Bruce Campbell: One of W&M's unsung Fulbright heroes

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Over the past decade, William & Mary's students and alumni have been very successful in obtaining Fulbright Scholarships to teach and study in countries around the world. This year alone, a record thirteen students and alumni were selected.

But the students who have obtained the highly competitive scholarships did not get there on their own. Much of their success is owed to the support and opportunities offered to them by the College's faculty members and staff members, who work tirelessly with students across the disciplines to prepare them for the scholarships.

One of those faculty members is Bruce Campbell, an associate professor of German and associate chair of the modern languages department.

"While many William & Mary faculty members take an active interest in promoting the Fulbright program to their students and mentoring them through the process, Bruce has really made it a mission to increase the number of Fulbrighters we send to Germany and Austria (through the Austrian Government Fulbright program)," said Lisa Grimes, William & Mary Fulbright Program Advisor. "The proof of his success is in the numbers: four of our students are currently finishing up a year in Austria or Germany, and in the fall we're sending four students to teach English, one to conduct research, and one student is an alternate for an ETA position in Germany.  No other country has nearly that many Fulbright recipients, or applications."

Campbell said that he - along with colleagues like Jenny Taylor, Rob Leventhal and Merry Feyock Guernsey -- have made a conscious effort over the past decade to assist students in applying for Fulbrights or other academic honors. That help begins with letting the students know what opportunities are available to them as soon as possible in their college career.

"It seems like a simple thing, but an undergraduate comes to campus and they're worried about the mid-term. They're not thinking about that long-term prospect," said Campbell. "We feel very strongly in German studies and in the other languages, too, this is not just an academic subject. We want you to learn a skill that you're going to use for the rest of your life."

Students interested in the Fulbright program have the opportunity to apply for two different types of scholarships:  a research scholarship or an English-teaching assistantship. Students may also apply for Fulbright scholarships that are offered through the Austrian and German governments.

For all of the scholarships, one of the qualities that Fulbright seems to highly value is strong language skills.

"That's our job, of course, but we also want them to go abroad," said Campbell. "If there's one thing a student can do - any student, no matter the major - to improve their education, it is to go abroad to a non-English speaking country."

Along with studying abroad, Campbell and his colleagues also encourage students to work as teaching assistants and participate in undergraduate research. By the time they are ready to apply for Fulbrights, the students are able put together professional-quality applications.

Campbell said students in German studies have done very well with Fulbright and that he would match their track record with any university in this country.

"Looking back, since the year 2000, there's only two years when we had no Fulbrights at all, and we really started mentoring on 2004-05, and since then we've had a track record which has been phenomenal," he said.

He noted that the College's Fulbright success all begins with its students.

"If you have good students who are interested, you've got a person you can dialogue with, and you can help reach their potential, that's all we're trying to do," he said. "We don't coach the students, we don't write things for them - the students are doing it on their own. We're just there every step of the way."

And when those students succeed - as they have done for a decade now - the professors celebrate, too. Campbell, who was an English teaching assistant in Germany himself, knows what it can do for a student's life and career.

"I can't tell you the satisfaction it brings all of us to have our students get these opportunities. It changes lives," he said. "This opportunity changed my life, how could I not pass that on to someone else?"