University of Iowa named one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars on the program’s 75th anniversary

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Iowa ranks among the top universities for producing Fulbright scholars.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Samantha Murray, News Reporter

As the Fulbright program enters its 75th year, the University of Iowa has been named one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars for the sixth year in a row.

The Fulbright program sends students from across the nation to several different parts of the world to act as a citizen ambassador while continuing their education. Fulbright recipients are handpicked by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs.

UI Dean of International Programs Russell Ganim said he believes the UI’s success with the Fulbright program is because of the mentorship and rigorous application process the university offers its students.

Ganim said he encourages students to start thinking about the program early. Even for first- and second-year students, the university can help guide students into getting involved across campus and particular class options, he said.

“Even if you don’t end up getting accepted into a program, the application process helps you learn a lot about yourself,” Ganim said.

Lucas Fagre, UI alum and Fulbright scholar, said that because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, he has not been able to begin his joint research program in Bulgaria and Romania.

During his time at the UI, Fagre said he double majored in anthropology and public health, and spent time researching in both Romania and Ukraine. For his upcoming Fulbright trip, he plans on doing vaccine outreach research with the Roma population.

Fagre’s application to the program took place over several months, he said, requiring him to rewrite and improve upon his essays many times.

“The process of getting very positive feedback, over and over again from a multitude of perspectives is probably the most valuable part of working with the Iowa Fulbright program,” Fabre said.

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Associate Director of International Fellowships Karen Wachsmuth advises students and helps them through the application process. Since she joined the program, she said, the amount of Fulbright students from the university has nearly doubled.

Wachsmuth said nearly 100 UI students have gone abroad through the Fulbright program to date. These students are from a variety of fields, from creative writing to public health and beyond, and go abroad for research, teaching, creative projects, and studying, she said.

“Our students tend to be very active on campus with extracurricular and service activities in the community,” Wachsmuth said. “That’s what Fulbright is looking for — people who are going to go out and do people to people, diplomacy abroad.”

Wachsmuth said the most important thing students learn while abroad is empathy, by getting to know people from other countries, listening to their experiences, and learning not only what makes them different but, more importantly, what makes them the same.

Many alumni come back to help mentor potential recipients, she said, sharing their experiences abroad and assisting with interview preparation.

“Students who are applying for the Fulbright really want to make a difference,” Wachsmuth said. “They want to become part of the global workforce, they want that adventure, and they want to grow. That’s what the Fulbright program gives them a chance to do.”