Fulbright grant winners increase

The University produced more Fulbright grant winners this year, checking in at No. 12 nationally.

GW tied with Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Arizona for having 16 students who won Fulbright International Educational Exchange fellowships, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor topped this year’s research institution list with 29 Fulbright award winners.

Paul Hoyt-O’Connor, director of the University’s Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research, attributed the boost to past students’ successes.

The scholarship program “becomes a live option” for students who have seen their friends win the award, he said. Sixty-six students applied for this year’s grants with a 24-percent success rate.

Last year, GW held the No. 25 spot, a sharp drop from 2009 when the University was ranked No. 7 in the country.

The Fulbright grants – operated by the State Department – fund research abroad and bring foreign scholars to the U.S. Each yearlong grant covers transportation, research and living costs in a researcher’s country of choice.

Hoyt-O’Connor also emphasized GW’s strong study abroad programs in locations outside Western Europe, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America – regions where fewer students submit grant applications – as a factor for GW’s increasing number of award recipients.

Students who spend a semester in these locations establish helpful ties to local universities, he said.

“The culture of the Fulbright program is closely aligned with the culture of the University,” Hoyt-O’Connor said, noting both organizations’ attention to international learning.

Associate Editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education Ian Wilhelm echoed Hoyt-O’Connor, saying that, “Universities with strong international programs and that already have a number of Fulbright recipients on campus tend to produce more Fulbrights.”

Hoyt-O’Connor estimated more than 10,000 students nationally vie for the 1,600 Fulbright grants given to American students each year.

The program’s budget was slashed by more than $16 million in fiscal year 2011. The State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, which administers the grants, could face additional cuts of 10 percent if the U.S. House of Representatives version of the federal budget passes in December. President Barack Obama’s budget proposal called for an overall funding increase to the bureau, but it requested $1 million in cuts to the Fulbright budget.

Hoyt-O’Connor said the number of possible winners would likely shrink if the program’s budget is cut.

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