UNH graduates competitive in earning Fulbright scholarships

By Sam Rabuck
On April 1, 2014

The Fulbright scholarship program is one of the most prestigious awards for teaching and research in the country. In the last year, three University of New Hampshire students received Fulbright scholarships to teach English and conduct research in Asia and South America.  

Founded in 1945, the Fulbright program annually gives approximately 1,900 bachelor's degree holders across the United States the opportunity to spend up to a year in one of 140 countries across the world teaching English or conducting specific research projects. The program is federally funded and recipients receive a monthly stipend to cover housing and living expenses. 

Since 2005, the Office of National Fellowships at UNH has helped 17 alumni earn the honor to work on research projects and to teach English to students on several different continents. 

Jeanne Sokolowski, director of the Office of National Fellowships at UNH, thinks more students should apply, too. 

 "Students are very competitive from UNH," Sokolowski said. "And they shouldn't think otherwise." 

Helping prove UNH's competitiveness are Nicole Chartier '13, Patricia Donahoe '13, and Jason Gilmore '11, all of whom are currently abroad on the scholarship. 

Gilmore, an English education graduate, earned a grant to work as a teaching assistant in South Korea. Despite not studying abroad while attending UNH as an undergrad, Gilmore felt that his acclimation to South Korea went more smoothly than he expected and he felt adequately prepared upon arrival. For Gilmore, the experience was one of a kind.

"What stands out from these experiences is that after we start talking, there's really no more difference between us than between any two people in the United States," Gilmore said. "Even with cultural and linguistic differences, we're all just people." 

Prospective Fulbright scholars must apply through Sokolowski's office. Although it may seem like more hoops to jump through, Sokolowski, a former Fulbright recipient herself, assures students that she will help them identify their strong suits and assist them with the application process. 

"I support students, help them with the application materials, give guidance on requesting letters of recommendation and I can answer any questions about the online application form," Sokolowski said. 

Fulbright recipient Meagan Wengrove '07 felt that the application process was smoothed by Sokolowski's guidance. 

"Since Jeanne has been working there, she has been very helpful with a lot of feedback on my writing and ideas of what should be put into fellowship applications," Wengrove said. 

Sokolowski encourages seniors who are on track to earn a bachelor's degree, graduate students, and alums in good health and proficient in the written and spoken language of the country they wish to teach or conduct research in the apply for the program. There is no grade point average requirement for Fulbright scholarships and the program is open to all majors. 

Although the number of UNH graduates receiving Fulbright scholarships is relatively high, Sokolowski, who served on the Fulbright selection committee this year, feels that the number of applications from UNH graduates is low, especially with the worthy number of potential recipients she feels are on campus. Only about 10 applications are filled out each year, despite an enrollment of approximately 13,000 students at UNH. 

"Fulbright doesn't just want to send abroad only 21-year-old, white males from Ivy League schools with humanities degrees," Sokolowski said. "That's where New Hampshire students have an advantage: that we have relatively ... fewer schools [and] universities in this state than in California or Texas. They look at that. Fulbright wants to send students from every state." 

Although the informational sessions are over for the semester, those who are interested in applying should contact Jeanne Sokolowski at jeanne.sokolowski@unh.edu. 

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