University of Central Missouri: Record Four UCM Students Named Fulbright Program Semi-Finalists

Contributing to opportunities to enhance cultural understanding in nations across the globe, the University of Central Missouri has learned that a record number of its students are named Semi-Finalists after applying for the Fulbright Program. The four students who were recently notified of this achievement are part of a pool of 12 UCM applicants for these prestigious awards, which is also a record.

The Fulbright Program is the United States’ flagship international exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between students in the U.S. and people in more than 160 other nations that are part of this program. Fulbright is made possible through an annual appropriation of funding by Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and also benefits from direct and indirect support from participating governments, host institutions, corporations, and foundations in the U.S. and abroad. Students who receive Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement. They also must demonstrate leadership potential within their chosen fields.

UCM’s Fulbright Semi-Finalists must now go through a review process that will determine if they are selected as Finalists, according to Michael Makara, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science who chairs the university’s eight-member Fulbright Committee. He said three of the UCM Semi-Finalists are seeking opportunities to serve as English Teaching Assistants (ETA), and one student hopes to participate in a one-year master’s degree program. The Semi-Finalists include three seniors and a grad student at UCM who are all from Missouri. Each listed along with their academic degree, hometown, and the country in which they hope to pursue their Fulbright projects are: Danielle Donnell, Smithville, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies/BA in Modern Languages, ETA, Colombia; Tanner Henley, Jefferson City, Bachelor of Music, ETA, South Korea; Stephanie Krutz, Kansas City, Master of Science in Education, ETA, Uraguay; and Briana Ward, St. Louis, Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science and Statistics, one-year master’s program, Canada.

Makara said students expect to learn by this summer if they have been chosen as Finalists in the Fulbright Program. For those who succeed, it is a tremendous opportunity to learn about the people and culture in a foreign country without realizing a heavy financial burden.

“Fulbright pays pretty much everything you need to live abroad for a year. That includes airfare to get you to your country, start-up money to get you going, and a monthly stipend to help with living expenses,” Makara said.

He pointed out the process for applying to the program spans several months, and usually begins annually in March with committee members reaching out to interested students on campus. The committee, which includes former Fulbright recipients, believes strongly in the program and is instrumental in helping students to understand the application process. They welcome the opportunity to mentor students who want to apply.

“The application itself isn’t difficult, but putting a quality application together is something that takes a lot of time, and involves two separate essays students must write. One is personal statement, where they tell a little bit about their backgrounds, how they embrace and espouse the Fulbright mission, and why they want to pursue Fulbright,” Makara said. “Then they write a statement of grand purpose, which is basically what they are going to do for their project, whether that be a research project, what they will bring to the classroom if they are going to be teaching English, or what kind of master’s program they want to apply for.”

He added about the essays, “We work with them to develop those two pieces. They have to imagine that when they apply for this they are going up against some of the top students in the country, so it’s not something they can throw together in one night by any means.”

Makara stressed that participating in the Fulbright Program is a “wonderful, life-changing opportunity for any student who has received their bachelor’s degree.” Students who participate will have completed the degree before they travel overseas, and the host countries also have an opportunity to review applications before final selections are made.

Any student who wants to know more about the Fulbright Program and the 2022-2023 awards cycle is welcome to contact Makara at makara@ucmo.edu or any other Fulbright Committee members. They are: Kristy Boney, Modern Languages: Darlene Budd, International Studies; Matt Chiesi, Center for Global Education: Nicole Freeman, Communication: Tom Goldstein, History; Melissa Petkovsek, Criminal Justice; and Julie Stephens-DeJonge, Modern Languages.

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