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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Middlebury named top producer of Fulbrights for 2023-2024

Middlebury has been named a top producer for the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar Programs for the 2023–2024 academic year by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Program. Four out of 23 student applicants and three faculty members at Middlebury were selected for the awards. With seven Fulbrights awarded, Middlebury received the highest number of fellowships among baccalaureate institutions.

Lisa Gates, associate dean for fellowships and research, works with students and alumni applying for awards through the Fellowships Office in the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR). Gates said she believes Middlebury students and the Fulbright program are a natural match. 

“Our students tend to be very engaged in language learning, studying abroad, and international issues. They’re interested in people and places and cultures outside of the United States,” Gates said. “It feels like we look outward, we’re connected to the outside world in a very dynamic, engaged, and interested way. That’s what Fulbright is about. It’s about fostering mutual understanding between people in the US and people in other countries.” 

Fulbright student recipients have the option to conduct research, pursue graduate study or teach English and U.S. culture abroad. Each year, approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals from the United States and 160 other countries receive Fulbrights.

Asa Skinder ’23, who majored jointly in environmental studies and geography with a minor in Spanish, currently works as an English teaching assistant in Mexico sharing knowledge of English, along with social and political aspects of life in the United States. 

“I am personally really thankful for the professors I've had in the Spanish Department, the Middlebury Schools Abroad staff and Dean Lisa Gates, as well as the other Middlebury faculty and staff who help students apply for fellowships,” Skinder wrote in an email to The Campus. “I feel that my time spent with all of those different folks really prepared me to be able to apply to Fulbright, and to have a successful experience while in Mexico during my fellowship.”  

Assistant Professor of Religion Justin Doran was one of the three faculty members awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant this year. He is currently working in São Paulo, Brazil on the last chapter of his book, in which he is comparing the ideologies that produced one of the largest buildings in Brazil, Edifício Copan, with the Templo de Salomão evangelical church.

Doran noted how Middlebury’s global outlook provides the college an advantage in receiving Fulbright fellowships, countering its relative disadvantage as a four-year college without graduate studies.

“Middlebury’s emphasis on languages and global studies actually makes it much more likely to be one of the prestigious Fulbright receivers,” Doran told The Campus. 

 Given his positive experience during the fellowship, Skinder strongly encouraged Middlebury students to consider applying. “I've found it to be an amazing opportunity to spend a year outside of the US,” Skinder said. “Middlebury was very supportive throughout the application process” 

Doran also encouraged students to be globally-minded and not to miss the unique opportunity they have while at Middlebury to be exposed to the diversity of the world. 

Gates echoed the sentiment that Middlebury students should take full advantage of the fellowship and scholarship opportunities, including the Fulbright program, that they have access to through Middlebury.

“Many students I’ve worked with had never heard of these fellowships before coming to Middlebury. They might not think that they would be good candidates, and when they go through the process and are successful, it’s exciting,” Gates explained.

Having worked with generations of students planning and preparing for their application, and spending a year in Germany as a Fulbright scholar from 1988 to 1989 herself, Gates recognizes the value of fellowship work in providing students with a clearer outlook on their lives. 

“Fellowship work pushes students to reflect on their ambitions, their motivations, and it forces them to create space to imagine what they might want to do with their talents and energies,” she said. “This experience can dramatically transform someone’s life and take them into a new and exciting direction. It can affirm interest, and it can help you discover new interest. It sets you off onto fascinating paths.” 

Introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright, passed by the U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II, the Fulbright Program was created to achieve a global vision for peaceful relations among nations. Since its inception, over 400,000 Fulbright recipients from the United States and 165 countries have studied, taught and conducted research in each other’s countries while promoting international understanding and collaboration as participants and alumni.

“It’s wonderful to engage students at these transitional moments in their lives, when they’re thinking about what they’re deeply interested in, what paths they want to take with their lives,” Gates said. “To be part of that journey, supporting them, and helping them gain access to opportunities is a joy.”

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