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AU Named a Top Producer of US Student Fulbright Scholars

This marks the eighth time in 12 years that AU has received the distinction from the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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American University was this week named a top producer of US student Fulbright scholars for 2023–24 with 13, marking the eighth time in 12 years that AU has received the distinction.

The university is among the 40 doctoral institutions that produce the greatest number of students accepted to US government’s flagship international educational and cultural exchange program, administered by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“I’m thrilled to congratulate our 13 new AU Fulbrighters, who join a tradition that has a long history on American University’s campus,” President Sylvia Burwell said. “More than 200 AU scholars have participated in the Fulbright program since the 1950s, helping us to achieve our longstanding vision to be a global campus where students and scholars from all over the world come together, share ideas, and work toward a common purpose.”

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright US Student Program was established after World War II to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. In partnership with more than 140 nations, the program funds independent research, English-language teaching assistantships, and other international study opportunities for recent graduates and graduate students.

AU has 10 student Fulbrighters—representing four different schools and colleges—currently abroad in countries like Spain, Jordan, Albania, Colombia, Kuwait, and Ethiopia. The university has produced 246 Fulbright student scholars in its history, and 27 Eagles are semifinalists for the upcoming cohort cycle that will be finalized and announced in May.

“This speaks to the kind of experience that students can have when they come to AU,” said Paula Warrick, senior director of the Office of Merit Awards (OMA). “There are opportunities [here] to intern and engage in service work in DC.” That pedigree, along with students’ proximity to the federal government, “makes them strong candidates” for the Fulbright.

OMA staff work hard to support students applying for the prestigious award, Warrick said. The process begins in March, when OMA offers a series of informational workshops for interested students. Then, OMA advisers Chris Swanson and Lori Felton, former Fulbrighters themselves, begin meeting one-on-one with candidates to provide guidance and resources through the lengthy application process, which includes biographical data, transcripts, recommendations, and more. About 50 faculty members volunteer each year to mentor those students.

“We know how much time it takes to do a good job on a Fulbright application, and we have deadlines structured around that,” Warrick said. “The process is very well laid out, and it’s based on a lot of institutional knowledge that we’ve acquired over the years.”

Azeezat Salaudeen, SIS-SPA/BA ’23, said the support from OMA was invaluable in helping her earn one of three Fulbright English teaching assistantships in Luxembourg. Salaudeen, who is a first-generation college graduate and the child of Nigerian immigrants, thought her chances were slim, so she didn’t apply until August 2022. Nevertheless, Swanson, Felton, and OMA were there to walk her through every step of the process.

“Just to listen to me and hear my perspective, it was really helpful in crafting my statement of purpose and my personal statement for Fulbright,” said Salaudeen, who began the assistantship in September 2023. “It worked out, and here I am in Luxembourg.”

Since its inception, Fulbright has awarded grants to 400,000 scholars, students, teachers, artists, and scientists. Forty-one heads of state or government, 62 Nobel Laureates, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and 89 Pulitzer Prize winners have been recipients of Fulbright Scholarships. Salaudeen called it “a privilege” to be part of such a storied tradition.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” said the Chicago native, who is teaching English to college and secondary students through June 2024. “I’m incredibly proud of myself, and I’m incredibly thankful for the Office of Merit Awards, the people who wrote recommendation letters, and those who believed I could do it.”