Fulbright Program gives global opportunities

Bruce Smith talks to the crowd in OSH on Tuesday. Colby Patterson
Bruce Smith talks to an audience about the Fulbright Program. Photo by Cole Tan.

Bruce Smith talks to an audience about the Fulbright Program. Photo by Cole Tan.

Plan early and start as soon as possible – this was the advice the panel gave audience members during the Hinckley Institute of Politics Fulbright forum on Tuesday.

Michael Hardman, the chief global officer at the Office for Global Engagement, said the Fulbright Program is “unbelievably underutilized” at the U. He said out of Pac-12 schools, the U ranks last in Fulbright applications and in Fulbright scholars who are accepted into the program.

Hardman said in the 2012-2013 academic year, the U had five applications compared to an average of 50 at the other Pac-12 schools, and only one of those five received the award.

Mushtaq Memon, the Fulbright ambassador for the Utah chapter, said the program is not limited to students or faculty and that any U.S citizen can apply.

“If you have an idea, if you want to make a difference, you are welcome to apply,” Mushtaq said.

David Proffitt, a graduate teaching assistant at the U, was a student researcher in India through the Fulbright program. Proffitt said that those thinking about applying should start “as soon as possible.”

Mercedes Ward, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, echoed Proffitt’s statement and said students should “plan early.” Ward said that unlike many other Fulbright scholars, she had a specific idea to go to Nicaragua for her program.

“It seemed like a perfect fit [for me],” Ward said. “It is like an investment in you as a future world leader.”

Bruce Smith, a professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders, went to Poland for a semester as part of the Fulbright Program. Smith said the most intriguing part of the experience for him was the ability to meet people from another culture.

Ward agreed with Smith and said “it gives you a window into a different culture.”

Mushtaq said this aspect of the program is very important to both the Fulbright Program and the students involved.

“When preparing your application, don’t forget that [you are a cultural ambassador],” Mushtaq said.

Proffitt said the program is more involved than he expected when he applied. He said although he did not expect to be working on his research project alone, he did not expect the level of interaction there was.

“I definitely see the world differently after being in India for a year,” Proffitt said.

Wesley Sasaki-Uemura, a professor in the Department of History, said his Fulbright experience helped him finish his dissertation, which got him a job, while immersing himself in a different culture and meeting “really interesting people.”

Smith agreed with Sasaki-Uemura and said he met people with whom he is still in close contact because of Fulbright.

Amir Khabibullin is currently visiting the U from Russia through the Fulbright Program. He said there is some culture shock for students – like filing taxes, which he did last week.

n.turner@chronicle.utah.edu