By Mary Alice Casey
Ohio University is among the nation's top finishers in Fulbright awards this year, tying for seventh in faculty grants, sharing the 21st spot in student awards and leading all Ohio schools in both categories.
The five 2008-09 faculty awards were topped only by the University of Washington, Georgetown University, University of Arizona, University of California-Berkeley, the University of Georgia and Penn State University. Twelve other schools matched the seventh-place finish.
Among doctoral/research universities, Ohio University had the highest success rate in the nation for 2008-09 Fulbright U.S. Student Awards, with 12 of 22 applicants earning awards, or 54.5 percent.* The next-closest schools in that measure were Georgetown at 40.9 percent and Yale at 36.6 percent.
The dozen student awards placed Ohio University in a tie with New York University, University of Arizona, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis.
Click here for a look at where Fulbright awards have taken Ohio University faculty and students this academic year.
The State Department sponsors the faculty and student programs to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries.
The Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program, released a ranking of universities with faculty recipients to Fulbright advisers last week. The program sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year to lecture and conduct research.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program allows more than 1,450 students and graduates to conduct research, pursue projects in the creative and performing arts or teach English as a foreign language in locations around the globe. A list ranking U.S. universities' finishes for 2008-09 appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week.
Behind the success stories
Ohio University Director of U.S. Fulbright Programs Beth Clodfelter -- asked to identify the reasons for the university's success in landing Fulbrights -- pointed to intellectually curious students, dedicated faculty mentors, rich foreign language programs and committed researchers.
Nine students or recent alumni earned awards in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2007-08, and a record 13 won Fulbright grants in 2006-07.
"Ohio University has a lot of extremely bright, hard-working students who are genuinely interested in the world. That's key," said Clodfelter, who has coordinated the university's Fulbright efforts since 2001. "Faculty members do an excellent job of getting to know students and mentoring them, and that makes students more confident in their knowledge and skills."
In the past five years, Ohio University has sent 15 students to Germany and eight to Indonesia. Clodfelter attributes those numbers, in large part, to strong German and Indonesian language programs and an intensive Department of Linguistics sequence in teaching English as a second language.
The five faculty awards this year ties an Ohio University record set 20 years ago, she said. A total of eight faculty members earned Fulbrights over the four previous years.
"There are many, many professors who are very interested in the world and who conduct research that is relevant in other countries," she said. "They're outstanding, and they're great candidates for Fulbright awards."
A long-standing commitment
Mary Anne Flournoy led the university's Fulbright efforts during an era of strong finishes in the mid-1990s, when 13 students earned awards over a four-year period. She is particularly proud of the recent successes.
"It's a very complicated process," said Flournoy, who has remained involved as a member of student interview committees. She credits Clodfelter for widely promoting the program, keeping applicants on task from the time of informational meetings each January through the September application deadline and building an effective interview process involving dozens of faculty members.
"We have some programs, particularly language programs, that are very uniquely suited to the Fulbright," Flournoy said. "Our faculty often mentor students to the point of wanting to apply."
She pointed to a decades-long effort to build international programs -- spanning the university's Baker, Alden, Ping and Glidden administrations -- for the opportunities today's Ohio University students have around the globe.
"Those efforts laid a foundation for what's happening today," Flournoy said, commending President Roderick J. McDavis' continuing emphasis on global connections and support for investing in international programs. "We're getting more Fulbrights and a phenomenal number of nationally competitive awards, a number of which are international. It's wonderfully exciting."
* A 13th Ohio University student earned a 2008-09 Fulbright Student Award, but instead accepted a different nationally competitive award.
Updated Nov. 21, 2008.