Global Reach: Fellowships Exemplify Smith’s Prominence as a “World College”
By Eric Sean Weld
This fall, 14 Smith graduates, including eight graduates
of the class of 2007, have begun a range of research projects and teaching jobs in
11 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America using the highly coveted scholarships
they received from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Like their predecessors—17 Smith women in 2006
and the 14 in 2005 named as Fulbright scholars—they went fully prepared. By
the time they had boarded planes for their overseas destinations and had begun their
year abroad, these Smith graduates already possessed many of the skills and qualities
they will need to be successful.
With the college’s strong and long-standing emphasis
on studying abroad, its programs in leadership and its broad and ongoing interactions
with people and institutions around the world, Smith students already have the framework
and understanding to direct projects, work with diverse populations and contribute
to the betterment of the world—some of the criteria valued by the Fulbright
“To win a Fulbright in the first place, they’re
already exceptional and extraordinary individuals,” says Donald Andrew, fellowships
adviser in the Office of the Class Deans, “through their academic performance
and extracurricular activities. One way or another, they’re already leaders.”
This year’s crop of Smith Fulbrighters, among
30 of the college’s applicants for the prestigious scholarship, represents
one of the college’s highest percentages of successes for the program. In fact,
Smith’s 47 percent yield of Fulbright fellows this year is nearly double the
typical percentage of Fulbrighters accepted from the applicant pools of most colleges
nationwide, says Tony Claudino, director of Fulbright Student Outreach.
During the past four years, Smith has remained among
the leaders nationally in its production of Fulbright Fellows. With 17 Fellows in
2006, Smith led the nation with the highest proportion of any institution.
“It takes a campus to produce a Fellow,” says
Donald Andrew, fellowships adviser in the Office of the Class Deans. Andrew attributes
Smith’s success to an extensive collaboration in which he and faculty members
work closely with students during the application process. Photo by Fish/Parham.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest international
exchange program in the country, operating in more than 140 countries worldwide.
The Fulbright grant is given annually by the U.S. Department
of State to support student projects and academic endeavors abroad. The fellowship,
which was named after Senator J. William Fulbright, is awarded to recent bachelor’s
degree recipients and master’s and doctoral candidates, as well as to young
professionals and artists.
In addition to its relatively high number of Fulbright
Fellows in 2007, Smith also helped 49 alumnae and current students win fellowships
with several other programs, including six Blumberg Traveling Fellows and two Boren
Scholars for study abroad; two DAAD Fellows for study abroad in Germany; three French
Government Teaching Fellows; and two Goldwater Scholars for study in the sciences,
mathematics and engineering.
Smith’s high yield of Fulbright Fellows and its
overall fellowships success continues a recent trend for the college, says Andrew.
In addition to acknowledging the impact of the college’s leadership and international
studies programs, Andrew attributes Smith’s success to an extensive collaboration
in which he and faculty members work closely with students during the application
“It takes a campus to produce a fellow,” says
Andrew, who has served as fellowships adviser for six years. “It involves a
lot of people. It’s a big process and a huge amount is learned. It’s
a matter of getting everyone on board, everyone engaged.”
Greg White, professor of government, attributes much
of the college’s Fulbright success to the dedication of individuals on campus,
such as Andrew, to shepherding students through the rigorous application process.
But White also points out that Smith’s commitment to playing a positive role
in the world undergirds its Fulbright application system.
“We often talk about Smith as a ‘world
college,’” says White, who lived and worked in Tunisia in 1991 on a Fulbright
student fellowship and who mentors Fulbright candidates at Smith. “This is
part of that. There’s a strong interest and an emphasis in going abroad here
that is, perhaps, unique. Time and time again, the successful Fulbright candidates
are those who have been abroad.”
Fulbright’s Claudino, who works with applicants
from several colleges—including Smith—in the Northeast, agrees that Smith
highly values its students’ experiences abroad in comparison to other schools.
He also attributes the college’s success with Fulbright awards to the collaboration
among faculty in mentoring its grant applicants.
The benefits of a Fulbright Fellowship are many, says
Andrew. “Recipients will often refer to their Fulbright year as one of the
most influential times of their lives,” he says. “Through this experience,
these scholars can go on to become influential people. They become wiser and able
to understand more. They become better big-picture thinkers, which is what leaders
need to be.”
Equally as important, says Andrew, is the presence
of talented young leaders from Smith interacting with those far away from campus. “The
Fulbright program is creating mutual understanding,” explains Andrew. “It
enhances one’s empathy toward other people and other nations. And people in
the host countries get to know an outstanding American.”
Indeed, Smith’s success with Fulbright and other
fellowships programs is a substantial component of the college’s mission as “a
college of and for the world.”
“Smith College is very proud of its recent succession
of Fulbright scholars,” says President Carol Christ. “The Fulbright program
provides a unique opportunity for our students to increase their experience and understanding
of the world and to learn about other people and about themselves. For many, the
Fulbright Fellowship represents the beginning of a lifetime of international work.”
Ka’Neda Ellison ’06, who taught English
at an all-girls’ middle school in Cheongju, South Korea, as a Fulbright scholar
last year, attests that the Fulbright experience is one of opportunity and change. “Living
in Korea for a year began as a journey and ended as a life-changing voyage,” says
Ellison, who was president of the Student Government Association during her senior
year and is now serving a two-year term on Smith’s board of trustees. “Surprises
became expected and welcome. Adapt, question and observe would be my first words
of wisdom to current and future Fulbright scholars.”
For Andrew, one aspect of the Fulbright program has
particular relevance in today’s unsettled world.
“The more bridges we build between countries,
the more peace we will have on earth,” he says.