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New initiative aims to elevate UT students, faculty internationally

Recent UT graduate Neil Hetrick is in Germany helping local English teachers through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program.

UT faculty member Dr. Ellen Pullins, Schmidt Research Professor of Professional Sales in the College of Business and Innovation, is continuing relationships she built as a Fulbright Scholar this past spring in Finland.

And UT administrator Dr. Sammy Spann, assistant provost for career services, experiential learning and international programs, participated this summer in the Fulbright International Education Administrators seminar in Japan and now is leading an effort to help more people from the University have these experiences.

Dr. Ellen Pullins, Schmidt Research Professor of Professional Sales, posed with Dr. Sammy Spann, assistant provost for career services, experiential learning and international programs, at last week’s Fulbright Student and Scholars Breakfast in Libbey Hall. Pullins traveled to Finland, and Spann went to Japan.

Dr. Ellen Pullins, Schmidt Research Professor of Professional Sales, posed with Dr. Sammy Spann, assistant provost for career services, experiential learning and international programs, at last week’s Fulbright Student and Scholars Breakfast in Libbey Hall. Pullins traveled to Finland, and Spann went to Japan.

The new Competitive Awards Initiative — in line with the president’s stated goal of elevating UT on a national level — aims to assist students, faculty and administrators with applying for these types of prestigious awards that will both enhance the scholar’s education and research, as well as raise the profile of the institution.

“These highly competitive programs promote knowledge sharing and relationship building while giving students unique opportunities to engage in the global community,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “These experiences are an important scholarly advancement for the Fulbright, Marshall or Rhodes Scholar as an individual, but they also elevate the prestige of the University and the positives of the Toledo community.

“Engaging with students, faculty and researchers around the world through these scholarly exchanges will enhance UT when these scholars bring what they learn from their experiences back to campus, but the relationships built during the programs also will promote UT’s reputation internationally and can help recruit faculty and students to come join us in Ohio.”

The Fulbright Program, which is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States, is one of the primary grants for which the Competitive Awards Initiative will guide UT students through the application process.

“After researching this prestigious program, I was skeptical about my chances of being accepted, but I decided to apply anyways,” said Hetrick, who received his Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Germany during his senior year studying multi-age education at UT. “It was an extremely extended process, with a lot of revisions, preliminary interviews, and then waiting to hear back from the Fulbright Commission. Toward the middle of March, I finally heard that I had been accepted, and I was ecstatic to say the least.

“I believe that if more people were aware of the exact details and of all the support available to them on campus throughout the application period, more people would apply in the coming years,” he added. “I would love to see several more alumni sent abroad within the next couple years!”

Pullins is already bringing her international experience studying buyer-seller relationships in Finland and teaching at Haaga Helia University back to her students in Toledo. She will include a videoconference project between her spring international sales class and students in Finland, and is looking for other ways to include long-distance collaboration. And her contacts also have invited UT students to participate in an international sales competition next year.

“As I’ve said before, business cannot be separated from international business in today’s world, and it is imperative we work to give our students that international perspective, whether it’s sharing our firsthand global experiences or connecting them directly with students in another country,” Pullins said. “More and more companies are looking for students who have an internationalized education.”

The Fulbright Program — as well as other major scholarship programs such as the Rhodes, Marshall and Truman — requires a university recommendation as part of the application. The Competitive Awards Initiative is the central resource to provide that recommendation from UT, which also is now part of the National Association of Fellowship Advisers.

“In the past, faculty members or students have submitted the applications on their own or happened to know a person who had been through the process before and received that help. But our goal is to centralize the resources necessary to be able to advise anyone from initial interest through the successful completion of the exchange program,” said Spann, who leads the Center of International Studies and Programs.

Last week, the center recognized the seven most recent Fulbright Program participants at a Fulbright Student and Scholars Breakfast also attended by deans of several UT colleges. The event recognized both UT students and faculty who have gone abroad and international scholars who have come to Toledo through the program.

The Competitive Awards Initiative will call on the UT faculty and students who have participated in the Fulbright and other programs over the years as part of an advisory action team to review and strengthen applications from the University.

“We are gathering the UT leaders who are enthusiastic and excited about helping others and leveraging that collective energy and wisdom to increase significantly the number of these competitive awards UT receives,” Spann said.

In addition to Fulbright, the UT Competitive Awards Initiative is prepared to assist with applications for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, Boren Scholarship, Gilman Scholarship, Harry S. Truman Scholarships, James Madison Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, Morris Udall Scholarships, Rhodes Scholarship, Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and the National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program.

The initiative also will increase the number of workshops and other events held on campus for faculty and students interested in learning more about the programs, said Diane Engbretson, assistant director for the Center for International Studies and Programs.

“We recommend faculty and students interested in these research and teaching exchange programs start their applications a year in advance of the next cycle to fully develop a strong submission,” Engbretson said. “Our team will be there to help step by step, and the advisory action team will be an invaluable resource to review and strengthen the proposals so that we not only increase the number of applications from UT, but also the number of awards received.”

For additional information, visit utoledo.edu/cisp/competitiveawards.