March 10, 2016
For the past 10 years, the Fulbright Scholar Program has recognized the College for its unusually high number of grant recipients—and this year is no exception.
Twelve Amherst students and recent graduates were awarded Fulbrights for the 2015–2016 academic year, continuing a trend that has lasted over a decade, and that has consistently placed the College high on the list of programs The Chronicle of Higher Education deems to be “top producers” of Fulbright scholars.
As the U.S. government’s flagship educational exchange program, the Fulbright awards grants to students, artists and young professionals in 100 different fields to study, teach and conduct research abroad each year.
The growth of the Fulbright and other fellowship programs at Amherst has been so strong that when Denise Gagnon, Amherst’s director of fellowship advising, retires in June after 22 years of coordinating the program, she’ll be “going out on a high note,” she said.
“When I first started advising for the Fulbright, maybe we would have had six applicants, and even that would have been a lot,” she said. Now she estimates she might have 400 half-hour appointments over the course of the year to talk with potential applicants about a variety of fellowship opportunities.
An increase in the number of countries participating and greater diversity in types of programs offered (science and math research programs are a big draw) have all led to a rise in the number of applications, Gagnon said. She noted that she’s now able to connect more alumni and former Fulbright recipients with interested students, creating a positive feedback loop of applicants.
“One of the things I am most proud of is the diversity of students who are applying for awards,” she said. “A number of students are taking the time to have international experience after Amherst. For some, it provides a wonderful stepping-stone for what they’ll be doing in the future.”
The Fulbright is not the only program to which Amherst students have been flocking. Application numbers for all the national fellowships—Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford, Marshall Scholarships to the United Kingdom and Schwarzman Scholarships to China, among many others—are increasing. A spokesperson for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, which provides funding for one year of independent research and travel, confirmed that when it comes to fellowship recipients, Amherst is near the top of that program’s list as well.