Creating a Fulbright Culture at the University of North Texas: Strategies and Lessons Learned
Dr. Amanda Bennett, Director of Global Partnerships and Engagement and UNT Fulbright Program Adviser and Scholar Liaison (Fulbright Scholar to Japan, 2014)
Dr. Carol Anne Costabile-Heming, Professor of German and UNT Faculty Associate for Fulbright Programs (Fulbright Scholar to Germany, 2002)
“First, a Fulbright culture is something that is constantly evolving and requires consistent attention. Second, developing institutional policies and guidelines to support Fulbright is a lengthy process. It is important to have support from key institutional leaders during this process. Third, it is absolutely necessary to create strong partnerships across your campus from the President and Provost to the international office and faculty success office to your university’s marketing and news teams.”
In March 2022, the University of North Texas (UNT) organized its first Fulbright Faculty Recognition Ceremony. Attended by Athena Fulay—Fulbright Scholar Program Outreach and Recruitment Manager—and UNT administrators and recipients across all award types, the ceremony provided an opportunity for UNT’s Fulbright community to meet one another and share their Fulbright experiences. The Interim Provost and Vice President told a story about how his Fulbright Scholar award to Uganda early in his career impacted his career, the Vice Provost and Dean of International Affairs talked about her Fulbright-Hays to Turkey, and the Vice Provost for Faculty Success highlighted her recent Fulbright Specialist award to Scotland.
The ceremony was a key component of UNT’s new initiative to create a Fulbright culture. Despite a more than 70-year history with Fulbright and consistently having faculty and students receive awards, a Fulbright culture at UNT was lacking. In 2021, UNT created a Faculty Associate for Fulbright Programs position to support UNT’s Fulbright Scholar Liaison in expanding promotion and marketing and enhancing application guidance and support. As part of UNT’s promotion and marketing, we created the first Fulbright Faculty Week.
Events included the Fulbright Recognition Ceremony, in-person workshops offered by Fulbright’s Scholar Program Outreach and Recruitment Manager, a virtual workshop about the Fulbright Specialist Program offered by World Learning, and a workshop with UNT’s Scholar Liaison and Faculty Associate for Fulbright Programs.
As UNT launched its initiative to create a Fulbright culture, three key challenges emerged. The first challenge was identifying Fulbright supporters on campus. While it is easy enough to find information about our faculty who received a scholar or specialist award during their tenure at UNT, it is much more difficult to identify faculty who received a Fulbright award before their affiliation at UNT. We collaborated with Academic Affairs to gather data from the faculty information system and conducted online searches to identify additional faculty. Although we did not capture every single Fulbrighter at UNT, we did identify some additional Fulbrighters on campus. This data will be used to create an interactive dashboard highlighting UNT’s Fulbrighters.
Another challenge is addressing how Fulbright awards align with university policies surrounding leave and compensation. Currently, faculty are encouraged to align their faculty development leave with Fulbright. However, this is contingent on the timing of faculty development leave and a Fulbright award aligning. It also limits the potential applicant pool since faculty can only request development leave at certain times in their academic careers. UNT is exploring the possibility of creating guidelines about leave and compensation for faculty who receive prestigious fellowships like Fulbright.
The final challenge is one of resources in the form of time. While the collaboration between UNT’s Fulbright Scholar Liaison and Faculty Associate for Fulbright Programs has expanded marketing and promotion and application support, they still have to prioritize initiatives as they develop UNT’s Fulbright culture.
Despite the challenges we have experienced, we have learned several things. First, a Fulbright culture is something that is constantly evolving and requires consistent attention. Second, developing institutional policies and guidelines to support Fulbright is a lengthy process. It is important to have support from key institutional leaders during this process. Third, it is absolutely necessary to create strong partnerships across your campus from the President and Provost to the international office and faculty success office to your university’s marketing and news teams. Building a Fulbright culture at your university requires multiple stakeholders across various units. Finally, leverage the Fulbrighters on your campus for promotion and outreach, especially any institutional leaders who have participated in a Fulbright program. These individuals are your best resources as they know first-hand how impactful a Fulbright experience is on an individual’s global perspectives and career advancement.