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Student Union Bridge at Dusk

New Fulbright Numbers Show Experiential Learning Focus Pays Off

I am proud to announce that this year, 17 students and recent graduates have been offered 2019 Fulbright awards to study, teach, and conduct research in Sweden, Lithuania, Colombia, and 13 other countries. Eight additional students have been named alternates and could receive offers in the coming months.

This news comes after last year’s record-breaking year for Fulbrights, which led to UT being named a top-producing institution for Fulbright Scholars and placed us first among SEC schools.

But the good news doesn’t stop there: two students have received federal David L. Boren Scholarships to study abroad, and two others have received Goldwater Scholarships, which were established by Congress to support undergraduate STEM students.

A record 11 UT students have been selected for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, which are funded by Congress to help outstanding undergraduate Pell-grant recipients who, due to financial constraints, may not otherwise be able to study abroad.

When our students receive these national recognitions, it signals to the rest of the country what those of us on campus already know: UT is full of exceptionally talented students who are getting a world-class education.

We are proud of our students’ successes, but the awards themselves are not the goal. Those recognitions are a byproduct of the years-long investment we’ve been making in experiential education and of our commitment to enriching each students’ experience with learning that takes place outside the classroom.

It’s no coincidence that the rise in the number of students selected for nationally competitive scholarships has come as more students are conducting undergraduate research and studying abroad.

Just five years ago, in 2014, UT had 400 students participating in undergraduate research and 984 students studying abroad—and two students who received Fulbrights. Last year, nearly 4,000 students participated in undergraduate research and 1,360 studied abroad.

We know that students who engage in these learning opportunities outside the classroom have a richer college experience and are more likely to graduate. Guiding students to these opportunities is a priority for my office and for the university. That’s why we are continuing to put resources in these areas, with the help of state funding, generous donors, and alumni scholarships. The Office of Undergraduate Research, the Jones Center for Leadership and Service, Programs Abroad, and the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships are all places that help our students find their passions, cultivate their curiosity, and forge new relationships.

Those connections happen through advisors, faculty members, and other mentors who recognize the spark in students and encourage them to pursue their interests.

So thank you to all of our faculty, staff, and alumni who are championing our students and helping them discover the life-changing experiences waiting for them here at UT. Congratulations to our students who have received awards and to all those who are putting themselves out there to explore something new.