Record Number of UTEP Students Named Fulbright Semi-Finalists
A record 15 UTEP students are semi-finalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. They have been recommended by the Fulbright National Screening Committee to move forward in the competition for a chance to be awarded grants to conduct research, pursue graduate coursework or teach English abroad.
Students who apply for the program undergo an arduous application process, which lasts more than a year. Jennifer Green, director of national and international fellowships and awards at UTEP, began recruiting students for this round of applications in Spring 2022. The students attended a summer writing boot camp to help them prepare strong applications to meet the campus deadline in September. Next, they met with a committee that included 18 UTEP faculty members before revising their applications and submitting them at the national level.
“Audience No. 1 is the UTEP Fulbright committee, who gives them feedback on their proposal and helps them to put forth something really competitive,” Green said. “Then the students make revisions, and we submit everything to Fulbright. Throughout the fall, the Fulbright national screening committee meets to review applications, and these students are the ones who cleared this committee and are recommended to move onto the national competition.”
Selection for the prestigious award is based on a combination of quality and feasibility of a student’s proposal, academic or professional record, personal qualifications and factors regarding a student’s country of choice, including degree requirements and research clearance. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is open to applications from rising seniors, graduate students and recent alumni. Finalists, or those awarded grants, travel to their country of choice for a year to meet, work, live with and learn from the people of their host country while pursuing their work or studies.
“I love that the students are putting themselves out there,” Green said. “These things are not easy to get. The application process takes a lot of time.”
No one knows this more than the semi-finalists themselves, including Aaron Hernandez. As a senior communications major with a minor in intelligence and national security, Hernandez took a leap of faith and applied, hoping to continue his work of becoming familiar with Eastern Europe in preparation for a career in the Foreign Service.
“When I met Jen [Green] and she told me there was a program where I could not only live in Lithuania, but also conduct research over a national security issue, I had to jump at the opportunity!” Hernandez said.
A Fulbright award would allow Hernandez to conduct graduate-level research to prepare him for future graduate studies in global policy studies and international relations. Though the application was mentally taxing, Hernandez knew it would be worth it.
“As a first-generation student, I want to be able to show my wife and kids the importance of getting an education,” he said.
Students can expect to hear whether they have been awarded Fulbright grants as soon as April 2023, though there is no hard deadline for grants to be awarded. The final decision is made by the host country and a final review by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
“Being a Fulbright semifinalist is one of the most surreal feelings I’ve ever felt,” Hernandez said. “At the end of the day, it’s a blessing.”
Last Updated on February 15, 2023 at 12:00 AM | Originally published February 15, 2023
By Julia Hettiger UTEP Marketing and Communications