Faculty keep Centre a Chronicle of Higher Education “top producer” of Fulbrights
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently named Centre a “top producer” of Fulbright scholars for 2013, a sought-after title that few schools achieve. Just this summer, Centre sent four Fulbright students to various corners of the globe, including Malaysia, Bulgaria, Austria and Korea.
Fulbright fellowships are extremely competitive, but Centre students consistently receive them. Aside from their strong personal and academic qualifications, these students have the benefit of two talented Fulbright advisers: Dr. Allison Connolly, NEH associate professor of French, and Dr. Núria Sabaté, assistant professor of Spanish.
Connolly is in her third year as a Fulbright applicant adviser and explains the lengthy application and preparation process.
“Fulbright competition begins during the spring of students’ junior years,” she explains. “That’s when they need to start thinking about what kind of Fulbright they want to apply for—teaching English or completing research. If they apply for a research Fulbright, they have to find a professor in the host country that will oversee their research (an affiliation). This can take some time, which is why students need to start in late spring.”
Though Connolly and Sabaté provide much-needed guidance and resources, students complete the bulk of the planning and application.
“We tell them how the process works, give them guidance to the extent we can, and then we send them off,” Connolly says. “Ideally, during that summer they can do some of the research on the program, write personal statements and secure a research affiliation if necessary.”
At the beginning of the academic year, both advisers are especially busy working with applicants on their personal statements.
“Students who tend to win Fulbrights go through five or six drafts of personal statements with one or both of the advisers,” Connolly explains.
Though Connolly and Sabaté are the College’s official Fulbright advisers, many other Centre faculty are involved in the application process.
“Faculty and staff members participate in the initial interviews and write recommendation letters or offer moral support,” Sabaté explains.
One of the most important things both advisers bring to their roles is a wealth of experience with international education.
“I’ve studied abroad several times in France, and I’ve lived in France three different times, in very different contexts,” Connolly explains. “I’ve been there as a student, I’ve taught at a French university, and I’ve directed Centre’s Strasbourg program.
“Being a language professor, you’re always thinking about the world beyond the U.S.,” she adds.
Sabaté has a similar depth of international education experience.
“I have studied and worked in many different countries than my own,” she says, citing her experiences as a student at University Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and University of Bologna. She also participated in a teaching exchange program sponsored by the European Union and taught at La Réunion, an overseas French department.
“I can easily relate to students who would want the challenge of navigating and decoding different social dynamics than their own and the experience of learning from other cultures and languages,” she says.
One of Connolly’s favorite aspects of being an adviser is getting to interact with a broad swath of Centre students.
“It’s such a gift to work with students that are so excited about going abroad,” she says. “One of the things I’ve loved is that I get to interact with a lot of students that I never had in class—it’s neat to have exchanges with these people.”
Despite the trials of balancing a full course load and extensive advising commitments, both advisers enjoy the work, especially since Centre students are usually such strong Fulbright applicants.
“At Centre there’s a culture of study abroad—there seems to be in Centre students a real willingness to go overseas,” Connolly notes. “A lot of our students have already studied abroad, so it makes them especially strong candidates. Having done so can make your application more rich and interesting.
“For example, if you studied in the Mérida, Mexico, program but you want to do a Fulbright in Peru, you can use some of that experience from Mérida to study in Peru,” she continues. “You’ve shown that you’ve been able to live abroad. Our culture of study abroad really helps students—it gives them the tools to build a very strong application.”
And though Connolly and Sabaté can revel in their role in helping produce high numbers of Fulbrights for Centre, they are continually looking for ways to improve and expand Centre’s involvement with the program.
“I’m hoping that we can get more qualified applicants for research Fulbrights, Connolly says. “The bar for research Fulbrights is set very high, but Centre is focusing more and more on undergraduate research, so hopefully we will have students who’ve completed undergraduate research who can apply that experience in a Fulbright research context.”
Learn more about Centre’s Fulbright program here.
By Mariel Smith