Each year, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board faces an enormous task: reading more than 10,000 applications from American students hoping to conduct research, study or teach abroad. Fulbright Scholarships are offered to more than 160 counties in all fields of study.
Last month, the Board selected seven Oregon State University students as semi-finalists for a Fulbright Scholarship. Final selections for 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholarships will be made throughout the spring and vary depending on the country to which the student is applying.
“Becoming a Fulbright semi-finalist is a tremendous achievement for our students,” said LeAnn Adam, Oregon State University’s Advisor for Prestigious Scholarships. “A very small percentage of candidates are recommended by the Fulbright U.S. national selection committee and then those candidates are forwarded to the Fulbright commission in the host country for final consideration. It’s by far the largest “cut” in the competition following a rigorous review and selection process. OSU can be very proud to have seven semi-finalists this year.”
From the 10,000 U.S. student applications for the 2017-2018 academic year, the Board winnowed the field to approximately 3,600 candidates. From these applications, 1,600 students will be chosen for a Fulbright Scholarship.
“Becoming a Fulbright semi-finalist is a tremendous achievement for our students” – LeAnn Adam, Oregon State University’s Advisor for Prestigious Scholarships
The seven Oregon State semi-finalists’ proposed research and teaching projects span seven countries and two continents and represent the diverse range of the fields of study available at Oregon State, including five Honors College students and alumni:
- Sara Bennett, English Teaching Assistantship, Czech Republic
- Lynda Bradley, Study/Research Grant, Biology, South Africa
- Sarah Brown, Study/Research Grant, Sociology, Hungary
- Caitlyn Clark, Study/Research Grant, Engineering, Denmark
- Arianna Kahler-Quesada, Study/Research Grant, Medical Sciences, Switzerland
- Ian Morelan, Study/Research Grant, Biology, Norway
- Omar Sheikh, Study/Research Grant, Engineering, UK Clarendon Partnership Award, Oxford
Sara Bennett, a senior political science major, applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to immerse herself in a new language and to hone her teaching skills. “In the Czech Republic, I hope to gain the ability to navigate a new language and to engage community members whose backgrounds vary from my own,” Bennett said. “I’m also interested in learning about the factors that shape identity and the ways in which the history of a nation-state might impact the sense of loyalty that its citizens may or not feel.”
Professionally, the Fulbright program offers students the opportunity to conduct research in a different cultural environment alongside the world’s scientific leaders. This was a draw for senior biochemistry and biophysics major Arianna Kahler-Quesada. “I’m seeking a broader perspective on medical research and how science is conducted in different cultures. Working alongside Dr. Christian Toso at the University of Geneva will help me build a wider knowledge base about how clinical research advances, which will be incredibly important in my future as a medical professional,” she said.
Regardless of the outcome, LeAnn Adam emphasizes that applying for a competitive scholarship like Fulbright is a valuable learning experience for students. “My advising philosophy focuses on the application process instead of the outcome, which helps students consider their motivations, strengths, aspirations and goals and then articulate them both verbally and in writing,” Adam said. “This process provides many opportunities for personal and professional development that are separate from the outcome of the competition.”
Adam’s biggest tip for students embarking on the application process is “Start early! I am always excited to speak with first-year students and any students who may be a few years away from applying for a competitive scholarship.” Her role as a scholarship advisor is a university-wide position, and she advises students in all stages of their academic careers, including undergraduate and graduate students, as well as alumni. Students interested in competitive scholarships should visit Oregon State’s website for prestigious scholarships, Top Scholars.
The investment of time and support from Oregon State and Adam was an integral part of the application process, according to Ian Morelan, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology. “LeAnn was instrumental in helping me prepare the proposal and my application materials. She arranged feedback from OSU faculty promptly and gave me valuable advice throughout the process,” he said.
Applying for a Fulbright Scholarship helped Morelan identify and clarify his plans for the future.
“I plan to pursue a career in teaching,” he said, “and the skills I would develop as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. in Norway overlap with many of the traits that effective educators display, including communication skills and a sense of cultural sensitivity toward others.”
Adam already sees these qualities in the students she advised for this year’s Fulbright Scholarships: “Our candidates have many strengths that are correlated with our strengths as an institution, including impressive research experience, strong international connections and a deep commitment to creating new knowledge and mutual understanding.”