News, On Campus

Number Of BC Fulbright Winners Hits Decade Low in 2014-2015

Over the last decade, Boston College has been a Fulbright grant powerhouse.

In every Fulbright application cycle since 2004-05—the oldest data available online from the Fulbright Program—BC has never ranked lower than 17th in producing the most Fulbright grant winners among doctoral and research level institutions. The University has placed as high as ninth, earning this ranking in both 2007-08 and 2011-12.

Earlier this month, the program released its list of top producing institutions of Fulbright grants in 2014-15, with grants being awarded to students pursuing positions as English-teaching assistants and researchers in one of over 140 participating countries.

Unlike in previous years, BC did not rank in the top 20 of Fulbright producers, placing 31st in the list of top producing doctoral or research institutions with 10 grants awarded out of 60 applications. Two BC students were also selected as Fulbright alternates, and two students received teaching grants from the French government, which are administered by the Fulbright Program.

The top three producers this year were Harvard University (33 winners of 160 applications), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (28 winners of 120 applications), and Northwestern University (27 winners of 124 applications).

Adjunct associate professor of political science and Fulbright Program advisor Paul Christensen said in an email that fewer BC winners was likely the result of a number of factors. One factor is that the Fulbright Program is making more of an effort to get a better national cross-sectional demographic, diversifying the grant winners across more schools.

Christensen also noted that more schools are actively pursuing higher numbers of applicants, therefore programs in every country have become more competitive due to a sheer increase in those competing.

As far as the percentage of applicants who are actually awarded a Fulbright grant, BC’s figure hovers around the average for most schools ranked highly among top producers—10 winners from 60 applications makes for a 17 percent winning percentage, while top producers such as Harvard boast a winning percentage of 20.6 percent.

Some schools, such as Stanford University—which placed 33rd on the list—only had a 14 percent winning percentage with 10 winners from 72 applications, while others such as the University of Pennsylvania had a 27.6 percent winning percentage with 21 winners from 76 applications. Penn placed seventh on the list of top Fulbright producers.

In recent years, BC’s winning percentage has ranged from 22 percent in 2013-14 (19 winners of 85 applications) to 45 percent in 2005-06 (13 winners from 29 applications).

Christensen, who has been involved with the program for six years and has served as the Fulbright Program advisor at BC for the last four years, said that while he would like to see more applicants and he can work more to publicize the opportunity, the applications from BC students have remained strong.

“I have certainly not seen any drop in the quality of the applications from our students, and the number of applicants has been pretty steady,” Christensen said.

As for the current 2015-16 Fulbright application cycle—in which finalists have already been named—Christensen said that the status of each applicant is not public knowledge at the time due to privacy rules.

Among the BC Fulbright winners for the 2014-15 cycle are graduates teaching English in countries including Ecuador, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Austria, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Germany.

Four students won Fulbrights to travel to Germany this year, maintaining BC’s institutional legacy for sending students to the European country. In the spring of 2013, the German studies department hit the milestone of having sent over 100 Fulbright scholars to Germany and Austria, ranking BC among the top producers of Fulbright winners for those countries.

Michael Resler, professor and chair of the German studies department and a Fulbright advisor, is known for encouraging his students to apply for German Fulbrights, and received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany from the German Consul General in November for individual service to the nation, which includes his role in facilitating American students’ exchange in Germany.

February 26, 2015