By Megan Schumann
Rutgers University–New Brunswick has been named a top producer for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, as announced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and recognized in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The university has 19 grant recipients this year, including six from the School of Graduate Studies. The recognition is given to colleges and universities in the United States that received the highest number of applicants selected for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and requires schools to have at least 10 students offered Fulbright grants.
The distinction is shared by some of the nation’s most elite institutions, including Princeton University, Brown University, Georgetown University and Harvard University.
“I am very proud Rutgers has once again joined our esteemed peers in being among the top producers of Fulbright recipients,” said Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway. “More importantly, I am thrilled for our newest talented Fulbright students and excited for them to embark on these life-changing opportunities.”
The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Under this year’s awards, Rutgers-New Brunswick students conduct research, teach English and advance their education at host institutions in Austria, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Spain, Colombia, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, Sweden, Zambia and South Korea.
The university’s newest Fulbright recipients include Columbus, N.J., native Amna Ahmed, a 2022 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Management and Labor Relations. Ahmed is pursuing a master’s degree in international relations and political science at Koç University in Istanbul.
Her work studying migration and displacement feels even more relevant to her now following the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that claimed more than 20,000 lives. Although she is based miles away, she said the impact of the destruction is inescapable.
Before the pandemic, Ahmed, a first-generation student, worked with Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan, an experience that inspired her to apply to the Fulbright program.
“Studying in Turkey was an opportunity to further understand the refugee experience,” Ahmed said. “The pain that people go through here shouldn’t be normalized. Before war, displacement and now climate change, these people lived in beautiful countries and homes. Hearing the stories from the earthquake breaks my heart, but I hold on to hope that by raising awareness and working together, we can make a difference. The support we can provide through donations and direct aid is essential right now, especially after the earthquake.”
Administered by the Institute of International Education, each of the roughly 2,000 grants issued annually cover the cost of a student’s travel, housing and living expenses for a year in the nation where they will be teaching or studying.
“The Fulbright scholarship has propelled approximately 300 outstanding Rutgers-New Brunswick students to success, and we have been a top Fulbright producer for the better part of the past two decades. This speaks to the brilliance and dedication of our students, the quality of a Rutgers-New Brunswick education, and the integrity of our culture of elevating the common good through scholarship and service,” said Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway.
Rutgers has a history of success in the Fulbright competition, which is a direct result of the impressive accomplishments of so many students and the support that exists at the university to prepare recipients, said Anne Wallen, director of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships, which guides undergraduates through the scholarship and grant application process.
The university has been a top-producing Fulbright school nine times in the past decade, with about 300 Rutgers-New Brunswick students honored since the scholarship began more than 75 years ago. Of 19 awards offered to Rutgers students this year, 16 were accepted.
“The Fulbright program itself carries the weight of being the state department’s flagship cultural exchange program,” Wallen said. “Scarlet Knights are competing at a national and international level to be recognized with this honor.”
Wallen attributes the university’s commitment to student representation and student success. Both the Office of Distinguished Fellowships and GradFund—a service offered by the School of Graduate Studies that helps graduate students apply for research fellowships and grants—partner with dedicated campus community members to recruit students, provide feedback and support on essays and applications and write letters of recommendation.
“The Fulbright application process itself is beneficial for students regardless of whether they win,” said Chuck Keeton, academic dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, who has helped students with their applications for more than a decade. “Students learn something about themselves, how to articulate their goals and express them in writing and how to advocate on their own.”
As part of efforts to encourage students to pursue the Fulbright, the office has developed a course – new this year and launching in April – through the online learning system Canvas to further guide them through the application process.
Another Rutgers Fulbright recipient, Eleanor Meli, graduated in May 2022 with a major in history from the School of Arts and Sciences and earned a master’s degree in social studies education from the Graduate School of Education.
At Rutgers, Meli taught a first-year interest group seminar and tutored student-athletes, preparing her to teach English in Cambodia. Each day she learns something new, she said.
“Everything is completely different from what I am used to,” said the Morristown, N.J., native, whose free time is spent bicycling around her local town and taking Khmer language classes. “It’s the experience that I wanted.”
Nearly 5,000 miles away from her California home, Serena Lückhoff is a grant recipient in Austria who graduated in 2022 with a double major in cognitive science and German. As a combined award winner, she gains a unique experience teaching English while pursuing research and taking university courses.
“It was a life-changing experience moving across the country to attend Rutgers,” the 22-year-old said. “I had independence and came into my own through personal growth for the first time. I am applying those learned skills now.”
At Rutgers, the former Aresty scholar had opportunities to work on multiple research projects, which helped her figure out her passions.
Now, philosophy of language, philosophy of science and phenomenology are among Lückhoff’s research interests. She is tackling an ambitious research topic: “Quantum Mechanics as a Linking Theory between Science, Philosophy, and Literature,” and spends time alongside her international classmates she now calls friends by studying in various cafes throughout Graz.
“We’ve seen remarkable impact from Rutgers Fulbright recipients both on campus and around the world,” Wallen said. “Seeing what this cohort accomplishes in the future is going to be incredible.”
Students or alumni interested in applying for any fellowships at Rutgers can contact the Office of Distinguished Fellowships. Graduate students or graduate alumni interested in applying for fellowships can contact GradFund.
Rutgers-New Brunswick Undergraduate Recipients
- Amna Ahmed, International Studies and Human Resources Management, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, School of Management & and Labor Relations, 2022 (Turkey)
- Assata Davis, Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (Colombia)
- Gabrielle Jacob, Public Health, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences; Master of Public Health, School of Public Health, 2022 (South Korea)
- Clare Kelly, Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences; Social Studies Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Taiwan)
- Aditi Kiron, Mathematics, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (South Korea)
- Caleb Kuberiet, English and Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, 2022 (Spain)
- Serena Lückhoff, Cognitive Science and German, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, 2022 (Austria)
- Eleanor Meli, History, School of Arts and Sciences; Social Studies Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Cambodia)
- Jake Rattigan, Psychology and Economics, School of Arts and Sciences, 2022 (Spain)
- Sofia Ribeiro, Education, Graduate School of Education, 2022 (Portugal)
School of Graduate Studies Recipients
- Andrew Aldercotte, Ecology and Evolution, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Indonesia)
- Stephanie Dvareckas, Art History, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Kazakhstan)
- Arielle Friend, German Literature, Study/Research Award, Fulbright-IFK Junior Fellowship (Austria)
- Eva Mann, Anthropology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Indonesia)
- Michael Monzon, Entomology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Sweden)
- Anissa Speakman, Anthropology, Study/Research Award, Open Study/Research Award (Zambia)
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.