The Future Is Very Fulbright

The U.S. Government's Fulbright fellowship, which provides grants for American students to do research in other countries (and students from other countries to do research here), is one of the most prestigious fellowships a student can win. To even be a finalist takes an incredible amount of drive and effort from a student, requiring a focused goal, months of work, and some straight-up grit and determination (and, oh yeah, the ability to do all that and keep up with regular course work). We are not being hyperbolic when we say that it is awesome that this year, ten Drexel University students are Fulbright finalists – especially when you consider that the University only had two finalists as recently as 2009.

The number of students applying for fellowships speaks to the drive and focus typical of members of the Drexel community. Says Rona Buchalter, Director of the Fellowships Office, which is a unit of the Honors College, “Applying for fellowships is really a labor of love.” And she has the numbers to back it up – “71% of our students spent at least two months on their application (with half of those spending 3-5 months on it).” But Buchalter also cites another piece to the equation – great faculty mentors. “What’s extraordinary to me is that we are beginning to develop a culture at Drexel where folks around the University are willing to extend themselves to help students who are motivated and willing to work hard.”

Of course, Buchalter and the other members of the Fellowships Office have quite a bit to do with students' Fulbright success as well. The process starts with campus-wide outreach efforts to let students know about the availability of the fellowships -- but that's just the beginning of a very hands-on process, whether students are applying for the Fulbright or other fellowships. For the Fellowships Office, it's not just about helping students produce great applications; it's also about making sure they're applying to the best fellowship for their goals. Says Buchalter, “We help the student understand the program, its goal, its application process and its selection priorities.” From there, the office helps students refine their proposals through several rounds of rewrites.

And the quality of the Fellowships Office's work shows. Not only is this year's crop of finalists sizeable, it's also very diverse. There are undergraduates, graduate students, and med students, and the proposed projects range from studying the implementation of a new juvenile justice law in South Africa to examining the relationship between water quality and plant vitality in Australia. One student, says Buchalter, “wants to study new surgical treatments for spina bifida AND spend time performing in Barcelona theater.” But all of these students, she adds, “see international collaboration as an integral part of how they imagine their future career.”

We won't know until May which students are accepted into the Fulbright program, although history says that all the finalists' chances are very good – last year, all four Drexel finalists received the fellowship. But whether or not the finalists all make it, it's obvious that Drexel students have what it takes to compete for – and receive – these prestigious awards. Says Dean Dave Jones, “Until about a decade ago, the attitude of many of even Drexel’s best students towards prestigious fellowships was that such fellowships were for the students across the street, so to speak — students in the Ivy League or the small great liberal arts colleges. That attitude is history. Drexel students know they can be competitive with anyone.”

And more piece of late-breaking Fellowships news!

Honors student Nevena Bosnic (Economics BS ’12) has been named a Carnegie Junior Fellow in the International Economics program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. As a Junior Fellow, Nevena will spend the coming year working as a research assistant to the Director of the International Economics program. She is Drexel’s first student to ever receive this highly prestigious and very competitive award.

Nevena is a high-achieving Economics student with minors in Political Science and International Area Studies. Her most recent co-op was with the Economics Section of the US Embassy in Athens, Greece. Her career goal is to work in the development and implementation of international economic policy.  

Each year, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers 8-10 one-year fellowships to uniquely qualified graduating seniors and new graduates. They are selected from a pool of nominees from close to 400 participating colleges.