UT ties with Harvard for Fulbright recipients

A record-setting 19 students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, received Fulbright awards for the 2018-2019 academic year, tying Harvard for the number of recipients.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a competitive international exchange program that places recent college graduates or graduate students in research, study and teaching opportunities across the world. There are around 2,000 student grants per year in 140 countries, said Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships.

UT ranks fourth among public research universities and 12th among all research universities in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of top Fulbright-producing schools for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Alex Crockett is currently working on a master’s degree in agriculture and rural development at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom on a Fulbright. While in the UK, Crockett is a full-time master’s student and also doing research on solutions for addressing poverty in rural and developing areas.

Crockett will spend 10 months studying at the University of East Anglia before returning to Tennessee in September. Crockett said his time abroad has taught him about the things that people value worldwide, like “creating a better future for the next generation.”

“I think we have this preconceived notion that people outside of the United States are different than us, or have a different culture, but being here, having the chance to travel, there aren’t as many differences as we think,” Crockett said. “A lot of the things we value … are usually pretty similar.”

Crockett said he “wasn’t surprised” to hear that UT had set a record and tied with Harvard for the number of Fulbright students.

‘Proud to be a Volunteer’

“Our institution is among the best of the best in the country,” Crockett said. “It really made be proud to be a Volunteer at the end of the day.”

Crockett said he’s enjoyed his time in the UK and it’s helped him prepare for his future.

“I definitely think this has been a life-changing opportunity,” Crockett said. “It’s taught me a lot about myself and how I want to work with different communities, and I think UT has set me up well for this.”

Seidler, who works with Fulbright applicants throughout the application process, said there were 67 candidates for the program from UT this year.

Applicants begin the application process for a Fulbright in the spring, and work over the next several months to complete the application, screening and interview process. Seidler said he thinks of process as “developmental,” and “we see tremendous value in that.”

“It’s really a tremendous range of what you can do,” Seidler said. “I think that’s what makes the Fulbright such a special program and why we put such an emphasis on it institutionally. It’s for arts candidates, students in STEM fields, social sciences, humanities.”

At the end of the application process, “the students has a better sense of what they’re capable of,” Seidler said.

As for setting a school record and tying with Harvard, Seidler said he was “thrilled.”

“It’s a thrilling thing, because we’re a small office, but we have a lot of tentacles and engage a lot of faculty members,” Seidler said. “This is one really good indicator of what’s possible at the university.”

Savannah Dixon, a 2017 UT graduate, is currently in Guatemala on an English teaching assistant Fulbright, working with local teachers to teach about American culture.

Dixon, who arrived in Guatemala at the beginning of January, said she has done things like teach a lesson on Black History Month, and will help train local teachers “on how to talk about American culture.”

 “I’m basically a connection,” Dixon said. “There are little things they’ll ask me about that I don’t think are significant but are important parts of the American education system.”

Dixon said she was very grateful to Seidler and UT for helping prepare her for the Fulbright experience, and said she would not have made it to Guatemala without the support of the faculty.

“The reason we’re in the top is because of Andrew (Seidler) and the faculty, especially the faculty in the modern and foreign languages department,” Dixon said. “I never would have made it through undergrad without my Spanish professors.”

Dixon will spend about 10 months in Guatemala assisting teachers, and said her time at UT is the reason she applied for a Fulbright.

“I think so much of the reason I love to travel and I love to be a global citizen is because of the opportunities that were presented to me at UT,” Dixon said. “This has been my dream for 7 years now, to work in Guatemala.”

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Monica Kast

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org


Published February 19, 2019