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Promoting International Interest

A commitment to preparation combined with a long-serving adviser propelled one HBCU to become the all-time leader in producing Black Fulbright students.

Which historically Black college or university has produced the most students to receive a prestigious Fulbright award? Howard? Hampton? Morehouse? Spelman?

Guess again. The all-time leader in Fulbright Student awards is not an elite private school, but a public university whose performance in landing students in the international exchange program may surprise many in higher education: Morgan State University.

Yes, Morgan State. The public university in Baltimore has produced more Fulbright Students than any other HBCU, according to the U.S. Department of State, which sponsors the program. Morgan State puts its current total at 120. It sent its first Fulbright Student abroad in 1951, five years after the international exchange of students and scholars began as a way to promote international understanding. A “Fulbright Student” is either a senior who just graduated, or a graduate student. A “Fulbright Scholar” is either a faculty member or, less commonly, a professional.

The university has been racking up Fulbright Student awards ever since, thanks largely to the late Dr. Sandye Jean McIntyre II. He was the university’s first Fulbright Scholar and returned to serve as campus adviser to student applicants for 55 years, continuing in that role for almost two decades after he retired from teaching in 1988.

The Department of State has recognized McIntyre, who died in 2006, as the longestserving Fulbright adviser at any American college and as the person behind Morgan State’s success. “During his historic tenure, for more than a half century, Morgan State University students received more Fulbright awards, by far, than any other historically Black college or university in the nation,” wrote Thomas Farrell, deputy assistant secretary of state for academic programs, in a 2006 letter to Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson.

Since the mid-1990s, two other HBCUs have done well based on annual lists of awardees on the Web site of the Institute for International Education, which administers the Fulbright program. But Morgan State still leads with 22. It is followed by Howard University in Washington, D.C., with 17 awards and Spelman College (Ga.) with 16 from 1995-96 through 2007-2008.

During that period, 10 out of the more than 150 HBCUs won a total of 69 Fulbright Student awards. The 11 awarded in both 2006-2007 and 2007-08 was the highest number during those academic years, though still less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1,200 awards made to American students annually.

Besides Morgan State, Howard and Spelman, the seven other HBCUs to produce Fulbright Students from 1995 through 2008 are: Claflin University, Florida A&M University, Johnson C. Smith University (N.C.), Lincoln University (Pa.), Morehouse College (Ga.), North Carolina Central University and Xavier University of Louisiana.

Ten students from HBCUs have won awards for the upcoming academic year: Four from Spelman, three from Morgan State and one from Claflin in South Carolina. Aundreta Conner, who will go to Turkey, is Claflin’s first Fulbright Student.

In 2006, Xavier produced its first Fulbright Student in a decade. The school’s announcement offered an explanation, which applies to other HBCUs, for the long gap.

 “Why have Xavier Fulbrighters been so rare?” the news release asked. “One of the reasons is that the program is extremely competitive and requires a rare combination of academic ability, first-hand experience and personal skills to qualify. Perhaps more importantly, whereas much larger colleges and universities have formal Fulbright committees that identify candidates as early as their sophomore year and place them on a Fulbright track, XU students have been pretty much on their own to even learn about the program.”

The Department of State expresses a commitment to diversifying the participants in its international exchange programs so that they reflect the country’s diversity.

The department, along with the Institute for International Education (IIE) and the Fulbright Association of alumni, has been conducting outreach and training programs aimed at increasing Fulbright participation at minority-serving institutions, as well as community colleges and schools other than the elite institutions.

“Our interest in diversity is very intense and broad,” says Shirley Moore Green, chairwoman of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

The programs designed to achieve that goal include promotional visits to campuses, targeted mailings to deans and academic department heads, appeals to colleges to name a Fulbright adviser and training workshops for those advisers.

Jackson State University, for instance, began working with the IIE in 2004 and a year later “attempted to actively promote the Fulbright Student Program for the first time in many years.” The school named a campus coordinator and advisory council to promote international exchanges, including the Fulbright program.

The same year, a Virginia chapter of the alumni association received funding from the Department of State to launch publicity campaigns about the program at Norfolk State University and Hampton University.

So far, the initiatives at Jackson State, Norfolk State and Hampton have not yielded Fulbright recipients.

A major ingredient in Morgan State’s longterm success — and Spelman’s in the last few years — has been an energetic and knowledgeable campus adviser.

Niambi Young, a Spelman alumna who is a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, credits Dr. Margery A. Ganz, the campus adviser and study abroad director, for the school’s success. “She is amazing,” says Young, who will complete graduate studies at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University next year.

Ganz has said her dual roles help her identify promising candidates for the Fulbright and other postgraduate fellowships. Spelman also aggressively promotes awardees, profiling each on its Web site, as a way to interest other students in applying.

Dr. Carleen S. Leggett, McIntyre’s collaborator at Morgan State beginning in 1968 and his successor there, says they started promoting the program soon after each new class arrived on campus, visiting freshman seminars to encourage new students to learn a foreign language.

As the campus Fulbright adviser, McIntyre provided “pointed, knowledgeable advice” to applicants and prospective ones, based on his own experiences as a Fulbrighter and as a judge on selection panels, Leggett recalls.

The tips he shared that she has adopted include the following: Urge applicants to maintain at least a B average, file an interesting application that avoids criticizing the United States and offers a solid research proposal, and target a country where the student can speak the national language, she says.

“A lot of what we do is labor intensive,” Leggett says. “We spend many, many hours with students who apply.”

McIntyre and Leggett steered graduating seniors away from England, which seems to prefer graduate students, and had great success guiding prospects to apply to assist in teaching English at schools in South Korea. McIntyre and Leggett jumped on that opportunity as soon as the Fulbright program opened in South Korea in 1994. Eleven Morgan State students have won awards to teach there.

Asia is a popular destination for HBCU students. Since 1995, more have gone on Fulbright exchanges to Asia than to any other continent, just edging Africa, which might be expected to be the most common destination for Black students.

Morgan State’s awardees for next year will go to Vietnam and Jamaica; Spelman’s to South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Spain.

McIntyre became a Fulbright insider after he went to France in 1951. When he was appointed Morgan State’s adviser that year, he was already acquainted with the late Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, who sponsored the legislation that created the exchange program.

“Of course, Dr. McIntyre knew Senator Fulbright very well,” Leggett recalls. “He even wrote a recommendation when (McIntyre) got one … They were good friends.”

The Fulbright program later stopped allowing members of Congress to write recommendations for student applicants.

McIntyre went on to get five Fulbright Scholar awards as a professor of modern languages and to serve on selection panels for France and Belgium. He applied the knowledge he gained over the years to building Morgan’s enviable track record.

“I don’t think anyone has done as intensive a job and set up as intensive a program as Dr. McIntyre did,” Leggett says.

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