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Northwestern a Top Ten Producer of Fulbright Scholars

Scholars to study in Rwanda, Egypt, Russia, Australia and elsewhere

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November 4, 2010 | by Megan Fellman
Lauren Bohn

Lauren Bohn has traveled to Egypt to study journalism and Arabic language.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- For the fifth straight year, Northwestern University is one of the top 10 producers of U.S. Fulbright scholarship recipients among research institutions, according to a recent ranking in the Oct. 25 online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Northwestern also is seventh in the overall competition, which includes 600 schools with applicants, placing the University in the top 1.5 percent of all Fulbright producers nationally.

The Northwestern group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni are among nearly 1,700 American students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study who recently took off or soon will leave to study, teach English and conduct research in more than 130 countries.

“This year we have six scholars going to the Middle East, a placement that is very hard to get,” said Sara Anson Vaux, director of the Office of Fellowships at Northwestern. “This success showcases the growth and impact of the University’s Asian and Middle East Studies Program and Arabic language classes and our students’ interest in learning more about this part of the world.”

The University’s Fulbright scholars include a political scientist studying volunteerism, civic engagement and civil society in the United Arab Emirates, a theologian exploring forgiveness in post-genocidal Rwanda, a journalist in Uganda exploring issues related to America’s donation campaigns for Africa, a biological scientist studying introduced and native species in Australian estuaries, and a journalist studying Middle East history and culture and the Arabic language in Egypt.

“Fulbrights represent an ideal opportunity to highlight the involvement of undergraduate and graduate students in research,” said William Reno, who has been a member of Northwestern’s Fulbright faculty adviser committee for many years. He is an associate professor of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and director of graduate studies.

For journalist Lauren E. Bohn, now studying Arabic in Egypt, this is her first visit to the Middle East. Her five-month language study is under a Critical Language Enhancement Award, an additional grant for Fulbright recipients administered by the U.S. State Department. Bohn will begin her Fulbright in January, taking classes in Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo and freelance reporting.

“It’s my hope that my Fulbright experience will enhance my capacity to talk to the public about the Middle East -- that it will serve as a springboard for journalism that broadens and deepens the public dialogue,” said Bohn, who graduated in June with a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism.

“There exists now more than ever a fundamental disconnect in communication between the United States and -- as it’s been problematically deemed by the media -- the ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim World,’” Bohn said. “As a result, there is a great need for journalists with a thorough understanding of the cultures, histories and politics of the region.”

Colleges and universities listed as the top U.S. producers of 2010-2011 U.S. Fulbright students as tallied by the Institute of International Education were grouped according to type. Northwestern was sixth overall in the grouping of 34 research institutions, and the University’s yield was 20 awards from 111 applicants. (A total of 23 Northwestern students or recent alumni were offered a Fulbright award, and three declined because of other opportunities.)

The Fulbright program is the premier U.S. government-sponsored program that funds international research and exchange. Since its inception in 1946, the program has provided nearly 300,000 participants worldwide -- chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential -- with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

“Northwestern is unusual for the extent of collaboration occurring between faculty and students in research activities,” Reno said. “Our undergraduate research grant program -- which has become more ambitious in recent years -- is an important part of that process. This is critical for producing more students who are competitive and have a reasonable chance of winning Fulbrights.”

All U.S. citizens who hold a bachelor’s degree are eligible to apply for a Fulbright, said Stephen Hill, associate director of the Office of Fellowships, but independent or guided research experience, the study of foreign languages and experience abroad provide students with a competitive edge.

“Having a Fulbright scholarship on your resume is a significant factor in the advancement of an academic career,” Hill said. Getting a Fulbright, he emphasized, is a more doable goal than many imagine. “What students need, besides a relatively high GPA, is passion and drive,” he said. “And they need to be very committed to what they want to do.” 

Northwestern students should start looking for informational workshops in January when the Fulbright season begins, Hill advised.

The complete list of Northwestern 2010-2011 Fulbright recipients follows:

Adam Arents, Russia, English teaching assistantship; Laura Ashbaugh, Jordan, journalism; Lauren E. Bohn, Egypt, journalism and Arabic language; Hannah Bolder, China, area studies; Marissa Brookes, Australia, political science; Shalini Dixit, Spain, English teaching assistantship; Rebecca Donaldson, United Arab Emirates, political science; Victoria Fortuna, Argentina, theater studies; Elizabeth Granger, Uganda, journalism; Rachel Lindner, Syria, law; Angelina Lucento, Russia, art and architectural history; Sarah Moser, Germany, English teaching assistantship; Joseph Moser, Rwanda, theology and religion; Mokaram Rauf, Philippines, public health; Alex Russell, Egypt, English teaching assistantship; Rachel Smith, Australia, ecology; Christine Sommers, Bangladesh, education; Madeline Weinstein, Russia, English teaching assistantship; Christine Welch, Taiwan, English teaching assistantship; and David Wille, Egypt, communications.

The applicant pool for Fulbright scholarships is typically between 6,000 and 7,000 a year.

Students receiving awards for this academic year applied through 600 colleges or universities.

Lists of Fulbright recipients are available at www.fulbrightonline.org/us. The Fulbright feature in The Chronicle of Higher Education is available at http://chronicle.com/article/Fulbrights-Putting-Money/125053/.

The Fulbright program also awards grants to American teachers and faculty to do research, lecture and teach overseas. In addition, some 3,850 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study for graduate degrees, conduct research and lecture at U.S. universities, colleges and secondary schools.