Fairfield uses its high number of students receiving Fulbright Scholarships to laud its academic success, but are we really as accomplished as we think?

Pitzer College, a small school of approximately 800 students founded in 1968, had a record-breaking 18 Fulbright Scholarships awarded for the 2006-2007 year. Fairfield had only five students receiving the award.

Nigel Boyle, a professor of political science and Pitzer’s Fulbright advisor said that word of mouth has contributed to the “Fulbright mania” taking over the college. Though there is no “dedicated administrative support for fellowships,” Boyle teaches a class in which applying for a Fulbright is a requirement, leading to a large amount of “peer review by applicants and past Fulbrighters.”

Boyle added that there are 70 students applying for the scholarship this year, most of who have studied abroad in cultural immersion programs that usually focus on “unusual languages.”

Unlike Pitzer College, Fairfield has no Fulbright class. Instead, it depends on a team of faculty members to aid and refine prospective students’ Fulbright applications. Academic Vice President Orin Grossman said that faculty support plays an important role in students’ success.

“Fairfield’s extraordinary success in post-baccalaureate Fulbrights is a great tribute both to our wonderful students and to a great team of administrators and faculty members who guide their efforts,” he said.

Fairfield’s large study abroad program is also a key in the university’s Fulbright accomplishments. Like Pitzer, the five recipients all studied abroad in various locations, including Jordan and Beijing.

The Fulbright Scholarship is a grant offered by the U.S. State Department to exceptionalcollege graduates who wish to undertake graduate study or employment in a foreign country. It is among the most prestigious post-graduate scholarships in the nation.

Introduced as a bill to Congress by Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1945 and signed into law by Harry Truman in 1946, over 44,000 Fulbrights have been awarded since its inception.

The selection process is long and arduous; applications are due in October, and students do not find out if they have made it past the first phase until February. If they have, they must be selected as recipients from the 12-member Fulbright board and must be accepted by their host country. Often, students do not receive a final decision until April or May.

According to the Institute of International Education, which administers the scholarships, approximately 1,200 Fulbrights are awarded each year. Therefore, five scholarships from one university alone is a high honor. Despite the fact that Pitzer received 13 more scholarships than Fairfield, Fairfield has the highest amount for its type of university: a master’s degree, non-research institution. Pitzer has no post-graduate programs.

And while we can accurately say Fairfield is in the top of its class, Fairfield’s Fulbright Advisor Miriam Gogol is impressed by Pitzer College’s success.

“Pitzer is obviously doing a great job and we are interested in learning from them,” she said.

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