The University of Richmond ranks among the Top 15 U.S. bachelor's institutions for producing Fulbright-grant-winning students, according to the "Chronicle of Higher Education."
Six 2009 graduates won grants for the 2009-2010 year, putting Richmond in a tie for 14th with Bowdoin College, Occidental College, Williams College and Wheaton College in Massachusetts in the bachelor's institution category, trailing Pomona College, which had 15 Fulbright recipients. Northwestern University, ranked within the research institution category, led all schools with 32 recipients.
Uliana Gabara, dean of international education, said the honor was indicative of Richmond's emphasis on international education, including increases in the number of students studying abroad, international students studying at Richmond and courses that include international content.
"More and more of our students understand that to be well-prepared as a citizen and as a professional, the more international experience they have, the better," Gabara said.
Thirty Richmond students applied for Fulbright grants for 2009-2010, Gabara said: 14 students had applied for teaching assistantships, and six received the award; 16 students had applied for research awards, but none received the award. Gabara said the time and preparation required for the research award applications made them more difficult to receive.
Overall, the Fulbright Program for U.S. students annually awards grants to approximately 1,000 students, who then travel to more than 140 countries.
After the university's impressive 2009-2010 Fulbright showing, applications for 2010-2011 Fulbright grants decreased slightly this year despite an increase in applications nationwide.
"Part of the national increase is when there are no jobs, people are particularly interested in getting themselves in a position where they can do something else until the job market improves," Gabara said. "But apparently our students have not been affected by it."
She stressed that the decrease in applications did not necessarily mean the university would receive fewer grants, but it could be more difficult.
"It depends on how good the applications are, of course," Gabara said, "but the competition clearly this year is going to be stiffer because other institutions are seeing these increases."
For the six 2009 graduates who received Fulbright grants, their time abroad has just begun. Two graduates are teaching in Taiwan, and the other four are teaching in Spain, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Peru.
Kyle Bell, who received a teaching assistantship in Spain, said he had only been abroad for seven weeks and was still getting adjusted to living in Spain.
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"I still have a lot to learn about Spanish culture and society," Bell said. "It is too early to say how my experiences in Spain will change me or my future plans. Hopefully I can give a better answer in July."
Despite being new to the program, Bell said he would encourage Richmond students to apply for Fulbright grants in the future.
"It really is a fantastic opportunity," Bell said. "How often do you have a chance to get paid to travel and learn about other parts of the world?"
Gabara said Fulbright grants could help seniors who are grappling with how to become leaders in the 21st century.
"If you consider how many seniors don't exactly know what they're planning to do with the rest of their lives," Gabara said, "it is a huge opportunity to have a year to do good work and to continue thinking about what to do with the rest of [their lives], exploring specifically that role as a citizen-ambassador."
Contact staff writer Stephen O'Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org
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