Spotlight on Fulbright Success: SUNY Geneseo and University of North Georgia

Two colleges discuss how they became Fulbright Top Producing Institutions

The list of Fulbright Top Producing Institutions for 2022-2023, released on February 10 by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, tells a powerful story about the wide range of colleges and universities across the United States that engage with the Fulbright Program, as well as the diversity of the students and faculty members who go to 160 countries across the globe through Fulbright U.S. Student and Fulbright U.S. Scholar Awards.

The 174 institutions, listed by Carnegie Classification, include every type and size of college and university, across 35 states and the District of Columbia. The stories of the individual students and faculty members who take part in the program, and of the dedicated Fulbright Program Advisers and Scholar Liaisons who advise and assist them, make it clear that Fulbright is accessible to all.

The opportunities that Fulbright offers to study, teach and conduct research abroad, and to serve as a cultural ambassador to another country, are valued by the most competitive students and faculty in the nation, wherever they study or work. It is no surprise that some of the nation’s oldest and largest research universities and best-known liberal arts colleges are well represented on the list this year, as they have been in prior years. (See announcement)

However, there are a growing number of colleges and universities that have joined the Top Producing List this year for the first time or that have had increasing success in recent years. For many, strong engagement with Fulbright is a pillar of an institution’s internationalization strategy and a mark of its focus on global citizenship.

For the majority of the Top Producers, this Fulbright success reflects a carefully cultivated effort to advise students on fellowship opportunities; hold Fulbright information sessions, celebrations, and workshops; reach out to diverse potential applicants; and support their faculty through flexible, transparent and creative policies that enable them to live abroad during their sabbatical or other leave.

Geneseo is the First SUNY Campus to be named a Fulbright Dual Top Producer

For SUNY Geneseo, the college’s success with Fulbright is closely tied to the vision that its president outlined when she took office in 2015, and to its mission of serving a diverse student population as a public liberal arts college with cornerstone values of access and a commitment to the public good. President Denise A. Battles explains it this way. "Geneseo’s success with Fulbright, reflected in our recognition as a Dual Top Producer, aligns with our Strategic Plan, particularly our value of civic engagement with its emphasis on an ethical commitment to the common good of local and global communities." 

For the second time in the College’s history, Geneseo has been named a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Scholars among Master’s Institutions. The college had been a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Student awards for several years, making it the first dedicated State University of New York institution to be named to both lists in the same year, according to Dr. Michael Mills, Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships. With five students selected in 2022-2023, Geneseo was one of only 18 colleges or universities nationwide to be recognized as a Top Producer for both students and scholars.

This year, Geneseo has two Fulbright U.S. Scholars who are conducting research in geological sciences. Professor Scott Giorgis joined a group of Colombian experts to study fault movements in Colombia, which allowed him to see geology “with the eyes of a local.” These experiences directly impact his teaching by introducing “new ideas, samples, maps, and photographs to my classes,” and he hopes that “Geneseo students will be collaborating with Colombian geologists and working on samples from there for years to come.”

The 18 campuses that were named as Fulbright Top Producers of both U.S. Scholars and U.S. Students in 2022-2023 (Dual Top Producers) hail from a total of 12 different states, and include five Baccalaureate colleges, three Master’s Institutions, and one Special Focus institution – The School of the Art Institute of Chicago – as well as nine large public and private Doctoral Universities.

Professor D. Jeffrey Over spent fall 2022 at in the Czech Republic studying fundamental changes in Earth ecosystems that have relevance to modern global climate change. “I was able to experience the deep geologic and cultural history, as well as the social impact of being in a country that, while ethnically distinct, is really only 30 years old.” His Fulbright allowed him work closely with a host-campus colleague, “teach a graduate class, use instrumentation not available at Geneseo, and dedicate significant time every day to scholarship.”

President Battles notes that “the success the College continues to have with the U.S. Scholar program is an indicator of the important cutting-edge research our faculty members are undertaking.” She attributes their success with the Fulbright U.S. Student program to “the dedication and mentoring of the many faculty and staff who support our applicants through writing letters of recommendation and participating in the on-campus interview process.”

University of North Georgia Helps its Diverse Students Seek out Global Experiences

The University of North Georgia is on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Top Producing list for Master’s Institutions for the sixth consecutive year, after UNG President Bonita Jacobs created a Nationally Competitive Scholarships office in 2014 to best advise their high-achieving students as they apply for the Fulbright program. "This recognition is a testament to the quality of our students and their desire to seek out global experiences that will shape them into dynamic leaders in our diverse society," Jacobs said, explaining that UNG’s faculty and advisers “offer strong guidance that makes these opportunities possible."

UNG’s Corps of Cadets was recognized as the number one ROTC program among senior military colleges in 2019. Among this year’s Fulbrighters are Roderick Selman, a former UNG senior cadet with a degree in Arabic and a minor in Military Leadership, who is a Second Lieutenant in the Georgia National Guard on inactive non-drilling status while he is on his Fulbright teaching English in Israel. "I hope younger cadets will see that I have achieved this and hopefully it will inspire them to apply," said Selman.

Ashlynn Nash, who graduated with a degree in music education, is teaching English in Taiwan, where she is exploring Taiwan’s recent surge in the number of people attending higher education. "This made me wonder how their education system differs from ours and what is contributing to this educational growth,” said Nash.

Other recent UNG graduates are teaching English in Germany, Moldova, and Spain as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants this year. These students follow in the Fulbright footsteps of 2019 grad Melissa Silva, who taught English to students in the Kyrgyz Republic after graduating. Returning home, she brought her new international perspective to a teaching position in the Hall County School District through a UNG College of Education program called RISE (Realizing Inspiring Successful Educators). She has recently been selected to serve as a Fulbright Student Alumni Ambassador.

Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president, academic affairs and dean of honors, credited the Nationally Competitive Scholarships office’s success in connecting diverse students with Fulbright opportunities to their active outreach to the Multicultural Student Affairs Office and to groups like the Latino Students Association.  Dr. Lin noted that having Latinx and Black students selected as winners has encouraged other underrepresented students to apply. She attributes UNG’s success to President Jacobs’ leadership, as well as some trailblazing students who began to see themselves as Fulbrighters.

“We call Fulbright a “dream-maker” scholarship because it really does allow space for students from all majors and backgrounds to apply. We’ve tried to create a campus culture that helps our students of diverse backgrounds imagine themselves as a Fulbrighter.”

As UNG was building their Fulbright culture, Lin explains, they took advantage of training resources and support provided by the program to deepen and strengthen their advising practice on campus. She notes that the training “helped give us the tools to support our students and better understand the aims of Fulbright.”

Ashlynn Nash, U.S. Student to Taiwan
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