Design your project
This page is for figuring out Research Proposals.
For an ETA, apply Easiest ETA Countries analysis
– using this page to find advice & reviewers.
Finding the right professors to help focus and shape your proposal, even at the early conceptual stage, is essential and mandated for Fulbright candidates.
When your proposal is a Research project, help is particularly relevant because this begins with such matters as framing a poignant research question or thesis statement.
Teaching applications do not require any conceptualization of a project since the "project" is already set: to teach ESL as an ETA (English Teaching Assistant).
This guide is for "Securing Specialist Consultants in Your Field & Region” and is primarily for Fulbright Fellowships but can also be used similarly for other fellowships, such as the Daad, or adapted for use with other fellowships by applying the broad guidelines herein.
Choosing a country is usually the first consideration after deciding whether to do a Research or a Teaching Fulbright although they sometimes go hand-in-hand depending on what is available to do where for research or what is required where for teaching.
Study carefully what countries say they want, via
Try to obtain country knowledge from the first-hand experience of former Smith Fulbrighters (see under 5. Regions/FAB below).
Both of these two categories of people require networking to find them:
1. Specialist Consultants are people whom candidates consult for advice in developing their fellowship applications or, even earlier, in conceptualizing a project.
They are mostly Smith or other college/university professors but can also be at research institutes, NGOs and the like.
2. Affiliation Sponsors are people in the host-country whom applicants ask to be their research advisors, and or institutions at which to study.
An Affiliate can also be the site where one wishes to conduct research, for which permission must be obtained from someone.
Affiliate networking (2 above) is not covered in this guide. Networking for affiliates comes later – after a would-be candidate has found a suitable project to propose and is preparing an application (part of which is to secure sponsorship support in the host country).
Networking for specialists in this guide is to help you find and develop that suitable project to propose.
At the beginning stage, when you are trying to figure what to do where, you will consult professors to help you come up with a feasible concept for a Fulbright project.
When you are preparing a Registration at Smith to become part of the campus Fellowships Program in order to obtain college support for applying for a Fulbright, you will consult specialists to help narrow your concept into a viable project.
You will also consult specialists once you have been admitted to the campus program and are developing that project proposal for your Fulbright application.
Specialists and affiliates can overlap.
Sometimes in order to reach a feasible concept, one must make contact with specialists in the host country.
Feasible can mean different things such as what is appropriate for a country's morality mores or stage of development, what is important to them, what will benefit them, what indeed would they welcome someone to come research?
Of course, these calls or opinions can only be expressed by individuals but if these people are influential or have a respected standing in society, such as a university professor, then their feedback will be valuable.
A key word is welcome because it takes just one important person to take interest in your interests in their country.
So if you can engage that person in a conversation to help you shape a proposal that will find support in the country, then you have probably killed two birds with one stone, because someone willing to devote time to helping you find or develop a topic will likely be willing to sponsor you as a research adviser (affiliate), besides being knowledgeable about the topic and therefore equipped to guide you.
If this overlapping occurs prior to Registration, it means the person helps you find a concept topic.
If this overlapping occurs after admittance to our Fast Track program, they would be helping you develop your topic or shape your concept.
Finding regional and country experts, or area specialists, in addition to subject field specialists, is required.
The Fulbright selection panels in the U.S. are mostly by country or region and comprise American professors who are specialists in those countries or regions but who are not necessarily specialists in the subject, field or topic of your proposal.
Therefore they are most likely to be highly attuned to whether your proposal is suitable for the host country, and then less so about the specifics of the proposal itself, unless they happen also to specialize in your field.
Being academics, they will however have general knowledge of research methodology and be able to judge yours on those grounds even without knowing too much about your particular field.
Creative arts are judged the other way around: first by art category (from portfolios for the first cut, then by written applications before going into country competitions).
In the final round of the competition, all short-listed applications, including creative arts, are sent to the host country for final selection.
So there again, the attunement of your application to that country's sensitivities and needs becomes highly relevant.
The Fulbright Alumni Ambassador program offers contact with former Fellows or Scholars via
For a list of all former Fellows or Scholars by year, field and country to see what projects others have done in your research field in your target country and how long ago:
For help in contacting these former Fellows or Scholars, email
the Program Manager for your country and (all separate emails to each) the Outreach staff (scroll down to find them
FAB in this instance is not short for Fabulous (as in the Fabulous ! Fulbright) but FAB here stands for Fellows Advice Bureau (FAB) and is comprised of former Smith Fulbrighters who are delighted to help you with country knowledge from their own first-hand experiences.
Abstracts of their proposals are listed by country at
Winning Proposal Abstracts
To contact these former Fellows:
Fellows Advice Bureau
If a name is not here, either we do not have an email address or the person does not want to be listed.
You may also find Field Reports from some of them at
When trying to find specialists, always start closest to home.
You'll be surprised at the depth of hidden resources surrounding you on campus and within the Five Colleges.
Start right under your nose by looking into what professors are up to in our Academic departments:
Many Smith professors have mentored Fulbright applicants, or been consulted by them.
Find their names at Mentor Recognition
Alumnae Around the World
Smith has alumnae in more than 100 countries that one could contact especially later when seeking host-country Affiliates but maybe also for other information and leads.
Academics come from all over the world to teach at Smith for limited periods. Previous Fulbright applicants have been lucky to find professors from countries they are applying to.
Part of finding an idea for a research project and developing that into a project concept includes doing a literature search to see what research has already been done on your topic.
This will lead you to the names of those researchers anywhere in the world, whom you are at liberty to contact for advice, especially what fresh or neglected research angles are calling out to be investigated.
Another way of finding where your topic may be a focus, is to search for universities that have programs in your subject field.
The Alumnae Association of Smith College (AASC) can connect you with talented alumnae who embody a world of experience and expertise. The Alumnae Directory
and the club links
are great places to start.
There is also a "Smith in Europe" Facebook group with over 200 members which is quite active which may prove helpful. You must request to join the group
Be sure to visit
which is a website listing Fulbright Scholars from other countries who are in the U.S. and usually delighted to help.
They are excellent people from whom to request information about and assistance with contacting people in their home countries who could be your Fulbright affiliates.
Trying to find specific information about countries can sometimes demand that one becomes even more resourceful and widens the net to search for answers in all sorts of corners.
Imagination is required.
One never knows where one might hit the jackpot and find a kind person who not only has some information useful to you but is also willing to share it with you.
One such place to mine could be some of the links offered under Fulbright Community here
When approaching prospective Specialist Consultants, give them as much concise information as you can, up to a quickly digestible point, about your Fulbright aim.
Since perfect fits are seldom possible, those professors closest to your field and region must be found and persuaded to advise you.
Such proactive initiative and investigative skills are required of would-be fellows.
Students admitted to the campus program are assigned to faculty mentors who give advice about the fellowship proposals generally, but not necessarily about the specifics of your field and region.
Start with professors who know you, such as academic advisers and those who've taught you, branching out to professors you know or know of or have been told about or referred to.
Email professors telling them what you are interested in doing for your Fulbright (or other fellowship).
Ask specific questions even if the question is broad in the early stages of conceptualization, such as:
"I would like to research 'such and such' and need to come up with an angle and am writing to ask if you'd be so kind to help me narrow my focus to one aspect I can undertake in a yearlong study following graduation?"
Do not simply say you want to apply for a Fulbright and: Do you have any ideas for me?
Always give the person you are asking as much condensed info as you can so that they have more to work with to help you more.
The more you put in, the more you get out.
Of course, meeting with professors is another way of gaining guidance and face to face is best for brainstorming.
Oftentimes professors will suggest books, articles, papers or journals to read.
This is why it is important to start early especially if you have little idea what to do where for your Fulbright.
But do always try to frame your advice-seeking with questions as specific as you can narrow them.
This also helps you clarify for yourself what exactly is best for you to concentrate on.
In the later stages of formulating your Project Proposal, you will progressively ask more delineated questions of your specialist consultants.
Do not wait for each professor to reply before asking another professor.
Spread the NET wide and ask as many as you can think of or find out about.
But never mass email professors with requests for help as it is presumptuous to expect a response from such an impersonal approach, the moreso if the professor does not know you.
It is also human nature that when you see others copied that you might tend to leave it to them to reply, possibly resulting in nobody replying.
You must email - always separately and personally - all the professors you can think of who could possibly help even if they are not specialists in your field or region as they might know someone who is!
This is the art of NET-working.
Non-specialists would be professors who know you.
The names of specialists you can find on Smith and other college department websites or via the Campus Directory
where you can Select a Department to get a list of teachers.
Some department websites will list their professors with their specialties and publications.
Another rich source to connect professors to subjects is the current-year Catalogue Bulletin listing Smith's entire Academic Program including the Five Colleges.
But ask around too of course.
Always add something like: "Especially if you are unable to help, I would be most grateful if you could suggest other professors for me to contact in hopes they could help me (as well)."
Besides email, you can call professors, drop in during their open hours or make an appointment for their office hours.
You can also leave a note at their office door to say you'll be back in contact.
Seeking specialists can extend beyond Smith and the Five Colleges to other colleges and institutions worldwide.
Use the internet as well to seek specialists.
Google is your friend.
Just as much as you may not hear back from some (e.g. offline on sabbatical in a jungle) others will be surprisingly generous in their time and advice especially if it is field that excites them.
So this is key: You have to get them excited about your interest in their subject.
Tell them a little about yourself and why you are interested in their field and want to do a Fulbright in it.
If they have published, it helps to have read what they've written or at least be aware of their publication topics, so you can refer to their work when writing them.
But be sure you know what you are talking about.
At least scan the contents page of their publications and perhaps the introduction and conclusion.
This is also a good way to figure which publications to read in full or more thoroughly.
For further general tips on networking:
Dear Professor Lastname,
I am a rising junior, headed to Mexico for JYA this coming year. I am a biology major, with a prospective chemistry minor.
I am in the process of preparing to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship, and was referred to you by Smith's Fulbright Program Adviser, Donald Andrew, for possible help in defining a research project.
I suppose I see myself working in a Spanish-speaking country. My project would have to be completed in about nine months and be at the level of a recent baccalaureate graduate.
My interests lie mostly in biology and ecology, and especially in field work. I love to be outside.
I also am interested in agriculture and food production, especially at a grassroots, community level.
I do not wish to impose but, if you'd be willing, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss my interests with you in hopes of coming up with some research topic ideas.
Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.