By GRACE HURLEY
Cornell was the tenth highest producer of U.S. Fulbright Students in 2013-14, the Chronicle of Higher Education announced last month.
Twenty out of 67 applicants from Cornell were awarded grants this year from the prestigious program, making the University’s acceptance rate fifth highest in the country and setting it above peers including Yale and Harvard.
The Fulbright program’s two main objectives are “to provide an opportunity for U.S. students to enhance their academic, professional and intellectual growth and to strengthen cultural exchange,” said Prof. Emeritus Gilbert Levine, biological and environmental engineering, Fulbright advisor to Cornell graduate students and alumni. The program is open to seniors, graduate students and alumni who have graduated in the last five years.
According to Stefan Senders Ph.D. ’99, Fulbright advisor to Cornell undergraduates, since the Fulbright mission is “to get people together to recognize the fellow humanity of other human beings,” the Fulbright program has a flexible and unrestricted structure.
As a result, he said, there are no limits on what to study or how to study it.
“This is a wholly unique experience in that you are fully funded to do basically whatever you want. I’m not exaggerating when I say, ‘do whatever you want.’ This is not an academic grant; this is not for a research dissertation. This is for whatever you want,” he said during an information session for the Fulbright program Wednesday.
Every year, he added, those accepted into the program travel abroad and spend about a year engaged in research on a topic of their choosing or become English teaching assistants.
Senders said previous projects ranged from studying a rice planting scheme in India to writing a blog about lunch in Syria.
According to Levine, Cornell’s involvement in the application process includes student outreach through the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and arranging and managing the various portions of the application process, such as organizing interview committees.
In addition, Levine said, the Einaudi Center provides information and advice on applicants’ countries of interest, and can usually supply applicants with contact people within those countries.
Levine said he credits Cornell’s success in getting students accepted to the program to both the quality of the applicants and increased University outreach.
“The primary reason for Cornell’s excellent performance in the competition is that we have excellent students,” he said in an email. “We have strengthened our efforts to reach students at the sophomore and junior levels. We have two advisors to meet with the students, and we have administrative staff at the Einaudi Center who keep in touch with the Institute of International Education and facilitate access for the students to the resources at the center.”
Despite Cornell’s success in its production of Fulbright students, Levine said he still sees room to increase the number of Cornell applicants in future years.
“Our rank this year is tenth in the number of awards, but our percentage application success rate puts us fifth in the country. If we could attract more students to the program, we could be even more successful,” he said.