Date May 19, 2016
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Brown students, recent graduates earn 29 Fulbright Scholarships

The award, one of the country’s most prestigious, offers students the opportunity to teach, study or pursue independent research in more than 140 countries.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — 

Twenty-seven seniors from Brown University’s Class of 2016 and two recent alumni have landed coveted Fulbright student scholarships to conduct research or teach abroad. 

As the flagship international exchange initiative sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright Program is designed to build relationships between Americans and people in more than 140 countries across the globe to collectively address global challenges and work toward world peace.

Over the past 12 years, Brown has consistently ranked in the top 10 of Fulbright’s top-producing schools and is among the leading institutions within the Ivy League in securing Fulbright student scholarships. Selection is made based on a variety of factors including the quality of application, personal qualifications and academic record, and the extent to which the candidate and the project will help to advance the Fulbright mission.

“There’s a real mission match between the Fulbright Program and Brown,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships. “With Brown’s unique approach to undergraduate education, students are the architects of their own education. They take risks and step outside of their comfort zone. Brown students are social justice-minded, interested in community service and have a global perspective. Fulbright maps on to that beautifully because the Fulbright mission is ultimately about creating world peace one relationship at a time.”

Rising seniors and recent graduates can apply for two types of Fulbright awards: research/study grants, which support independent projects or participation in graduate programs abroad, and English Teaching Assistantships, which support recipients in teaching English and sharing cultural and political perspectives about the U.S. 

Anselmo Fuentes, one of two teaching assistantship recipients from Brown headed to Mexico next year, was born in Mexico but raised in San Diego. He sees the Fulbright as an opportunity to reconnect with his birth country and make a meaningful impact there. Afterward, he will join the Urban Teachers Program, where he will teach in a Washington public school and work toward a master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University. 

“Teaching is my passion, and I plan to be an educator,” Fuentes said. “Through the Fulbright, I can do meaningful work but still get the travel and cultural experience that I want.” 

Fellow recipient Hannah Duncan will approach her passion for education through an independent study project that looks at early childhood education in Finland, a country often held up by policymakers as a potential model for the U.S. She will focus on communities in Finland with significant minority populations. 

“Finland has this amazing, oft-cited education system with great outcomes, but recently there have been growing achievement gaps as racial and ethnic diversity has grown,” she said. “So the country has really been focusing on how to think about multicultural education within an equity-based model.”

A classics concentrator who graduated in 2015, Duncan has worked for the last year in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington researching programs related to poverty. “Through my work, I have been thinking a lot about equity and resources in the U.S. context, and the Fulbright is an opportunity for me to think about that internationally,” she said.

Duncan, who is also a Truman Scholar, plans an eventual career in the public sector and expects her time in Finland to shape her next steps — Dunleavy said this is often the case for Fulbright Scholars.

“The Fulbright gives students useful time to reflect on what they really want to do and maybe step away a bit from the standard career trajectory,” she said. “At the same time, it’s a prestigious academic program where they can have a strong sense of purpose.”

Other students have more definite plans for their post-Fulbright years but see the program as a way to enhance their work. Senior Marga Kempner, a history concentrator, is also in Brown’s eight-year medical program. Before starting medical school, she’ll use the Fulbright year to complete a public health project investigating how rural women of childbearing age in Brazil access health services. 

“I am looking at this Fulbright as a way to pursue an interest that I hope to develop more in medical school,” Kempner said. “I’d love to go into global health and maybe obstetrics. Having time to do research on something that I feel passionate about made a lot of sense in terms of where I hope to go career-wise.”

This year, 102 students and recent graduates from Brown applied for Fulbrights, the highest number in the University’s history. This year’s scholars point to Brown’s robust Fulbright application support as the reason for such high engagement. Resources include “getting started” sessions in the spring, application-writing workshops in the summer, and an active group of graduate student and faculty advisers who offer feedback and guidance along the way. 

“When I was applying for the Fulbright, I had a lot of support from the committee in charge of fellowships,” said Ivan Alcantara, a Fulbright Scholar and neuroscience concentrator who will travel to a lab in Germany to perform research on genes involved in neural communication that are also in the same family as the gene implicated in Parkinson's disease. “I got a lot of advice during the process, and I went to four writing workshops, which I think were the main factors in my successful application.” 

Thanks to these many supports, the process of applying is in itself a rewarding one, even for those who do not ultimately receive an award, Dunleavy said, likening it to a “mini-course.”

“Practically speaking, students learn how to put together an application, how to write a project proposal, how to work with a committee and take feedback, and who and how to ask for effective letters of recommendations,” she said. “But the application process also asks students to reflect more broadly about their values and their background, where they see themselves going, what their life vision is. Applying for a Fulbright is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn a little bit more about themselves and their goals.”

A full list of this year's Fulbright Scholars is available here.