BY ANNA WONDRASEK
Once again, Drake University has been named on the Fulbright U.S. Student Top Producer List for 2017-2018.
Drake has been named a top producer of Fulbright U.S. Students and Scholars six times since 2006-2007 and has had a total of 35 undergraduate Fulbright recipients since 2000-2001. The most recent recognition was for the 2015-2016 school year. Past winners have included Nora Sullivan (2014-15), Brianna Shawhan (2015-16), Emily Enquist (2016-17), Nathan Jacobson (2017-18) and this year’s winner Meghan Walters.
According to the Fulbright Program website, the U.S. Student Program is “the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.” The application opens in April and closes at the beginning of October.
Those eligible to apply include recent graduates, masters and doctoral candidates and young professionals with up to five years of experience in the field in which they are applying. Those with more than five years of experience in their chosen field are eligible to apply for this year’s Fulbright Scholar program instead.
According to winner Meghan Walters, even though the application itself is short, the process is a very long and involved one.
“Because Fulbright is such a highly competitive program, the process of preparing your application may start as early as January, the sooner you start the better your application is going to be,” Walters said. “I started later than many students and still wrote more essay drafts than I can count. Most students begin their essays in the summer before their senior year (though you do not have to be a graduating senior to apply, you only need a bachelor’s degree).”
“There are seven to nine parts to the Fulbright application, depending on the type of award, and three stages in the application process,” said Karen Leroux, Drake’s Fulbright advisor. “The component parts of the application include: extensive biographical data, a statement of grant purpose essay, a personal statement, a letter of affiliation (for research applications), three recommendation letters, foreign language evaluations (as appropriate, some students don’t do any; others have done as many as three language evaluations), transcripts, supplementary materials (for creative arts applications) and a campus committee evaluation.”
Even after all of this, acceptance to the Fulbright Students program is not guaranteed.
“Students begin work on the application in the spring, continue through the summer, submit their penultimate application draft in September, are interviewed by a campus committee which offers feedback and decides whether to endorse the applicant,” Leurox said. “That’s the first stage. Then the final version of the application goes to Fulbright headquarters and to a national screening committee. If the national screening committee decides in the student applicant’s favor, they are named a semi-finalist. That’s the second stage.
“’Semi-finalist’ applications then go to the various host country commissions. If the host country accepts the student applicant, they are named a Fulbright finalist and are offered a Fulbright grant,” Leroux continued.
As for why Drake has been named a top producer, Provost Sue Mattison attributes this success to “the commitment and engagement of high performing student applicants.”
Walters said it goes even further than that.
“Drake students are already exceptional in their experience, dedication to academics, classroom work, internships and off-campus experience, and they are dedicated to responsible global citizenry,” Walters said. “I think Drake students, faculty and alumni foster a dedication to each other, the community and the world that results in very similar values to the Fulbright program.”