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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Fulbright, other nat’l honors within reach of diligent students”

    Every year, out of thousands of UA students, only a handful receive the distinction of winning nationally competitive scholarships such as the Rhodes, the Marshall or the Fulbright.

    On average, fewer than 100 UA students apply, with fewer than 25 percent receiving grants or scholarships. Last year, 75 students applied, and 21 – 15 undergraduates and six graduate students – received scholarships.


    Anyone can do it. You just have to put your mind to it and be determined.

    -Jill Craven,
    Fulbright recipient, UA alumna

    always in the top 25 in terms of institutions receiving Fulbrights,”” said Karna Walter, UA director of nationally competitive scholarships at the Honors College. She helps students apply and offers mock interviews, application reviews and other resources.

    Walter said the application process is intense and encourages students to apply as early as freshman year.

    Current UA Fulbright recipient Jill Craven recalled rushing to complete her application in only a month.

    “”I don’t recommend it,”” Craven said. “”I was so stressed and feel lucky I received the award.””

    Craven, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering last spring, said she had intended to apply to Singapore, but wasn’t establishing the contacts she needed. She quickly changed her desired location to Canada, which had better research facilities for her intended project: life-cycle analysis.

    “”Every spare moment, I spent working on the application,”” Craven said.

    She added that students who are willing to put in the time and effort are just as qualified as anybody else.

    “”Anyone can do it,”” she said. “”You just have to put your mind to it and be determined.””

    Engineering professor Paul Blowers greatly influenced Craven’s decision to apply, she said.

    Blowers said he met Craven before her freshman year, became her academic advisor, was her professor for six classes and even hired her as a babysitter.

    “”When students see faculty as people, they develop a more complete understanding of their life and work, and we relate on a more personal level,”” Blowers said.

    Blowers and Craven said the Honors College plays a large role in getting students motivated to apply.

    “”Dr. Walter helped me immensely and she’s definitely an underutilized resource at the university,”” Craven said.

    Former UA student and Peace Corps volunteer Giorgio Sotiriou echoed Craven’s sentiments.

    “”I’ve been really thankful that Karna and the Honors College are doing this,”” Sotiriou said. “”It’s great to have them as a resource while I’m on the other side of the ocean.””

    Sotiriou, who graduated in 2005 with degrees in philosophy and economics, just finished his two-year contract in Burkina Faso in West Africa. He helped handicapped artisans acquire enough capital to start small businesses.

    “”I think most people assume working for the Peace Corps is difficult because of the lack of amenities,”” he said. “”But I think it’s the language and culture.””

    Sotiriou said there are more than 60 different languages spoken in Burkina Faso and that his basic French was barely enough to get by.

    Walter said she is not surprised by Sotiriou’s courage and determination, adding that it is a common trait among scholarship recipients.

    “”He’s self-motivated in a rare way, because he uses his ambition to improve society in a meaningful way,”” Walter said. “”This is one of the keys to distinguishing highly competitive students – if there’s not a means to do something they’ll find a way to do it.””

    She said her students have been impressive, yet humble.

    “”They have a healthy sense of their own shortcomings and don’t expect to have all the answers,”” Walter said.

    For students thinking of applying for a Fulbright or other competitive scholarship, Walter offered a few words of wisdom.

    “”Cultivating relationships with faculty is really important. They need to be able to relate on a personal level,”” she said. “”Also, do what you love and your passion will show in your application; building a resume to show how competitive you are is always a house of cards.””

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