This past year, more recent graduates of William & Mary received Fulbright U.S. student grants than graduates of any other college or university in Virginia, according to a list of top-producing Fulbright institutions published by the Chronicle of Higher Education Feb. 18.
With 13 awards for 2017-2018, William & Mary is one of 45 institutions nationwide and one of two Virginia universities included on the Chronicle’s list of top-producing research institutions. Although the list is not considered a ranking, William & Mary placed 26th among the research institutions listed, making it the top-producing Virginia university.
William & Mary has consistently made the Chronicle’s list of top-producing research institutions, setting its all-time record in 2013 after 14 William & Mary alumni received Fulbright grants. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government's flagship international educational exchange program. Fulbright recipients use the grants to teach and conduct research in countries around the world.
"I'm happy to have inherited such a strong program," said Lindsey Love, Fulbright program adviser and director of national scholarships for the Roy R. Charles Center. Love joined William & Mary in October, filling a role previously held by Lisa Grimes. "Fulbright was a real passion area for my predecessor. She devoted a lot of time and effort into building up a solid resource system for students. This honor is really a reflection of her work creating an excellent program."
One key area of the program is the peer scholarship advisor (PSA) network. Charles Center staff recruits freshman students to spend their next four years on campus coaching their peers through grant and scholarship applications. The PSA program makes it possible for applicants to have hands-on guidance throughout the entire application process, Love said.
Students interested in applying for Fulbrights are encouraged to meet with a peer advisor in April, which is six months before the final application is due. By playing the long game and having a network of support, Love is optimistic about the future success of William & Mary as a Fulbright producer.
“We have a very globally-minded student body combined with an interest in research, which are two of the big components of Fulbright,” said Brandon Posner '17, who has worked as a peer advisor for four years and expects to graduate with a master’s in accounting this spring. “We have a lengthy process to make sure each applicant's case for their respective country is very specific, very sharp. By the time they're turning in their essay, they've probably gone through 10 to 20 drafts, making the case for their country and why it's the important next step for them.”
William & Mary’s current Fulbright recipients are spread out in 10 different countries, from Ukraine and Switzerland to Canada. Among the grantees is chemistry major Jessica Armstrong ’17, who returns to the University of Cologne in Germany, where she has previously studied, to “investigate catalysts for use in a system that can simultaneously produce hydrogen gas as a fuel and decontaminate wastewater containing formaldehyde impurities.”
“My experience with Fulbright will be an important stepping stone to my career goal of a professorship at a research university,” she told W&M News last April. “This experience will grant me a degree of independence that will help me to further clarify my own motivations and specific scientific interests in preparation for a career as a professor.”
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program for students and young professionals seeking international graduate study, advanced research and teaching opportunities. Over 1,900 grants are awarded annually by the program, which operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.