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Fulbright Spotlight: Nearly 50 ODU Faculty and Students Have Received the Prestigious Award

By Betsy Hnath

Most people -- even outside academia -- have heard of the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. But few probably appreciate the wide diversity of the program, in terms of geography, recipients and subject matter.

About 40 faculty members and nine students from Old Dominion University have received a Fulbright award - four of them within the past year.

"It gives me the opportunity to follow my passion," said Old Dominion's most recent recipient, Deborah Gray, director of the family nurse practitioner program.

She leaves in August for the University of Botswana in southern Africa to increase access to health care.

Old Dominion's other recent Fulbright recipients are:

  • Rodger Harvey, a professor of ocean, earth & atmospheric sciences, who studied ocean activity in the Barents Sea off Norway earlier this year. He documented his Fulbright experiences, including watching reindeer racing, on a blog on the website of ODU's Office of Research.
  • Sharon Raver-Lampman, a professor of communication disorders and special education, helped train special education teachers in Armenia during the spring semester.
  • Dean Roughton, a doctoral student in the Darden College of Education's Community College Leadership program, traveled to Russia for two weeks to study international education.

Karen Eck, assistant vice president for research, said: "The real reason a Fulbright scholarship is so coveted is that it's such a unique, potentially life-changing experience that seeks a diverse group of people."

The international exchange program is named after J. William Fulbright, a Democratic senator from Arkansas from 1945 to 1974. In 1946, he sponsored legislation to use sales of World War II surplus materials to fund scholarships, which he believed would foster peace.

Recipients, including faculty members, professionals and students, travel abroad to undertake projects consistent with the program's mission of diplomacy. Citizens from nearly 160 nations come to the United States to do the same.

About 370,000 people have participated in the Fulbright program, including glass sculptor Dale Chihuly - whose work will be exhibited at ODU's Barry Arts Museum when it opens in the fall - composer Aaron Copland and actor John Lithgow.

"There's a misconception that Fulbright is elitist or just for those with superior intellectual, economic or social status," said Sharon Pitney, outreach coordinator for Old Dominion's Office of International Programs. "I think there's a Fulbright for everyone."

But it's not easy to win the award. About 20 percent of the applicants receive the nearly 8,000 annual grants, which cover up to a year of study.

"Students struggle with 'How do I sell myself?'" Pitney said. "But at the same time, it helps them build confidence and teaches them how to express why they're a better candidate than other people - both transferable job skills."

Old Dominion's Office of International Programs and Office of Research offer group and individual information sessions and provide faculty Fulbright alumni as mentors.

Old Dominion has also benefited from the influx of Fulbright recipients, such as Miguel Jarrin, who have come to campus.

Jarrin, a doctoral student from Quito, Ecuador, is studying engineering management and systems engineering at the University. He would recommend it to others.

"Norfolk is a small and calm place," Jarrin said. "It lets me study and concentrate. People are used to seeing international people. It must be because of ODU and the military, which is a relief when we see expressions of xenophobia in other cities."

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