UTSA one of 43 HSIs recognized for participation in Fulbright exchange program

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Chapman

Amber Chin and Arlae Gamez Luna recently participated in the Fulbright Program.

Gauri Raje, News Editor

UTSA was awarded the Fulbright HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) award by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for its participation in the Fulbright Program. The program, which is run by the State Department, allows students and faculty to travel abroad for various activities using award opportunities. For students, the program offers the opportunity to pursue research, attend graduate programs or teach English abroad.

Andrew Chapman, who serves as the Fulbright Program Advisor at UTSA, pointed out the importance of UTSA as a HSI, adding that the multiculturalism of the many students applying is an important attribute that adds to their application.

“With our students and our position as a Hispanic Serving Institution, we have lots of students who have multicultural upbringings, growing up in South Texas,” Chapman said. “[These students] have what isn’t necessarily to them an international experience, but it’s a multicultural one.”

 “So we have lots of students … I ask them, ‘Have you traveled internationally before?’ And one answer that I get frequently is, ‘Well, I’ve just been to Mexico.’ And I tell them, don’t discount that, because [their] experience of traveling across the border might be very different than other students who have done it [by] vacations,” Chapman said.

UTSA is one of 43 HSIs in the country to receive this award. With a total of 451 HSIs in the U.S., Chapman pointed out the award’s significance, adding that UTSA falls into approximately 10% of HSIs that were awarded.

Additionally, student applicants to the program have been met with success. Chapman explained that, of the approximately 10 students that apply every year, three to four get selected. 

“I think [this success] points back to our status as a Hispanic Serving Institution,” Chapman said. “Our students are bringing in lots of experience from multicultural environments, specifically [due to our position] in South Texas. [So] many of our students are bringing in language experience and life experience.”

Any student from a U.S. university who is also an American citizen can apply for the different awards under the program. Grants are awarded for a total of nine to 12 months and are distributed to students in the form of a monthly stipend that covers travel, food and housing, cost of education (if any) and international health insurance.

Being the Fulbright Program Advisor is part of Chapman’s job at UTSA’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. The office helps students as they apply for study abroad opportunities, research scholarships, etc. 

One of the key parts of the application process is the requirement to write a one to two page essay explaining how the student will “carry out the mission of the award they are applying to.”

“[As an FPA] our job is to help students through the application process,” Chapman said. “This would include anything from picking a country that [a student wants to apply to] and matches their career goals, to helping them explore ideas … for their essays and then every fall, I also organize a committee review in which we interview the students. And the interview’s really cool because it’s not a selection interview. We don’t say yes or no … it’s an interview so that we can nominate the students and we also give the students feedback on their application so that they can make edits before they submit it.”

Undergraduate students that apply must complete their bachelor’s degree before the scholarship starts being awarded. According to Chapman, most undergraduate students submit their applications at the beginning of their senior year, which ensures a seamless transition from college into the program. However, Chapman also works with students that have graduated from UTSA and still wish to apply.

Students can apply to over 140 countries around the world, as long as the country they wish to apply to has U.S. diplomatic representation. Thus, grants for certain countries may not be available due to political or health issues. Furthermore, opportunities for students will differ based on the country they wish to apply to, depending on the country’s criteria and expectations from the partnership. 

Along with helping students work on their application, Chapman also helps them connect with faculty at UTSA who relate to the country and specific program that a student is interested in. This helps provide the student with additional guidance as they make the decision to apply. Furthermore, Chapman explained that the existence of a parallel Fulbright program for UTSA faculty serves to complement the student program.

“When faculty go [to] travel on these awards, I think they’re also very invested in the program and recognizing that students can have the same opportunities,” Chapman said. “So, a lot of them come back from their grants, and they become representatives of both sides of the program.” Finally, Chapman expressed the diverse nature of the Fulbright program as a whole. 

“So, Fulbright is amazing at recognizing the different kinds of students that we have at universities throughout the U.S., and they want to send over representatives that show a diverse group of students and show the rest of the world that.”

Housed in the Honors College, the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards provides students from all backgrounds and majors with the help and guidance they need. For more information about the Fulbright program or the Office, students can email Chapman at [email protected]