Pitzer Tops Fulbright Rankings for Undergraduate Colleges

Pitzer College has retained its status as the top undergraduate college in the United States for Fulbright scholarships, with 19 Pitzer students receiving awards this year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Pomona College and Scripps College tied for second place along with Grinnell College, with each reporting 14 grant winners.

The Fulbright program provides two types of grants. The most common, a teaching assistantship, provides the student with the means to spend a year teaching English abroad. The less common type is a research grant that covers the costs for students to conduct research with institutions based outside the U.S.

According to Fulbright adviser Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert, Associate Professor of Biology at the Keck Science Department, much of the schools’ success can be attributed to the individual attention students receive from the Fulbright advising programs at the Claremont Colleges. 

“We do a lot of hands-on help,” Gilbert said. “Some of the larger state institutions have their deadlines in August, and I think that’s crazy. That means that students have to do everything basically on their own and they don’t have a chance to revise.”

Gilbert said that the revision component of the 5C Fulbright program is a major factor in distinguishing 5C students’ applications from those of peer institutions.

“After the student has presented to the review board, they are able to make edits and alterations to their applications based on the board’s recommendations,” she said. “I think that goes with the ethos of a liberal arts college.”

Fulbright advisers at all of the 5Cs offer help with the revision process. Pitzer Political Studies Professor Nigel Boyle, a Fulbright adviser and Associate Dean for Global-Local Programs, offers workshops at Pitzer every Tuesday and Thursday to attract students to the program and help applicants with their writing.

“There is this myth that Pitzer students are taught to write these grants in a class,” Boyle said.

Boyle said that the first part of his job is to perform “sort of an evangelist role” for the Fulbright program.

“I try and let students know that these scholarships exist and that they are attainable,” he said. “Secondly, we focus on where students want to go. I try my hardest to dissuade students from applying to places like England and Australia, where the odds are just insane.” 

Pomona Theatre Professor Bob Leabhart, a longtime Fulbright adviser, said that students at the 5Cs also have advantages when applying for research grants, an often overlooked part of the Fulbright program. 

The research grant requires a project and a letter of affiliation from a foreign institution. 

“So that means that people who have traveled abroad, who have connections, who have professors who have connections are able to get that all-important institutional affiliation,” Leabhart said. 

Boyle said that the 5Cs stand out because of the academic diversity among their Fulbright winners.

“At other schools, there is a type of student that applies for a Fulbright, a German major or an international relations major,” he said. “Here we have students from across all disciplines, including the natural sciences, who apply and who receive grants.”

Leabhart said that it makes sense for students from many disciplines to apply for Fulbright grants, since the application process itself can be rewarding.

“We say everybody should apply because the experience of applying is very rich and it is perhaps the first time in a long time that you’re going to have to apply to something that has that kind of significance,” he said.

Each of the 5Cs runs its advising program independently of the others. Students in the natural sciences at Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer and Scripps receive advising from the shared Keck Science Department. 

According to Boyle, this institutionalized separation has been beneficial to the 5Cs.

“The thing about the Claremont Colleges is that there is a lot of cooperation, but there is also rivalry and a little bit of competition, and that has encouraged people to invest more in the advising program,” he said.

Amy Jasper PZ ’10 received a Fulbright grant to teach English in Nicosia, Cyprus.

“Nigel’s guidance, especially at the last minute, helped me turn my application into something coherent and persuasive,” Jasper said. “The simple act of encouraging students to take the leap and apply is huge.”

She added, “If I hadn’t gone to Pitzer, I never would have applied for Fulbright.”

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