Pomona, Pitzer Tie for Second Among Liberal Arts Colleges for Fulbright Awards

(Dominic Frempong • The Student Life

Pomona College and Pitzer College tied for second on a national list of undergraduate liberal arts institutions with most students awarded Fulbright Fellowships for the 2016–17 academic year, according to a report published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on Feb. 19. 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides fellowship grants for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists to study, conduct research, and/or teach English for one academic year in a participating country outside the United States. 

The program is primarily funded by an annual appropriation from Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

Pomona and Pitzer had 60 applicants each, 15 of whom were awarded either a Fellowship Research Grant or an English Teaching Assistantship. Fellowship Research Grant awardees typically work on individually designed research projects with advisors at foreign institutes of higher education, while English Teaching Assistants are placed in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers as both language instructors and cultural ambassadors.

During the 2016-17 school year, seven Pomona students were awarded Fulbright Fellowship Research Grants and nine were awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (one Research Grant recipient declined and accepted a Watson Fellowship instead). Three Pitzer students were awarded Fulbright Fellowship Research Grants, while twelve were awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships.

This past fall, the most popular countries for Pomona applicants were Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Colombia, Morocco, and South Korea.

Pomona fellowships and career advisor Jennifer Locke said that at Pomona, the myriad opportunities to explore teaching and research, support from faculty and staff, one-on-one advising sessions, and write-ins for applicants seeking feedback on their essays, make students excellent candidates for the Fulbright Program.

“I think being a small campus with a lot of resources gives Pomona students opportunities to take initiative," Locke said. "I’ve met students who have helped a professor’s lab become more efficient, developed curricula to teach underrepresented high school students about college, or written and filmed a documentary—all before their senior year. All of these are fantastic examples of leadership, and all could potentially lead to an excellent Fulbright project."

Pitzer’s associate director of the office of fellowships and scholarships, Sandy Hamilton, said that Pitzer’s abundance of resources also allowed its Fulbright applicants to be outstanding candidates.

Nigel Boyle, Pitzer's interim dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs, "was instrumental in setting up workshops for students who wanted to apply to the Fulbright program. We also give the students a lot of support through resources such as the writing center and meetings with faculty and staff to help them become strong applicants,” Hamilton said.

Although the majority of applicants for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program are undergraduate seniors, recent graduates and alumni are also eligible to apply.

Some undergraduate institutions do not sponsor or provide resources for their alumni applicants, but both Pomona and Pitzer do. Hamilton said this is a factor that contributes to the high number of Fulbright students at Pitzer.

“It’s hard to get to your senior year … without meeting someone who has applied for the Fulbright, and applicants often encourage other students to apply.” Locke said.

Ben Cohen PO ’16 is currently in Kiev, Ukraine, using a Fulbright grant to work on a project about a new ethnographic museum in the city of Zhmerynka that examines “the history of the city and region, the social and political factors that have shaped the Jewish community over time, and the role such a museum plays in preserving historical memory at a time when Ukraine is undergoing a vigorous period of nation-building and identity formation,” among other topics.

Cohen said that the skills he learned at Pomona have been invaluable to him, as they have allowed him to pinpoint specific areas of focus for his project. He credits Pomona for teaching him how to be flexible with research, continuously refine and revise his work, and explore research questions using a multi-disciplinary approach.

“This is the beauty of research and the flexibility the Fulbright program gives you to explore new things, but none of it would be possible without my Pomona education,” he said.