University of Louisville students applying for prestigious scholarships are looking for their “perfect match” — previous winners who can help them improve their chances of success.
On Sept. 9, about 20 Fulbright and Critical Language Scholarship applicants gathered at Etskorn Honors Center for the Fulbright Speed Dating event. Now in its eighth year, the program lets applicants have one-on-one conversations with previous winners who look over their research proposals and offer suggestions on how to improve them.
In addition to getting a proposal tune-up, applicants receive practical advice on living and working abroad from their advisers’ firsthand experience — an opportunity many advisers themselves wish they had during their application process.
“It was different when I went through the process. For me, it was a small group of faculty who committed themselves to the process,” said 2005 Fulbright scholar Jeanelle Sears, whose work in Egypt led her to a social work career serving refugees. Knowing the importance of the Fulbright program in helping students become changemakers, she volunteered to pass along her expertise to the next generation of scholars.
“We’ve all been through this,” said Sears. “We want to help (the candidates) make their application as strong as it can be.”
Senior Kyle Vuong came to the event seeking input on his proposal to study highly infectious parasites in Geneva. His research proposal was sound, but his mentor helped him improve his purpose statement to make his proposal more attractive to the review board.
“When they read my personal statement, I want them to see a person, not just a number,” said Vuong. “Can they tell it’s someone passionate, someone who has a story to tell?”
The event is the brainchild of Patricia Condon, director of the Office of National and International Scholarship Opportunities. Condon was on hand to oversee the event and offer some advice to Fulbright hopefuls.
“For candidates, it really helps accelerate their thinking and preparation,” said Condon. “Some have said it’s the single most important thing that helped them prepare for the Fulbright interview.”
UofL was named a top producer of Fulbright scholars for the 2015-16 academic year by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The campus deadline for next year’s winners to submit their applications is Sept. 15.