ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan students received 26 Fulbright grants for the 2018-19 academic year—the most of any public university in the nation for the 14th 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 researching social and economic transformations in China to studying ethnographic study of reproductive health care professionals in Burkina Faso.
“U-M’s commitment to international education helps students and scholars gain new perspectives and higher levels of understanding that make our world a better and safer place,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “I commend our newest Fulbright awardees for their dedication to making lasting positive impacts around the globe.”
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 1,100 U.S. students, artists and young professionals from 100 different fields are offered Fulbrights each year.
The staff at U-M’s International Institute have been crucial to the university’s Fulbright success. They provide individual advising and resources necessary to put forth a compelling and competitive application throughout the application process.
“We have a seasoned team consisting of Fulbright Program advisers and faculty that is very invested in our applicants’ success,” said Heather Johnson, fellowship and grants adviser at the U-M International Institute. “It also helps that U-M students are perennially impressive in their own right.”
Recipients are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. Former grantees include actor John Lithgow, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, opera singer Renee Fleming and economist Joseph Stiglitz.
U-M’s student grantees this year include Ryan Etzcorn, who is spending time in China researching social and economic transformations facing the country’s civil society.
Etzcorn says that the Fulbright scholarship is helping him “become a leader in sustaining and expanding direct interactions between Chinese and American citizens, beyond the narratives provided by their governments and media.”
Johnson adds that Fulbright offers a chance to the students and scholars to promote mutual understanding.
“It is key that applicants demonstrate a desire to genuinely engage on an individual level and to embrace the ambassadorial role expected of them as Fulbrighters,” she said.
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 what one grant recipient from U-M is doing with his Fulbright in 2018-19:
Ryan Etzcorn graduated as a master’s student from U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy and Asian Studies.
Project: “I have been researching social and economic transformations facing the China’s civil society, with a focus on the Guangdong Province. My project seeks to understand how landmark laws and regulations passed after 2016 are impacting the charitable sector in southern China.”
How has Fulbright helped you in your research?
“For me, Fulbright always held an aura of unattainability that turned me away from considering it for most of my life. Over time, I started to meet some former Fulbrighters and learned from our conversations that it was absolutely something in my reach, as well as many other students at a top university like U-M, if they are willing to take the leap of starting the application process.
Fulbright is allowing me to interview foundations, small grassroots organizations, and even government officials to better understand how those laws are (or are not) making waves at the street-level.
It is a fully liberated mandate to be curious that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
What is your advice for fellow students applying for Fulbright?
“Get feedback, early and often. Don’t be afraid to write a draft [of the Statement of Grant Purpose] and have faculty advisers, Fulbright advisers and peers give feedback.”
Written by Mandira Banerjee