Rice recognized as one of nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars

‘Everything is about the process for our students’

Fullbright Program

Rice celebrated one of its largest cohorts of Fulbright scholars last year, when 11 alumni were offered grants from the program for work or research abroad.

Now the State Department has recognized Rice as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars for the 2020-21 academic year. A full list of top-producing colleges and universities was recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The process of getting a Fulbright requires strong commitment from our applicants,” said Jessica Khalaf, associate director of programs for Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL). Fulbright is the largest U.S. exchange program, awarding approximately 2,000 grants annually and operating in over 140 countries.

Khalaf and her colleagues in the CCL work with students and alumni applying for fellowships such as Fulbright and advise them throughout the process. Fellowships can often be the first time students are introduced to the CCL and its advisers. Given the CCL’s focus on critical reflection, fellowship advising allows students to engage in an introspective journey and identify opportunities that support their future goals.

“What I think is unique about Fulbright is the multilayered process that begins with feedback,” Khalaf said.

Fulbright, like all the fellowships for which Rice nominates students, are a developmental opportunity: Students are not only learning about their values, motivations and goals. They’re are also engaging receive feedback and guidance throughout the process.

The president-appointed faculty committee on fellowships interviews all Fulbright applicants to provide feedback on the application in preparation for the national deadline. At the national selection stage, applications are considered by a committee comprised of experts, faculty and researchers in their field. If students make it past this national round to become finalists, country-specific U.S. Embassies or Fulbright commissions review their applications and make their nominations.

Finally, those nominated are offered Fulbright grants, the culmination of which can be a yearlong process of advising, drafts and revisions.

No matter the outcome, Khalaf said, the students’ effort and work is valuable. By engaging in fellowship advising, students gain access to advisers who can help them in trajectory planning and situating fellowships within their short-term plans. There’s also the practicality of being able to repurpose fellowship applications for such things as grad school applications.

But students are also learning to clearly define their motivations and goals. They’re learning to craft compelling personal statements that accurately reflect their values and desires. And they’re learning how to find and use their own voice.

“With every single fellowship Rice offers, at the end of the day, everything is about the process for our students,” Khalaf said.

“We love that our students are pursuing these experiences and we want each one of them to be successful,” she said. “But reflecting on your academic, professional and personal experiences — and synthesizing those experiences to find opportunities and next steps — that, for me, is really what the fellowship process comes down to.”