Fulbright Seminar Notes

Notes from 2009 Fulbright Seminar at Macalester College

(information and advice is still current) 
Drafted by Melissa Flynn Hager

General Information

There is a helpful Powerpoint presentation on the cies.org web site. Look under “special programs” to find it. Also, you can now find short videos about Fulbright and CIES up on Facebook and YouTube.

Most people take between one and four years to gear up to apply for a Fulbright.

You can have no more than two Fulbrights in a lifetime.

English language skills are sufficient for most lecturing awards. Some of the Latin American countries require Spanish.

Four Types of Fulbright Awards

  • Lecturing
  • Research
  • Lecturing/research
  • Seminars

67% of the opportunities are lecturing or lecturing/research

26% are for research alone

7% are seminars

So, you have a much better chance of getting a Fulbright if you are willing to lecture or do a combination of lecture/research. The pure research opportunities are more competitive.

Also, generally, the lecturing awards will offer more benefits.

If you identify a country or a specific opportunity of interest, it’s a good idea to contact the program officer and ask what the balance would be between lecturing and research. In some cases, you don’t have to lecture that much.

Fulbright will always be interested in the impact you will make on the students of that country. This is their main interest.

The country pages of the Fulbright guide (contact Melissa Flynn Hager for this list) show opportunities that don’t get as much notice.

Also check the “all disciplines” page.

Often, you will need to get a letter of invitation from a host university.

Once you narrow your choices down to a world region, then you can contact a program officer to ask specific questions. This is a VERY good idea.

Occasional Lecturer Program

In early October, cies.org offers a directory of scholars in various fields who are visiting at U.S. campuses. Many people do not realize that you can contact these visitors and invite them to your campus. You can build connections that may serve you well in planning for your own Fulbright experience. You can make contacts and form relationships with visitors who may be able to invite you to their campuses or write a letter of invitation on your behalf.

The Project Statement

When you apply for a Fulbright award, the project statement is key—5 pages. Be sure there is no jargon specific to your field in the statement. Your project needs to be very understandable to non-specialists in your field.

Be sure to highlight both what you can offer the country you visit and what you will be able to bring back to your own institution and field when you return.

Why do you want to participate in a Fulbright?

Be clear about why your work is needed (your research) and why you need to go to country “x.” Reviewers will ask: “Couldn’t you do this work in the U.S.?” Most reviewers are Fulbright alumni. They will look for a demonstrated need to be in a particular country (for research).

Fulbright dollars are U.S. tax dollars at work, so the reviewers will look for applicants who write understandably (free of jargon) about their project and the compelling need to do that work in another country.

What will you bring back? Journal articles? A book? A completed joint project?

Collaborative projects are of interest both to your institution and your host institution.

If you are going for a lecturing award, talk about what you will teach, how you will deal with cultural differences and adjust your teaching style.

Reference Letters

Reference letters are another key to success. Letter writers must be familiar with your academic work. One letter must come from your home institution, and two need to come from outside of your institution.
Be sure that neither of your letters from outside your institution come from the person who invited you to their overseas campus.

It’s often good to do your homework and go to cies.org or even to look up your identified host institution online. See who else has gone to this institution before you as a Fulbright scholar. You may be able to find out some of this on YouTube too.

If you are going for a lecture/research appointment, be sure to ask your program officer about the teaching load expected of you. What’s the balance?

Some countries have 2-3 month grants (Western Hemisphere, Distinguished Chairs program) Check the listings by country and discipline. Most Fulbrights are a semester or less now.

Germany has a large number of opportunities. Good chance of placement there.

Opportunities in the arts

If you are designing your own project, there is hope for an arts project. It’s best to contact a program officer.

Israel and Italy have artist-in-residence programs, though these are competitive programs.

Decide on a world area and talk to a program officer in that area.

Specialist Program

These are good if you are interested in lecturing, teaching a specific seminar, helping to develop new programs, participating in faculty development or assessment of accreditation. These are mostly for faculty in the social sciences and humanities.

Specialist programs do not support individual research!

For the Specialist program, you can indicate that you are open to many world areas. CIES will matchmake between its roster of experts (which you would be joining) and countries.

You can wait for CIES to contact you or go at from a different approach: If you have a country and even a contact and program in mind, that’s fine, but you still must apply to the roster. Then your contact can request you. (I think the speaker said that you should allow four months from the time you are put on the roster to when you might be contacted.)

Your name will remain on the roster for five years. Then CIES requires that you take three years off. Then you can reapply and be back on for another five years.

English-speaking countries are more competitive — U.K., Australia, New Zealand.
However, opportunities in Canada are sometimes undersubscribed, so it can be more open there.

To better your chances for a Specialist assignment be sure to get a ROBUST letter of invitation from your contact.

“We look forward to having you come and teach THIS course and help us in THIS way. The letter should be tailored to fit the needs of the institution.

If you have a specific idea and you have a contact, talk to a program officer for advice on the best way to pursue it.

Visiting Scholars Program

Inviting visiting non-U.S. scholars to your campus is a good way to build contacts overseas. Most are coming over as researchers, to teach and help internationalize U.S. campuses.

If you have an area at your college that is particularly strong, you may be able to attract a visiting scholar to work on your campus.

Occasional Lecturer Program

There is no limit on how many you can invite. This is a good way to get contacts for your future and internationalize your campus for a small amount of money.

Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program

This program requires a match from St. Olaf, but there are lots of ways to set this up.

Small liberal arts colleges are great for this (also community colleges and technical colleges). Scholars come over here to teach. The benefit of hosting a scholar is that they teach, team-teach, help develop new programs, and participate in the community.

We could host a researcher, too. Researchers often have better experiences at smaller colleges—they are not just a number of small cog in a big wheel.


There is a Powerpoint of the Fulbright workshop we attended at Macalester on the Fulbright web site. Go to the web site, and then click on “campus reps” on the left side. You will see a big orange square: “Fulbright Workshop ppt.” There are some flyers, etc. there for download, too.