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Tufts student Fulbright numbers decrease

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 08:11


For the past three years, Tufts has placed on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of the top- 40 research institutions for producing student U.S. Fulbright   Scholars. However, Tufts did not appear on the Chronicle’s 2012-2013 list that was released last month, falling short of the minimum of nine student Fulbright Scholars needed to qualify.

Considered among the most prestigious scholarly award programs worldwide, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants post-graduation fellowships to selected applicants to conduct research for nine to 10 months in other countries. “Fulbrighters,” as the fellows are called, serve as both researchers and emissaries of the United States.  

Tufts reached its peak during the 2010-2011 award year, ranking 14th among research institutions producing student Fulbright Scholars. It has typically placed in the high thirties and turned out eight to nine Fulbright recipients each year from a pool of 40 to 50 Tufts applicants, according to Program Specialist in Scholar Development Anne Moore, who coordinates Fulbright applications from Tufts. 

“It’s not just, ‘What are you going to learn about the country you’re going to,’ but ‘What are you going to bring?’” Moore said. “The trick is having a balance between those two things.” 

Moore said that Tufts’ absence from the Chronicle’s ranking is a function of rule changes and a relatively small applicant pool, explaining that the number of Fulbright recipients a university needs in order to secure a spot on the list has been changed from eight to nine in recent years. 

Although nine Tufts students received a Fulbright scholarship this year, one was given an English Teaching Assistantship in France, which does not technically qualify for the Chronicle’s list, she said.

Tufts applicants in this year’s pool were accepted at a rate of about 16 to 20 percent, Moore said, while the average rate of acceptance in the top 40 this year was just shy of 25 percent. Nationally, she estimated that the Fulbright Program gives the award to 10 percent or fewer applicants. 

  Moore speculated that part of the reason for Tufts’ lower participation in the program is a low profile on campus, as advisors and faculty members do not actively encourage students to consider Fulbright as a post-graduation option. In addition, she said many potential applicants study abroad during their junior year, which is the prime season for discussing the Fulbright program.

Moore plans to make changes that will improve the program’s visibility among potential applicants on campus. She is in the process of creating a comprehensive brochure of opportunities for scholarships, funding and independent research that will be available for students at orientation. She also hopes to change the program’s perception as exclusive to hard sciences and community health.

“The idea of scholar development,” she said, “is that as early as sophomore year, at the same time that you’re picking a major, you’re thinking, ‘What are the research opportunities that this field opens up for me?’”

Assistant Professor of History Elizabeth Foster, who spent 2011-12 in France as part of the Fulbright program for faculty and professionals, agreed that faculty members should reach out to students about applying for the separate student branch of the Fulbright award.

“As a history professor, I think it’s something that we should definitely be talking to our students about,” she said. “Maybe some advisors are really good at that, but I think others might be not as aware of potential opportunities.

Stanley Jacobson, professor at the Tufts School of Medicine and another 2011-2012  U.S. Scholar Fulbright recipient, suggested that inviting Fulbright Scholars to campus could raise the program’s profile. 

“A Fulbright is a great experience, and it’s a very responsible experience,” he said. “It’s not really a study-abroad; you’ve got to take it very seriously. I was not only representing my university, but I’m representing the United States.” 

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