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Number of UI Fulbright applicants stays flat

BY CHRIS CURTLAND | NOVEMBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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A grim job outlook may be one factor pushing an increasing number of graduating seniors and alumni to pursue intellectual, professional, and artistic goals internationally.

But despite a significant increase in applications nationwide for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the number of UI applicants has remained static.

The Institute for International Education, which oversees student Fulbrights, received 8,500 applications for 2010-2011 — approximately a thousand more than last year and more than a 10 percent increase, said Schuyler Allen, a spokeswoman for the institute.

UI International Programs received 38 applications for the upcoming year — down two from last year, grants coordinator Kristi Fitzpatrick said.

“Receiving a prestigious scholarship looks great on a résumé, but the experience is rewarding in many more ways,” she said. “The program offers a unique opportunity to pursue research, projects, or teaching.”

Andrea Beloy, UI Honors Program scholarship director, said the job market is just one of several factors affecting the national increase.

Other factors — particularly gaining the experience and adding a line to résumés — also influence students and can make them more competitive in the job market, said Beloy, who advises UI students seeking Fulbrights.

Since the UI became involved in the Fulbright Program in the 1990-91 school year, more than 100 UI students have won grants, which usually pay for travel expenses and room and board, as well as sometimes covering tuition and research expenses, Fitzpatrick said. According to the U.S. Department of State, which sponsors the Fulbright Program, fiscal 2008 funding for the U.S. Student Program was $38.8 million for roughly 1,500 grantees.

The UI had six student Fulbright winners last year, and this year’s winner will be chosen in late spring.

While there are the fewer applicants this year, Fitzpatrick said, the UI advertises the Fulbright Program across campus beginning in May when the competition opens.

“We send mass e-mails, hold workshops, and visit with groups,” she said. “We also rely on faculty to identify good candidates and promote the program.”

Fitzpatrick said International Programs also visits classes and seminars, as well as highlighting the opportunity at its Student Funding Expo.

Aside from the U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright Program in total awarded around 6,000 grants in 2008 — worth more than $275.4 million — to U.S. students, teachers, professionals, and scholars to study, teach, lecture, and conduct research in more than 155 countries, according to its website.

“Fulbrights are full of rich experiences that we simply cannot get in this country,” said Associate Director of the UI Division of Sponsored Programs Eugenia Crosheck, who traveled on a 2-week Fulbright for administrators to Germany. “It was only my second time using my passport.”

UI English Professor Phillip Round taught in Spain after winning a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, which allowed him to meet “many fine student Fulbrighters” who worked in labs and hospitals as well as teaching assistants and museum curators, he said.

“They are an impressive group of people,” he said. “Great ambassadors for America abroad.”


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