Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Building a Campus Network to Advise Undergraduate Fulbright Applicants

For the past eight years I have served as the Fulbright Program Adviser at the University of Chicago. For this post, I will focus on how we have built a network across campus to not only better promote the program but, more importantly, to advise undergraduates students on their applications and guide them through the process. Each spring quarter we hold two information sessions about the program specifically for third- and fourth-year undergraduate students. I promote these information sessions in a variety of ways. First, I take the traditional approach of posting flyers across campus. Second, I send a personal message to each and every faculty/academic staff member who serves as the undergraduate program chair of our 50+ majors and minors asking them to send information about the information sessions to their students. Third, I work with our undergraduate academic advising staff and ask them to inform all of their third- and fourth-year students. Fourth, I have access to a university database where I can target specific students and I e-mail every third- and fourth-year student in the College with a grade point average of 3.0 and above announcing the information sessions.

In addition to the spring information sessions we hold for the third- and fourth-year students we also hold general scholarship information sessions specifically tailored for second-year students. These information sessions are held during autumn and winter quarters and the goals of these sessions are to not only inform students of the various scholarship/fellowship opportunities that are available both during their undergraduate studies and post-graduation but also to educate them on what makes a competitive application, establishing relationships with faculty and planning for course and activities that will be an asset to future research and/or studies abroad. We discuss scholarships/fellowships such as the Fulbright, Rhodes, Marshall, Boren and Gilman as well as many other funding opportunities. We encourage students to take electives such as statistics, ethnographic research methods, or courses in area studies that will give them a strong foundation from which to build upon during their research abroad. We have found that there is very strong interest by our second-year students in these information meetings and we are now planning to hold meetings for our first-year students.

Finally, we have created a network of faculty and other academic staff members who have agreed to meet with prospective applicants to discuss their research interests and to go give advice and direction on how to put together the most competitive application. We have found this process to especially helpful for our students as they prepare their applications.

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