ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan students received 21 Fulbright grants for the 2016-17 academic year—the most of any public university in the nation for the 12th year in a row, the U.S. State Department announced.
The grants—one of the U.S. government’s most prestigious awards—fund the students’ research or teaching overseas for six to 12 months. This year, their interests range from studying Bengali women relationships in India to examining piracy between Spanish and British America in Jamaica.
“Global education and international engagement enhance cultural understanding and make our world safer,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “I am proud that so many U-M students are committed to using their talents to make a positive impact across international borders.”
Fulbrights were also awarded to nine U-M faculty members. Their interests range from investigating doctor communication about cancer in China to studying St. Lucia Lake’s environment in South Africa.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program seeks to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries, as well as help the recipients achieve their academic goals. Nearly 2,000 U.S. students, artists and young professionals from 100 different fields are offered Fulbrights each year.
Crucial to U-M’s success has been the staff at the university’s International Institute who provide individual advising to applicants throughout the application process.
“These results reflect the quality of our students and the commitment of the faculty and staff at the International Institute to preparing students to succeed in this competition,” said Pauline Jones, the institute’s director. “It is also a testament to U-M’s broader commitment to international experiences and education. The institute is proud to be a key partner in fulfilling this commitment.”
Recipients are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. Former grantees include actor John Lithgow, U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, opera singer Renee Fleming and economist Joseph Stiglitz.
U-M’s student grantees this year include Farida Begum, who is spending time in India and Bangladesh researching daily lives of early Bengali women.
“Receiving a Fulbright means that I get to interact with people in the host country and spend time in the local educational institutions,” she said. “It is incredible for my research because a big chunk of my work is based on oral history.”
Another grantee, Andrew Rutledge, is a doctoral student studying smuggling and piracy in between Jamaica and Cuba in the 1700s.
“The fulbright scholarship is a springboard of my long-term goals,” he said. “Being supported for six months while I research and write my dissertation is invaluable.”
Fulbrighters in the field: How did the grant change their lives?
The University of Michigan’s success with Fulbright grants is largely due to fantastic students who are advised and inspired by the faculty and staff at U-M’s International Institute. Read about some of the 21 grant recipients from U-M are doing with their Fulbrights in 2016-17:
Andrew Rutledge earned a master’s degree in social sciences and is a doctoral student in the U-M history department.
Project: “I explore the international world of the early modern Caribbean by examining contraband trade and piracy between British America and Spanish America. More specifically, I focus on relationship between Jamaica and Cuba in the 1700s. My research shows that the two islands’ economies and societies were deeply and inextricably linked in a ‘shadow economy’ of illicit trade and violence as small vessels crisscrossed the waters between the two islands exchanging Jamaican slaves and textiles for Cuban silver, mules and tobacco. At the same time, officials in both empires continuously attempted to crush this clandestine trade, often with naked force. Using both English- and Spanish-language records kept by imperial governments and colonial societies, it reveals how the development of European colonies in the region, particularly of the infamous sugar plantation complex that came to dominate the Caribbean socially, politically and economically, was inseparable from international ties which provided the capital, labor and markets for colonists to draw together in a twinned quest for plunder and profit.”
How has the Fulbright changed your life?
The Fulbright helps me by supporting me for six months’ research and writing in Jamaica, something that would not have been possible otherwise. It also gives me access to a support network at the University of the West Indies Mona campus that have proven invaluable.
Farida Begum earned a bachelor’s degree in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures.
Project: “I’m currently looking at how Muslim women in Bengal, both in India and Bangladesh, interacted in their daily lives. The project is to see women who were not in books and were not revolutionary path blazers. I am looking at diaries, photos, autograph books and logs to see how they were navigating the spaces of social reform during the interwar period.”
How has the Fulbright changed your life?
The scholarship allows American students to interact with people in the host country and local educational institutions. Given most of my research is oral history, this experience has been vital for my research.