University of North Alabama senior Mollie Schaefer is the first student in the University’s history to be accepted into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Schaefer was one of two UNA finalists up for the prestigious scholarship.
The Fulbright program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects, or for English teaching assistant programs abroad. Schaefer was accepted into the English Teaching Assistant Program in the Czech Republic.
According to Schaefer her interest in the program started with Dr. Matt Price.
“When I was a freshman,” Schaefer said, “a friend of mine from Birmingham received one; but aside from that, last year I went to see my professor Dr. Matt Price and something had fallen off of his table. I picked it up and it turned out to be a pamphlet on the Fulbright program; he told me I should keep it and see if I was interested.”
Price is currently the director of Premiere Scholarships and Fellowships at UNA. He said in the 2016-17 year, UNA had eight applicants into the Fulbright program, two were finalists and one was accepted.
“It’s UNA’s first ever Fulbright scholarship award,” Price said. “To put that into perspective, this is about a $15,000 to $20,000 grant to teach English abroad. Mollie will get airfare, room and board, health care and a monthly stipend for an entire year,” he said.
What is even more amazing? Price said scholarships like the Fulbright, aren’t usually awarded to students from regional institutions. Typically, he said the Fulbright scholars come from places that have large research infrastructures.
“Harvard and Yale cleanup, of course. From that you’ll just see a bunch of state universities,” he said. “If you look at the state of Alabama, Tuscaloosa does pretty well and then UAB after that. We are the first public regional Master’s institution in the state of Alabama to win it.”
Price said that more than anything, Fulbright looks for great students and UNA certainly has those. He said the reason why UNA hasn’t ever won a Fulbright Scholarship before is “simply based on lack of knowledge.”
“Once I put out the feelers talking about this program, I had tons of interest,” Price said. He said the application process is lengthy and that will generally weed some students out, but the key is providing information about not just the Fulbright Program, but others as well.
“We won this in our first year; that’s nuts,” Price said. “I mean this is our first time taking a coordinated effort to do this and we won one. This now opens the door to a whole suite of other scholarships that are just as impressive.”
Price said he wanted to use the Fulbright as a test case; win one, and then you start creating a culture on campus where students are routinely applying for programs like this.
“Fulbright is the small snowball that we’re going to push down the hill and it’s going to get bigger,” he said. “That’s what’s so amazing. You know, by going around this campus, you just see great students. And now we have national confirmation that we have great students.”
Price said the key to the whole process is providing them with support.
According to Fulbright online, more than 360,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and other countries have participated in the program since its inception in 1946. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.
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