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UNC named a Top-Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. students

The FedEx Global Education Center is pictured on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.

UNC has recently been selected as a Top-Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. students. 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed for graduating college seniors, graduate students or young professionals and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

This recognition is given to U.S. colleges with the most amount of acceptances into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. In the 2022-2023 cycle, 16 UNC students were awarded Fulbright scholarships, which include English Teaching Assistant (ETA) awards.

The ETA places students in schools abroad to work with English language learners, ranging from kindergarteners to university students. 

Other open study and research awards are also Fulbright opportunities.

“This allows Fulbrighters to either conduct independent research in partnership with an international institution of some sort or to enroll in a graduate degree program abroad," Emmy Grace, program manager for global education and UNC Fulbright program adviser, said.

Grace said she believes many students are drawn to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program because of their global education or experiences at UNC. This includes study abroad, extracurricular activities such as volunteer work or learning a new language. 

“These different touch points of global experiences, having strong academic background, curiosity and ambition. Those are things that contribute to successful Carolina applicants and what has helped make UNC a Top Producing Fulbright institution,” Grace said. 

As for Vice Provost for Global Affairs Barbara Stephenson, UNC's Global Guarantee and the “tireless” Fulbright advisers on campus are the reason why the University is a top producer for this program. 

The Fulbright team focuses on educating the UNC community about the opportunities that the program offers. 

“From the top-notch faculty developing globally oriented courses to our expansive study abroad program and on-campus opportunities such as the Diplomacy Initiative, developing a global mindset is accessible and integral to students’ education no matter what they study,” Stephenson said in an email. 

Students can apply for the Fulbright U.S. Program as early as the fall of their senior year or after graduation. Typical applications demonstrate high academic achievement and involvement in extracurricular activities. Depending on the program, having strong language skills is also helpful. 

“As a former U.S. ambassador, my advice to those who are applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is to think critically about how you want to engage with communities around the world and how you wish to be impacted by those communities in return,” Stephenson said. 

Fulbright awardee and recent UNC graduate Timothy Purvis started looking into the program in 2018. He realized he wanted to work in the public health and environmental sciences sector in the Middle East. 

Purvis first applied to the program while attending Georgia Institute of Technology for his undergraduate degree, and he finished as a semi-finalist. However, he believes he did not progress to the finalist position because he didn't have a “great research pitch.” 

While completing his master’s at UNC, Purvis decided to apply to the program again —  having only a year of graduate research left. 

“A lot of my support actually did come from the lab. The kind of research advisors that I had at UNC helped me refine the research ideas that I was presenting to something that was more manageable,” he said. 

Currently, he is in Jordan — where he researches the opinions of individuals about wastewater recycling in the country. He said that Jordan is in a unique position, as they invested in a large wastewater recycling plant that has been in use for over 15 years. 

Because of this, Purvis interviews Jordanians to help understand the factors that have led to them having such a positive disposition towards wastewater recycling.

“Fulbright is a way that I was able to get a semester of high-level Arabic classes and a really wide professional network that I can ask tough questions to and get good support from, for free,” he said. 

In his experience, the program has a lot of benefits with "zero drawbacks." 

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“This was the most feasible way that I could get into the Middle East but also do so in a way that I think is socially ethically responsible,” Purvis said. “I am being vetted as an applicant to where they think I will be acting with my beneficence, doing good for the local community here in Jordan and for the broader academic community.”