Georgetown stood among the top producers of Fulbright scholars for the 2012-2013 academic year, with 14 students, faculty and staff receiving the prestigious award, according to a ranking released by The Chronicle of Higher Education on Oct. 28.

Of the 61 Georgetown students who applied for Fulbright grants last year, 23 percent were accepted. This rate ranks Georgetown the 18th-highest producer of Fulbright scholars, tied with American University and Duke University.

With 40 students receiving awards, The University of Michigan topped this year’s list, followed by Harvard University, Brown University and the University of Chicago, which sent 31, 29 and 24 students, respectively.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers merit-based grants for graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to travel abroad and study. The grants also provide opportunities to conduct research or become an English teaching assistant for one year. The Fulbright program offers approximately 1,500 full or partial grants to Americans each year.

The number of Georgetown students that received fellowships peaked during the 2007-2008 school year, with 21 students receiving grants. This was a sharp increase from prior years. In 2006, 2005 and 2004, nine, three and seven students were selected, respectively.

From eight years ago, the number of Georgetown students to receive Fulbright grants has doubled.

According to Lauren Tuckley, the university’s associate director and Fulbright Program adviser in the Office of Fellowships, Awards and Research, Georgetown takes a special interest in coaching Fulbright applicants to success. Her office holds several information sessions and meets with each applicant one-on-one to improve their chances of being selected.

Tuckley said that this unique approach serves as both a strength and a limitation for Georgetown applicants.

“Our fellowship office is quite small compared to our peer institutions,” she said. “While we would like to grow our Fulbright numbers and continually look to improve the processes for doing so, [the] fact remains that we have only one full-time administrative fellowship advisor. As the number of Georgetown-University-endorsed Fulbright applicants continues to grow, as does interest in other fellowships we advise on, we hope that our resources can meet the burgeoning demand.”

Hanna Caldwell (SFS ’11) is one of three Georgetown alumni currently completing a Fulbright program. She says her experiences serving as a teaching assistant in an English program and coordinating a health and wellness program at a refugee camp north of in Amman, Jordan have given her an unmatched opportunity to improve her Arabic.

“I love being able to just soak up the language, whether in a taxi, a cafe or wandering the streets.

I take colloquial Arabic classes and have a private tutor for modern standard Arabic, but I learn the most outside of my formal language education here,” Caldwell wrote in an email. “The opportunity for language practice alone makes the experience of living abroad worth being so far from home.”

Caldwell added that the program has allowed her to remain intellectually stimulated in a similar way to what she experienced at Georgetown.

“I think after college when real life begins, we lose a lot of that intellectual stimulation that we probably took for granted as undergrads, and I feel like I’m getting to continue a lot of the conversations I had in college about politics and culture in the Middle East,” she said.

In addition to furthering Georgetown graduates’ learning, Fulbright programs provide a way for Georgetown’s staff to develop professionally. Sandra Layton, associate director of international student and scholar services at the Office of International Programs, spent two weeks in Korea this summer after receiving the U.S. Korea International Education Administrator Award in June.

For Layton, the fortnight spent visiting U.S. universities, a middle school and the Korean Women’s Development Institute gave her a better understanding of Korean culture and society that has helped her in her job back in D.C.

“I work with scholars coming to Georgetown to conduct research and teach, many of them from Korea,” she said. “[The program] gave me a greater understanding of Korean people, which has really helped me in my job.”

Fulbright scholars stressed that their time spent abroad has provided a welcome push beyond their comfort zones.

“Living abroad and feeling like a bit of an outsider gets me out of my comfort zone, sometimes to the point of being incredibly frustrated, but more often it makes my days really satisfying,” Caldwell said.

Hoya Staff Writer Abbey McNaughton contributed to this report.

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