History in the Numbers
by Michelle Simmons
December 30, 2008
Selina Carter '06, with art students she taught prior to her Fullbright award to Portugal, plans a career as a diplomat.
Dickinson is among the top 10 liberal-arts institutions producing Fulbright recipients thanks to a college record of eight students receiving the prestigious award in 2008. During the 2007-08 academic year 14 students applied, with six receiving English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) and two receiving research grants. Selina Carter ’06 received one of two ETAs available in a new program in Portugal—bringing the total to nine awards.
Several initiatives may be contributing to student success. Jeremy Ball, assistant professor of history and campus liaison for the Fulbright Student Program, notes Dickinson’s expanding global-education program as a primary factor. “All of [the students] had studied abroad and were fluent in the language of the country they were applying to,” he says. “There’s a clear correlation between their fluency and the Fulbright.”
Shirley King, director of advising, points to the recent practice of working closely with potential applicants early in their college careers. “Four years ago we started a program of identifying and nurturing first-year students who had potential to be strong candidates. This graduating class is the first to go through the program,” she says. King had recruited faculty representatives for the major award and scholarship programs to help coordinate the process, and she sees their work as key to the program’s success.
Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college, also sees the historic numbers as the result of this systematic, collaborative approach. “I think this is a validation of the strength and quality of the global-education program and a tribute to the hard work of the faculty and their support during the application process,” he says.
The 2008 recipients agree. Elizabeth Stokely ’08, who received an ETA grant to Colombia, began early by majoring in international studies and Spanish. “After studying and completing an internship in Málaga, Spain, I was certain that I wanted to have another abroad experience,” she writes from the University Santiago de Cali. “My experience at Dickinson provided me with the language ability to integrate into Colombian life, the critical-thinking skills to better understand U.S.-Colombian relations and the cultural sensitivity to be able to build relationships on a personal level.”
Another factor—and growing trend—is the cosmopolitanism of the Fulbright program: 15 countries are represented among the 34 Dickinsonians who’ve received awards since 2000. More ETAs in more countries are available today, and the Fulbright program reports a 26-percent growth in total applications during the last five years. Nancy Mellerski, professor of French and film studies and campus liaison before Ball took over in 2007, notes the simultaneous increased globalization of the Fulbright program and Dickinson’s study-abroad options.
“Until very recently, the programs were Eurocentric, and Fulbright applicants reflected that,” she says. “Now that [Dickinson is] opening programs in other places [such as Cameroon and China] we’ll get more students interested in places other than Europe.”
According to Ball, Fulbright applications for 2009-10 include Thailand, Spain, Egypt, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, the Philippines, Austria, Germany and South Africa. Both Ball and Mellerski see opportunities ahead in Africa, Asia and South America, and they anticipate more students applying for grants there.
One constant remains, though, since the Fulbright program began in 1946. The application process is still rigorous and competitive, and grateful recipients still describe their experience as one of gaining a new maturity and awareness. Carla Hasenritter ’56, one of the earliest Dickinsonians to receive a Fulbright, remembers her time in France: “I learned to live on my own there. I learned real words—as a literature major I hadn’t learned the French words for things like ‘dustpan.’ Over there I did.”
Fifty-three years later, Christina Brumbach ’08 writes from Rome, “I have been here for six weeks and have learned a tremendous amount about Italy, America, me and life in general. This will probably be one of the most important years of my life. I am certain.”