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ASU is top US producer of Fulbright scholars

ASU is the top producer of Fulbright scholars among U.S. peer universities.
February 22, 2016

University also ranks 5th in prestigious awards to students with 22

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Arizona State University was the top producer of prestigious Fulbright scholars among research institutions for 2015-2016, with 10 awards to faculty members.

In addition, ASU was in fifth place among research institutions in producing the highest number of Fulbright scholarships to students, with 22.

The Fulbright is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. 

"The tremendous number of Fulbrights awarded to our students and scholars spotlights the success of ASU's top quality faculty nurturing high caliber students, regardless of their backgrounds before they arrived at ASU," said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost.

"Their research and service around the world further expands the university's global engagement."

The top producers of Fulbright students were Harvard University, with 31, the University of Michigan, 29; and Northwestern and Yale universities, with 26 each.

Kyle Mox, who coordinates the program for ASU students, said that ASU has ranked in the top 10 nine times since 2004-2005.

He also noted ASU’s high acceptance rate — 22 grants out 75 student applicants, or 29 percent. Comparatively, Harvard’s rate was 22 percent and the University of Michigan’s was 23 percent.

“What these numbers don’t show is how hard each of these applicants worked,” said Mox, who also is associate dean of Barrett, the Honors College, noting that the process begins up to six months before the deadline. “It isn’t uncommon to write five to 10 drafts of the application essays. These results are a testament to the work ethic of our students and faculty,” 

Mox said that faculty are vital to advancing the student winners.

“While the Office of National Scholarships Advisement certainly plays an important role, these outcomes would not be possible without the support of ASU faculty members — who not only mentor and write letters of recommendation for our students, but also serve on our campus screening committees,” he said.

ASU’s 22 Fulbright students are studying abroad now, and the university has 30 students who are semi-finalists for next year’s awards, Mox said.

The Fulbright program, created in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries, provides the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research abroad. The program awards about 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 160 countries. The sponsor is the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Faculty generally stay abroad anywhere from two months to a full academic year. This award is often taken in conjunction with research, development or sabbatical leave options. ASU faculty Fulbright scholars have canvassed the world serving in different countries and institutions. 

On March 23, ASU will hold a “Fulbright Day” at the Memorial Union from 1 to 5 p.m. Representatives from Fulbright will describe the programs. A faculty session will be held from 1 to 2:30 and a session for current undergraduate and graduate students will run from 2:30 to 4, followed by a reception for Fulbright alumni and international Fulbright students and scholars who are currently studying at ASU.


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Q&A: Giraffe numbers decline, but should we stick our necks out?

ASU biodiversity expert says there are many approaches to conservation.
Giraffe numbers are on the decline, but how do we decide which animals to save?
December 16, 2016

ASU expert Leah Gerber says countless species are declining, we as a society will need to pick and choose which to save

In 1826, the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt gave Charles X a young female giraffe as a gift. The animal walked 560 miles from Marseilles to Paris, spending the night in specially built barns along the way. Crowds in the tens of thousands turned out. When it arrived in Paris, 100,000 people — an eighth of the city’s population — went to see a creature that hadn’t been viewed in Europe in 300 years. 

France went nuts. Spotted fabrics came in style. Giraffes were painted on porcelain plates. Hair was teased into towers à la girafe. The young Sudanese giraffe keeper became quite popular with ladies.

Then and forevermore, the world loves giraffes. Now, we have to decide how much.

In the past 30 years, wild giraffe populations fell 40 percent, according to information released last week by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the largest professional global conservation network. The new assessment pointed to a drop from about 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015.

The causes were the usual suspects: illegal hunting; loss of habitat through agriculture and mining; increasing human-wildlife conflict; and war.

“Pretty dramatic,” Leah Gerber, founding director of Arizona State University’s Center for Biodiversity OutcomesThe Center for Biodiversity Outcomes is a partnership between the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the School of Life Sciences. , called the losses.

“The fate of the giraffe makes you wonder what the world will look like without such iconic species,” Gerber said. “Imagine a world without giraffes, tigers or rhinos. I imagine this loss would resonate deeply with many people. We value these things in the same we value art.”

Gerber, a professor in the School of Life Sciences, leads a team of staff and scholars to build ASU’s capacity to solve the most pressing biodiversity environmental challenges of the 21st century. ASU Now sat down with her to discuss reality in the natural world now, what we’re going to have to think about when it comes to conservation, and when bad men love good animals. There’s some good news in there, too.

Question: Giraffes are down 40 percent over the past 30 years. Another bummer tale from the AnthropoceneRelating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. . The big question is: Will we have to pick and choose what we want to save?

Answer: Essentially the answer is yes. We will have to pick and choose what we want to save. In the context of what biodiversity is going to look like in the Anthropocene, we must recognize that the list of species that are endangered or threatened is increasing, as evidenced by this recent report on the new status of giraffes. That was the result of an IUCN Red List assessment that also included a reassessment for a number of bird species, some of which were listed at the same time they were declared extinct.

With this increasing list of imperiled populations, and no indication humans are slowing population growth or halting development or changing behaviors in a way that will allow persistence of all species on the planet, a pragmatic question is: Which species are important to us? Once we can answer that question, then we can plan accordingly. I realize that’s a provocative question, because we don’t like the idea of controlling nature in such a deliberate way. The predominant thinking is that we should leave nature to be natural, and it should do whatever nature does.

But the fact is we already have dramatically impacted natural systems on a global scale. So, by looking the other way and letting nature take its course, we are actually making a deliberate decision. We’re just not being explicit about it.

Q: Do you foresee a situation where we’re only saving the cute and cuddly things, such as giraffes and tigers?

A: As a society, it’s up to us to decide what our priorities are. Maybe we can say explicitly we like the cute and cuddly things. I was talking with a group of ASU freshmen last week about this exact thing.

Here’s the status of global biodiversity: We have large rates of endangerment across all taxonomic groups. If we did have to choose, how would we choose? Would it be based on charisma and fuzziness? Or would it be on what’s cost-effective? We achieve more with less money by selecting this suite of species. Or would it be from a scientific approach and look at what species are most important in a functioning ecosystem? Not necessarily “we like you and you’re charismatic,” but which ones are most important? Or we could say the ones in most dire need, the ones on the verge of extinction, let’s focus on those?

The point is, there are many approaches.

Q: There is some good news out there. Tigers are up by about 700 individuals. Pangolin trade has been banned. New U.S. ivory regulations put the burden of origin on the seller, not the buyer. Bison were declared the national mammal; they’re coming back. And the giant panda has been downgraded from endangered to vulnerable. There are some bright spots out there.

A: I agree. And I would argue in fact both internationally and in the U.S., we have to really focus on the bright spots to remember that our choices and actions have an impact. We are not just adding more and more species to this long list of endangered species that will never recover. With appropriate conservation action, it is possible to reverse some of these declines.

There is good evidence for success in conservation, and I think in this time of budget cuts and scrutiny about how we’re using federal and international resources for conserving species, it is important to know our choices have direct impacts on these species. It’s not just we’re dumping money into something that’s never going to increase.

Q: Thank God Putin loves tigers.

A: I’m trying to stay away from political comments here.

Top photo courtesy of Luca Galuzzi - 

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now