U of C wins 19 Fulbright fellowships

Nineteen University students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright Student Program Fellowships for the 2008-2009 academic year.

By Mischa Fierer

Nineteen University students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright Student Program Fellowships for the 2008-2009 academic year, representing a 28-percent acceptance rate among U of C applications, according to University administrators.

This year, 67 applicants sought the award, Senior Adviser for International Initiatives in the College David Comp said in an e-mail interview. Last year, the University had 58 applicants to the program, with 17 winning the prize.

For the 2006–2007 academic year, the University ranked seventh among the top doctoral institutions for number of Fulbright scholars, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report. That year, Yale, Harvard, and Brown garnered spots at the top of the list, with 31, 25, and 24 winners respectively. The U of C had 18 winners.

Eleven current fourth-year students won Fulbrights this year.

“I applied for the Fulbright because I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a break from academia and seek out a research project that would be completely motivated by personal curiosities and interests,” fourth-year Pearl Kan said in an e-mail interview. Kan will conduct research on Hakka Chinese reggae music in Jamaica.

Early in the application process, Kan did not expect to win the award.

“I had a terrible first interview,” she said. “I actually cried afterwards!

“Maybe I won because my research project really touches on a subject that is understudied,” she said.

“Part of my project is devoted to researching the Chinese diaspora refracted through reggae music,” she said. “There are plenty of Afro-Chinese reggae stars, and I’m particularly interested in roots reggae which speak[s] about social issues,” Kan said.

Some winners credited College advisers for their help during the application process. “Completing my application over time and repeatedly checking in with the advising staff really helped me locate the various strengths and potential weaknesses of my application,” said Ryan Kaminski, a fourth-year who will teach English in Hong Kong.

The program awards approximately 6,000 new grants each year, with roughly 1,200 going to Americans.

Several College alumni were among the recipients. Yana Morgulis (A.B. ’07) plans to study economic development in Cambodia, Emily Pickerill (A.B. ’06) will study political science in Tunisia, and Kristen Dennesen (A.B. ’04) won an English teaching assistantship in Brazil.

Initiated in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR), the Fulbright Fellowship is an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that aims to further intellectual and cultural relationships between the U.S. and other countries. Applicants submit a proposal for a research project abroad, and winners receive grant money to cover the costs of research and study abroad.

Other winners of the fellowship will conduct research in countries including Austria, Spain, South Africa, Macedonia, Indonesia, and South Korea.