Jacqueline Drayer’s internal clock woke her early one morning last March – and for good reason. After months of rigorous paperwork and essay-writing, Drayer awoke to an early-morning email informing her that she was named a Fulbright scholar.
Drayer is one of 10 students and alumni who are traveling on Fulbright grants this year, placing the University among the top Fulbright-producing institutions for the 2015‒2016 academic year. Six faculty members also received awards this year, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors in higher education.
Still, GW’s totals put it below some D.C.-area peer schools: American University had 12 awardees and Georgetown University had 17, according to a list compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Six students received the award last year. In 2010, GW dropped 17 spots with 13 awardees, after 23 students had been selected the year before, according to The Chronicle.
The only student to be traveling on a research or study grant, Drayer is currently living in Ghent, Belgium. She is studying older buildings that have been repurposed as art museums, and hopes to create a handbook for American institutions that are interested in doing the same.
The nine others were awarded English-teaching assistantships and are currently abroad in countries ranging from Turkey to Thailand.
Drayer, who is in the combined bachelor’s and masters’ program in American Studies, said she chose Belgium because of its French-speaking population and its rich art and architectural history. She said the people she has met have been welcoming and helpful with her research, which will last until the end of this academic year.
“They’re very generous with people they don’t know,” Drayer said. “I’ve reached out to all these fairly important people for interviews. They all happily accepted.”
Drayer said faculty and staff the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships encouraged her to apply for the award and gave her application help through one-on-one meetings and essay reviews.
Paul Hoyt-O’Connor, the director of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research, said fewer recipients have been coming from GW because fewer students and faculty have been interested in completing the extensive application process. He said his office has added information sessions to pique the interest of more students.
Fulbright scholarships give graduates and faculty the opportunity to conduct research or teach English in a foreign country for one academic year. The scholarship covers their cost of living, transportation and other benefits, depending on the program.
“For a university like GW to enjoy strong numbers of Fulbright recipients every year, it does take the equivalent of an academic village,” Hoyt-O’Connor said.
He said improvements in the University’s language department have contributed to a more diverse selection of countries in this year’s group, including more students traveling to regions like the Middle East.
“When it comes to Turkey, that program really does value people who have already studied the language, so now that GW offers Turkish, it really does make it that much more possible,” Hoyt-O’Connor said.
Nelson Tamayo, a 2015 graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs, is currently on an English-teaching assistantship in Coimbra, Portugal.
Tamayo said Portugal was a natural choice because he speaks Spanish and French and has an interest in democratization of countries, a process that Portugal went through in the 1970s.
Tamayo said that improving language and cultural studies programs at GW will encourage more students to apply for the Fulbright because learning about other nations can inspire students to seek out opportunities to travel and conduct research.
“The more support those programs get, the more opportunities GW students will have to seek out the kind of opportunity I’m experiencing,” Tamayo said.