Pitzer President Appointed to Fulbright Board

Pitzer College President Laura Trombley has been appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President Barack Obama. She was sworn in Feb. 11 in Washington, DC, after her appointment and other key administration posts were announced in December. She is the only current board member representing the western United States.

“I am thrilled to welcome Laura Skandera Trombley to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Not only does President Trombley bring an important voice from California to the board, she also brings Pitzer’s extraordinary success as a national leader in the number of Fulbright scholarships awarded year after year,” said Chairman of the Fulbright Board Tom Healy at the swearing-in ceremony.

As a member of the board, Trombley will help decide the policies and the strategic direction of the Fulbright program, including the creation of new kinds of awards, changing requirements for the award, and deciding which countries are included in the program. 

“There are all kinds of different aspects of our work which we want to think about to determine what is the best way to accomplish the mission of the Fulbright and to use our resources as effectively as possible,” Trombley said.

In 2010, 2011, and 2012, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Pitzer College as the top producer of Fulbright winners among all United States liberal arts colleges. Pitzer also has been the national leader in Fulbright Fellowships per thousand students for eight of the past nine years. Nearly one tenth of Pitzer’s Class of 2012 was awarded Fulbright Fellowships.

“I think it’s a combination of many things coming together,” Trombley said, regarding Pitzer’s success. “You have a very exciting, forward-thinking curriculum at Pitzer that allows students to make a lot of their own choices, and you have a very large and varied study abroad program where students are allowed quite a bit of freedom, and that all interfaces very well with the Fulbright program.”

Trombley has served as President of Pitzer since 2002 and is a professor of American literature and a distinguished Mark Twain scholar. She has served previously as Dean of the Faculty at Coe College and as Assistant Provost at State University of New York, Potsdam. She is also currently a member of the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards. 

The Scholarship Board consists of 12 members that meet every quarter and was established by the United States Congress to supervise the Fulbright Program and help establish its policies. Serving three-year terms, the board members also select students, scholars, and teachers to participate in the educational exchanges. 

The Fulbright Program itself, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was created in 1946 and provides grants for individually designed research projects that span one academic year in a foreign country. The Fulbright’s reputation has made the awards quite competitive: In the 2012 – 2013 academic year, the program fielded 5,231 applicants for 957 awards, although that ratio does vary widely depending on what region a student applies to. 

During their grants, Fulbright students meet, work, live with, and learn from the people of the host country, which Trombley said she strongly supports.

“I’m a very firm believer that being in a culture or a community where you’re not part of the majority is incredibly important,” she said.

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