By GRACE WINFIELD
The University of Mary Washington has recently been named a top producer for Fulbright U.S. students amongst other colleges and universities featured in the Feb. 11 issue of “The Chronicle of Higher Education.” This is not the first time the school has received the accolade.
“[To be named a top provider] is a great honor in itself and inspires the campus committee to keep working with students in this capacity. More importantly, it reminds us that we have some amazing alums around the globe doing great things,” said Dr. Dianne Baker, who serves as the campus Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA). “I am so happy for the alums and for the people they are working with, as this type of intensive cultural exchange is very effective and rewarding.”
The most recent Fulbright students at UMW received their grants just last spring. The three Mary Washington alumni were awarded English teaching assistant grants. Currently, Molly Bernhard ’14 is spending the 2018-19 academic year in Bulgaria; Destiny Williams ’18 is in Taiwan; and Molly Garthwaite ’17, M.Ed. ’18, is in India.
The Fulbright U.S. program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Annually, the program awards approximately 2,000 grants for placement in more than 140 countries worldwide and is the largest U.S. exchange program that offers opportunities for students and young professionals to gain experience internationally, according to their website.
“Fulbright’s primary focus is to promote international scholarly and study exchange, in the hope that such exchange will promote greater international understanding between America and the world,” said Baker.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program relies on the campus FPAs to guide students through the application process, and to interview applicants and make formal recommendations regarding the candidates.
“For the past few years, I have served as co-FPA with Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti, but he is a Fulbright Fellow in Azerbaijan this year, which prevented him from serving as co-FPA this year,” said Baker.
As Baker noted, there are also faculty Fulbrights, which are different awards than the student Fulbrights.
Just recently, political science professors Dr. Elizabeth Larus and Dr. Stephen Farnsworth have received 2019-20 U.S. Fulbright grants to expand and apply their research abroad.
Farnsworth has been named a Fulbright Specialist who will spend the upcoming summer teaching government at Methodist College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I’m really looking forward to this program. American government is always a fascinating topic for people around the world, and perhaps never more so than these days, with the constantly newsworthy Donald Trump presidency and the upcoming 2020 presidential election already underway,” said Farnsworth.
Larus was awarded a Fulbright Research Scholarship to Poland, hosted by Marie Curie-Sklowdowska University in Lubin. Larus will conduct research on the impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the new Silk Road, in Eastern and Central Europe on the European Union.
“Fulbright is an extremely competitive award, and I knew that I was up against the best scholars in the world. The Belt and Road Initiative is a hot topic, so I knew that competition would be keen. However, most scholars analyzing BRI study its impact in Asia and Africa, not Poland, so my topic was unusual,” Larus said.
“As it turns out, there is a lot of interest in this topic in Europe, so the Polish-US Fulbright Commission welcomed my project. I’m excited to be able to live in Poland for a few months and travel throughout the country. I’m also excited to have the opportunity to spend some time with several friends living there.”
She will be conducting interviews with government officials, business associations and academics to determine if China’s Belt and Road Initiative is dividing the European Union into countries that support the initiative, such as Poland and other Central and Eastern countries and the core EU countries of Germany and France and the UK who are critical of the initiative in Poland. The research is especially important, Larus says, because the split may adversely affect the European Union stability.
Over the last several years, roughly 8-12 students have applied annually. “We would love to increase the number of applicants,” said Baker. She also noted that any students who are interested in applying for the scholarship are encouraged to contact her.