WUSTL reaches list of top Fulbright producers again

Thanks in part to key support on campus, Sarah Myers Tlapek, PhD candidate in the Brown School, will be leaving for Rwanda in February as one of 14 Fulbright scholarship recipients from Washington University in St. Louis.

Applications to the U.S. Fulbright Program from WUSTL hit a record high this year, helping the university once again reach the list of top U.S. Fulbright producers.

WUSTL’s Fulbright recipients were chosen from a pool of 62 applicants, more than double the total from 2009-10. In addition, WUSTL had three additional recipients who declined their awards for a total of 17.

Tlapek credits Amy Suelzer, PhD, Fulbright Program adviser and assistant director of International and Area Studies in Arts & Sciences, and Toni Loomis, administrative assistant in International and Area Studies, with counseling her and guiding her through the application process.

“They held informational sessions, helped plan out the timing and logistics of the application process and were always available for answering questions,” she says. “The decision to apply was easier because the process on campus was so clearly outlined, and it was obvious that there would be good support for applicants.”

She says her academic adviser, Carolyn Lesorogol, PhD, associate professor in the Brown School, also read numerous drafts of her application and gave her helpful advice.

The Fulbright Program is a government-sponsored educational exchange offering fellowships to U.S. students for study, research and teaching assistantships abroad. The Chronicle of Higher Education lists the 40 top Fulbright-producing research institutions in its Oct. 28 edition, based on outcomes of the 2012-2013 competition. WUSTL is tied for 12th place on the list.

Here are a few examples of what WUSTL Fulbrights are studying during their year abroad:
• Parsa Bastani, AB ’12, is exploring gender issues in Egypt and surveying Egyptians about the 2011 revolution.
• Viraj Doshi, AB ’12, is examining a program to increase civic involvement among young people in Colombia.
• Tlapek will research the relationship between mental health problems resulting from genocide and increased risk of domestic violence in Rwanda.

Interest in the program is up, thanks to the support of advocates on campus and an emphasis on global thinking.

“Thanks to the encouragement of dedicated staff and faculty, we have seen an increase in the numbers of applications to the Fulbright competition in recent years,” says Priscilla Stone, PhD, assistant provost for international education. “This strong interest among our students in becoming global citizens emerges from our tradition of programs, here and abroad, that build intercultural skills and awareness.”

“We are obviously very pleased with this honor,” Suelzer says. “It speaks to the strength and talent of our students as well as the commitment of our WUSTL Fulbright Campus Committee to provide constructive support to our applicants. This support enables the applications that come through the WUSTL campus evaluation process to perform well in the national competition.”

Stone says the university’s international reputation is bolstered by its success in the Fulbright competition.

“Being named to the list of top Fulbright-producing institutions is a testament to Washington University’s growing role as a leading international university,” Stone says.

WUSTL Fulbright recipients are recently graduated seniors and graduate students. Besides Egypt, Rwanda and Colombia, they are doing research in Germany, India, Brazil, the Netherlands, Jordan and Israel. Students are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership in their fields.

The application process for the 2014-15 Fulbright competition begins in May and the WUSTL deadline for applications is September 2013.

The program currently awards approximately 1,800 grants annually and operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. Fulbright U.S. student alumni populate a range of professions and include ambassadors, members of Congress, judges, heads of corporations, university presidents, journalists, artists, professors and teachers. Bose Corporation founder Amar Bose, actor John Lithgow, composer Philip Glass, opera singer Renee Fleming and economist Joseph Stiglitz are among notable former grantees.

The primary source of funding for the program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. For more information on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit fulbrightonline.org. For those that are interested in learning more about the Fulbright process at WUSTL, visit the IAS website: http://ias.wustl.edu/fulbright.