeder program for our Fulbright students, and Jeff does a wonderful job encouraging students to apply,” Lochner-Wright said. “I think our strengths at UW-Eau Claire fit in well with the Fulbright Program. They are looking for students with research backgrounds, they are looking for high-impact experiences and they are looking at community engagement. And we have a great education program, which gives us an excellent pool of students for teaching assistantships.

“You don’t have to study abroad, and you don’t have to be an education major to win a Fulbright. I want our students to take a look at the opportunity, and not shut down before they get started.”

Lochner-Wright not only helps prepare students for the process of applying for the Fulbright grants, she has the pleasure of watching young leaders develop.

“A number of alumni of the program give back,” she said. “They really gain a lot from the process, and even those students who go through the process and don’t end up winning a grant take something positive away from the experience. They are all adventurous, and it is really fun to see how they learn and grow along the way.”

A complete list of Fulbright recipients is available on the U.S. Fulbright Student Program website.

Photo caption: Angela Koch, one of three 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student award recipients from UW-Eau Claire, works with students in an art class at North High School in Eau Claire, where she was a student teacher. The Fulbright award enabled Koch to teach English in Bulgaria from fall 2015 through this spring 2016.