Date February 28, 2022
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Brown is nation’s top Fulbright-producing university, U.S. State Department data shows

With 29 grants offered to students and recent alumni for the 2021-22 academic year, Brown earned the No. 1 spot as the country’s top producer of Fulbright winners, marking the fourth time the University earned the distinction.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Students and recent graduates of Brown University earned more Fulbright scholarships than those from any other university in the nation during the 2021-22 academic year, according to data released by the U.S. State Department on Monday, Feb. 28.

Twenty-nine Brown undergraduates, graduate students and recent alumni were offered Fulbright awards for this year, with 27 of them accepting. Awarded by the U.S. State Department, the grants fund research or teaching abroad for up to one year.

Brown has ranked among the top student Fulbright producers in the U.S. throughout the last decade, and this year marks the fourth time the University has earned the highest spot on the list, in addition to 2016, 2017 and 2018. In 2019 and 2020, Brown earned the No. 2 rank.

Brown’s consistent placement among the top producers illustrates an intersection of the values that Brown and the Fulbright program share, including a focus on making a positive impact across the world, said Dean of the College Rashid Zia.

“We are immensely proud of our student Fulbright awardees,” Zia said. “Their accomplishments illustrate the transformative impact of a Brown education, in which students arrive with openness, generosity and a vision to confront pressing global challenges, and leave with the knowledge and relationships necessary to confidently execute that vision. Both as Fulbright fellows and beyond, their innovative teaching and research projects have equipped them to be collaborative, creative thinkers and doers, and we can’t wait to see how their work will impact the world.”

Fulbright students are selected for awards based on a variety of factors including the strength of the application, personal qualifications, academic record and the extent to which the candidate and their project will help to advance the Fulbright mission of mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College, said the Fellowships office supports students in the application process and devotes significant energy to encouraging them to consider Fulbright experiences after earning their Brown degrees. 

"I'm proud of our creative, optimistic and brave students who embraced the promise of cultural exchange and mutual understanding across differences during a time when the world was turning inward in response to COVID-19," Dunleavy said. "It's exciting that so many Brown alums and graduate students are in countries around the world teaching, pursuing research, and studying as ambassadors of the U.S. and Brown University." 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program has promoted international peace through intellectual and cultural exchange since its founding in 1946. The program funds approximately 2,000 recent graduates and current graduate students annually to teach and conduct research in 140 countries around the world. 

While applicants learn of the awards during the spring, the Fulbright programs publishes data each February on the top producers of Fulbright scholars and students.

Advancing career paths through cross-cultural exchange

Brown’s 2021-22 Fulbright winners are now midway through their year teaching or conducting research in 17 countries across Asia, Latin America, Europe and Africa. Teaching placements include elementary schools, high schools and universities, where awardees are providing classroom instruction and sharing cultural perspectives between the U.S. and their host countries. Research award recipients are pursuing projects in a wide range of academic fields — from political economics to flood management, genetics to law — on four continents.

For recent graduates, Fulbright fellowships provide opportunities to pursue projects that extend the courses of study they pursued while at Brown — all while serving as cultural ambassadors abroad.

Last fall, Class of 2021 graduate Rainbow Chen moved to the Netherlands, where she is advancing her career in education as an English teaching assistant at ROC Amsterdam. At the vocational school, Chen helps to teach English classes in which the students are primarily cooks, pastry chefs and people training to enter international hospitality or culinary industries.

“There’s really no equivalent of the school I work for in America,” Chen said. “I think that’s a really fulfilling part of my experience here that forces me to get out of my comfort zone and operate in a system that’s completely different from what I’m used to.”

Chen’s experiences at Brown — particularly work with the Swearer Center and Youth in Action, an after-school program in Providence that supports local students of color — have helped her to develop a teaching approach focused on encouraging students to share their own stories.

“I’ve been told very often that I’m bringing a lot of unique methods of education in ways that teachers here aren’t usually trained to do,” she said. “It’s allowed me to build stronger relationships with the students who realize that maybe these methods are better suited for them, or at least they feel more seen and more heard.”

The general openness of Brown students also had an impact on how Chen has approached her Fulbright experience. Coming to Brown from a non-traditional high school in Vermont was “almost like moving to another country,” she said, but learning about her peers and opening up to them was invaluable in creating lasting bonds, broadening social and professional horizons, and learning to navigate life as a global citizen; it’s how she approaches both meeting new people in the Netherlands and engaging with her students.

“I want to try to help influence and change the biases that we, as Americans, have earlier on so that less harm is done when my students get to my age and beyond,” she said. “I’m constantly checking myself, and I always want to be a better person. I want that for my students, too.”

The experience of moving to and working in the Netherlands hasn’t been without its challenges, especially with a recent significant spike in COVID-19 cases — the most the country has seen to date. But teaching at ROC Amsterdam is something Chen said she’ll value for the rest of her life. Her mentors emphasize mutually beneficial relationships, and Chen said the ones she’s formed with her students and fellow educators have brought her immense joy and warmth during the Netherlands’ sun-less winter months.

For her birthday, Chen’s colleagues and students staged a few surprises — cake, cards and a necklace featuring a charm of Amsterdam’s iconic canal homes that her students had picked out. Chen still holds onto those cards, including one in particular: “It says ‘Happy birthday to the best teacher assistant person ever,’ and ‘assistant’ was spelled incorrectly, but I just couldn’t bring myself to correct them,” she said. “I think that memory will always be a core part of who I am and my experience here. They value me a lot, and I value them a lot.”

Brown’s 2021-22 undergraduate and recent graduate Fulbright scholars include:

  • Paul Abrams (Sweden)
  • Sara Alavi (United Kingdom)
  • Morgan Awner (Spain)
  • Wassa Bagayoko (Cote d'Ivoire)
  • Jane Bradley (Spain)
  • Sarah Buchanan (Spain)
  • Rainbow Chen (Netherlands)
  • Ethan Franzblau (Austria)
  • Mae Fullerton (Taiwan)
  • Alexis Giff (Switzerland)
  • Claire Heiden (Sri Lanka)
  • Christien Hernandez (Spain)
  • Christine Lee (South Korea)
  • Hannah Lee (South Korea)
  • Jenny Lee (Vietnam)
  • Cynthia Lu (Spain)
  • Dylan Majsiak (Mexico)
  • Jessica Ojeda (Spain)
  • Elizabeth Rolfes (Uzbekistan)
  • Nikita Shah (India)
  • Tara Srinivas (Spain)
  • Sarah Van Horn (Brazil)
  • Albin Wells (Netherlands)
  • Jamila Wilkinson (Trinidad and Tobago)

Brown’s 2021-22 graduate and medical student Fulbright scholars are:

  • Scarlett Bergam (South Africa)
  • James Williams (United Kingdom)
  • Stephanie Wong (Mexico)