To even apply for a Fulbright Fellowship, you have to prove that you are dedicated and driven. Write to Donald Andrew, fellowships adviser at Smith, for information about Fulbright, or to arrange a meeting to discuss applying for the prestigious program, and you will be deferred first to a web page that warns of the procedure’s rigor.
“Okay, so you have made it thus far from the Enquiry Level to the Registration Level,” it begins. “Here sadly is where too many stall for too long as their opportunity to make hay while the sun shines slips away through procrastination. Knowledge however is power, so if you invest the time now in understanding what’s ahead, you’ll make your load lighter later. Deep understanding of your potential in relation to the Fulbright comes from completing the Registration form itself.”
Any sophomore or junior hoping for a quick, easy Fulbright application process need not apply.
Lisa Saladin ’13 is one of 30 Smith students recently named Fulbright finalists with her proposal, “Fresh Feminine Voices: Transfiguring Irish-Language Poetry in the Postmodern Era.”
The 30 Smith finalists marks yet another national record set by Smith regarding Fulbright awards in recent years.
Saladin attests that making it to the finalist stage once seemed like a steep hill to climb. “It took me five months to convince Don Andrew to even let me apply,” she said, explaining that the adviser wanted her to prove to him that she was serious and passionate about her project, and that she had a proposal that was feasible, “because Ireland is a country with such stiff competition for grants, so there’s no real point in applying otherwise.”
The Fulbright, a merit-based grant that allows graduates to spend time studying, teaching, and researching abroad, aims to “promote international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science,” as articulated by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, who introduced the scholarship program in 1945.
Smith was the nation’s top producer of Fulbright Fellows, with 19, in 2011-12, and is the record holder for rate of success among applicants, with nearly 50 percent of last year’s 40 applicants receiving fellowships. Smith has produced 210 Fulbrighters since 1970, 129 in the past 10 years, one of the highest numbers of Fulbright fellows of any college or university.
Student applicants attribute Smith’s success to both the passion of the college’s students and the rigorousness of the application process, insisted upon by Andrew.
“He had us go over our essays and resumes until they were absolutely perfect,” said Ruth Isserman ’13, who has applied for a fellowship to teach English in Germany after graduation.
The Fulbright application process is long and difficult, Saladin described, adding that she is thankful for the many professors and advisers she was able to consult along the way. “Don Andrew helped me understand the very specific way the selection committee thinks.”
Saladin, who has studied Irish Gaelic for a few years, said her project came together when she was in Ireland for a few weeks for a summer immersion program, and was able to make a connection with a university lecturer there who agreed to help her. “Finding this affiliation is what gave me the motivation I needed to apply,” she said.
If selected for a Fulbright, Saladin hopes her project of studying contemporary Irish poetry will create more awareness, especially internationally, of an Irish literary tradition that is alive and well but not widely appreciated.
To others hoping to apply, she recommends, “Before you start, make sure you really want to do this. If you’re not passionate, you won’t get very far. Make sure you talk to everyone you can, because you never know where you might find an idea for a proposal.”
For her Fulbright application, Luvana Chowdhury ’13 proposed to develop “low-cost, accurate, simple tests to quickly detect dengue virus to help prevent deaths in Bangladesh.” Chowdhury has observed firsthand how a sensitive physician or clinical researcher can inspire and educate patients from communities where healthcare education and treatment is poor.
“I have realized, the more I learn, research, and teach, the better I will be able to diagnose and enable my patients to become agents of their own health,” she said. “My training in the sciences have made me realize further the importance of developing culturally appropriate solutions that can work within the financial constraints of impoverished countries and communities.”
This year’s class of Fulbright Fellows will be announced in late spring.