Fulbright Day highlights elite league: ASU, Harvard, Stanford and Chicago

By

Mary Beth Faller

Fulbright Day on Tuesday allows Arizona State University to bolster the reputation it’s earned as a top producer of such scholars, but it’s not the only award that puts the school in elite company. ASU, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago are the only institutions with Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholarship winners. 

“It’s a really potent and clear statement about our breadth and the excellence of our programs that students with such different backgrounds and goals can demonstrate not just at a national but at a global level their competence and vision,” said Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College.

ASU has maintained its position as a top producer of faculty and student Fulbright scholars, with six faculty members and 15 students currently in the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. ASU ties for No. 6 in faculty awards with Cornell, Georgia, Texas, Washington and Western Michigan. ASU ranks No. 11 for student awards, aligning with Boston College, Cornell, Northwestern, Louisville and Maryland. 

The overall elite company is "really exciting because ASU is also the most innovative school, and it goes to show that the potential here is unlimited and there’s a lot happening behind the scenes,” said Ngoni Mugwisi, an ASU student and 2017 Rhodes Scholar, referencing the U.S. News & World Report distinction that ASU has garnered two years running, ahead of Stanford and MIT. “We three are fortunate to be taking center stage at this point, but this is just the beginning.”

All three of the elite scholarship winners are in Barrett, The Honors College, and will graduate in May. They are:

• Erin Schulte, a global studies major, the 18th ASU student to win the Marshall Scholarship since it was established in 1953. Schulte will attend King’s College in London and pursue two degrees, in conflict security and development and in big data in culture and society. She hopes to work in international security and development. At ASU, she was co-founder of the All Walks Project, a student-led non-profit that educates people about human trafficking.

• Ngoni Mugwisi, an electrical engineering major, ASU’s first Rhodes Scholar since 2001. A native of Zimbabwe, he is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and will pursue a PhD in engineering science at the University of Oxford. At ASU, he started Solar Water Solutions, a hybrid non-profit and business venture to retrofit water wells in Zimbabwe with solar-powered pumps.

• Christopher Balzer, a chemical engineering major, ASU’s first Churchill Scholar. Balzer will study advanced chemical engineering at the University of Cambridge. At ASU, he participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and won a Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes excellence in science, math and engineering.

ASU's top international scholarship winners are (from left) Erin Schulte, a Marshall Scholar; Ngoni Mugwisi, a Rhodes Scholar; and Christopher Balzer, a Churchill Scholar. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

This convergence of top-level winners could not have happened until recently, as ASU students have only been eligible to apply for the Churchill Scholarships since 2013.

In all three of the international scholarships, only about 25 percent of the American winners are from public institutions such as ASU.

All three students credit the national scholarship advisement office with preparing them for the grueling application process. Schulte said she sat for 12 nomination, practice and finalist interviews.

“They helped me think through my story and think critically about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it,” Mugwisi said.

Mox, the next president of the National Association of Fellowship Advisers, said that ASU has one of the oldest and best fellowship advising offices in the country.

“One thing we do is find the students. It’s a large school, and we have to get the right information to the right students at the right time,” he said. The staff also works with students during the spring and summer before the fall Fulbright application deadline, rewriting essays, refining goals and coming up with project ideas.

ASU’s Provost’s Office works with faculty members who are seeking Fulbright Scholar positions, including offering a mentor application review, where Fulbright alums review faculty applications, according to Karen Engler-Weber, program director in the Office of the University Provost.

She said it’s no surprise that ASU is a top producer of faculty Fulbrights, because the program’s goals align closely with ASU’s charter and mission.

“Fulbright is looking for three critical things when they review Fulbright Scholar applications: impact, inclusion and innovation. These are things our faculty are already doing in their work,” Engler-Weber said.

While some faculty may hesitate to seek out an opportunity that would take them out of the country, Engler-Weber said there are new types of awards that allow the time abroad to be broken up into multiple shorter stays, and some packages include financial support and benefits to support bringing a family.

Mox said he would like more ASU students to apply for Fulbright positions.

“They don’t see it as something achievable, and we’re here to tell you it is.”

Fulbright Day will be held Tuesday at the Memorial Union, with workshops and information for faculty from noon to 1:30 p.m., and sessions for students from 3 to 4:30 p.m. A networking reception with current and former Fulbright award-winners will follow at 4:30. Click here for more information.

 

Top photo courtesy of freeimages.com