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Northwestern Produces Record Number of Fulbright Scholars

Fulbright recipients are studying in India, Romania, Mexico, China, Chile, Jordan and more

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October 26, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Fulbright Award U.S. Student Top Producer

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University is the second top producer of U.S. Fulbright grant recipients among the nation’s research institutions, according to a ranking published Oct. 24 in the online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

As of Oct. 7, 27 Northwestern seniors, graduate students and recent alumni had been awarded the prestigious 2011-2012 scholarships from the flagship U.S. government-sponsored program funding international research and exchange. Only the University of Michigan, with 29 recipients, exceeded Northwestern in the number of Fulbright Scholars produced.

“Our Fulbright success is an external verification not only of the breadth and depth of Northwestern’s academic offerings but also of the superb resources that the University provides its students,” said Sara Anson Vaux, director of the Office of Fellowships.

Northwestern has been among the top 10 Fulbright producers for five of the last six years, and last year produced 20 Fulbright Scholars. 

The Fulbright winners represent every Northwestern undergraduate school as well as the law and medical schools. Studying in India, Romania, Jordan, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, China and other nations around the world, they come from disciplines that range from music to engineering, art history to journalism, psychology to theatre, history to linguistics and biology to African studies.

Of a total of 102 Northwestern Fulbright applicants, 28 have accepted and three declined the international grants. In terms of yield, Northwestern outperformed top producer Michigan and third-ranked producer Yale University, according to Office of Fellowships associate director Stephen Hill. (The 28th Northwestern winner learned of his Fulbright acceptance after the Chronicle’s ranking was complete.)  

“Northwestern’s high yield rate can be viewed, in part, as a reflection of the University’s -- and in particular the Office of the Provost’s -- efforts in recent years to encourage undergraduates to do in-depth research and to provide funding opportunities to make it possible,” Hill said. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Fulbright recipients participated in undergraduate research and already had the experience of applying for research grants.

• Audi “George” Bajalia, for example, went to Morocco on a Northwestern undergraduate research grant and to Croatia on a study abroad program through the University’s Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies before earning his Fulbright. As a Fulbrighter, he has returned to Morocco to study the nation’s performing arts scene. In particular, he looks at the ways in which Moroccan artists use Western stereotypes of Morocco in their art.

• Fulbright winner Meredith Turk traveled to New Orleans on a Northwestern undergraduate research grant to study post-Katrina tourism, the subject of her undergraduate thesis. Today, the cultural anthropologist is studying beekeeping traditions in Slovenia. Her goal is to produce an audio documentary about the cultural significance of beekeeping to Slovenian identity.

• Lydia Hsu is one of the first two recipients of a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Rwanda. While an undergraduate, she spent a summer teaching English to orphans in that country through a Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace Fellowship and a Northwestern immersion language grant. As Rwanda goes through the long process of nation rebuilding, she is using her Fulbright not only to teach English but also to create an organization that connects successful Rwandan students with businesses in need of educated employees.

Other Northwestern Fulbrighters include a music student studying in the Netherlands with a renowned contrabass trombonist; an engineering graduate student testing a new technique to detoxify water in a polluted river of northern Chile; a 2011 graduate studying organ donation and transplantation procedures in the European Union; and a drama student working in some of the poorest suburbs of Paris to learn how immigrants use theatre to comment on and draw attention to community problems.

The complete list of Northwestern 2011-2012 Fulbright recipients and where they are studying follows:

Kathryn Balestreri (Guatemala), social policy; George Bajalia (Morocco), communication studies;  Christina Barbosa (Italy), mechanical engineering; David Becker (Netherlands), music; Daniel Bristow (Jordan) journalism and Asian and Middle Eastern studies; David Calder (France), theatre and drama; J. Daniel Elam (India), rhetoric and public culture; Elizabeth Engstrom (South Korea), religious studies; Cara Gagliano (Czech Republic), linguistics; Thomas Gilbert (Denmark) sociology and philosophy; Lydia Hsu (Rwanda) English and African studies; William Kalema (United Kingdom), history; Rachel Koh (Chile), anthropology; Ryan Lange (Canada), biological sciences; Lawrence Langowski (Mexico), psychology and economics; Brendan Lovasik (European Union), biochemistry and economics; Francis Lovecchio (Spain), Spanish and Honors Program in Medical Education; Martin McBriarty (Germany), materials science and engineering; Jay Monteverde (China), law; Hyesung Oh (South Korea), psychology and mathematics; Austin Parks (Japan), history; Maya Ragavan (India), public health and medicine; Ilana Seelinger (Czech Republic), English; Claire Shea (Switzerland), biological sciences; Christopher Shirley (United Kingdom), language and literature; Kyle Simonson (Chile), environmental engineering; Meredith Turk (Slovenia), anthropology; and Kelli Wilbert (Romania), political science.

Five of Northwestern’s Fulbrighters received English teaching assistantships. “Fulbright has greatly expanded the number of these assistantships in recent years to meet increased demand around the globe,” said Office of Fellowships director Vaux. “Most combine 20 hours per week of teaching with the scholar’s own project.” 

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.