ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan has 29 students receiving Fulbright grants for the 2011-12 academic year, topping the list of U.S. institutions for the fifth time in the past seven years, officials said Monday.
As participants in one of the most competitive and prestigious awards programs in the world, the students will travel to 25 countries to do research, study or teach English for six to 12 months.
Their interests range from researching structural engineering in Norway and cancer screening in Tanzania to water quality in India and literature in Germany.
Ken Kollman, director of the U-M International Institute, said it's no accident that U-M led the nation again, as it has in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
"It's a real tribute to this university and its depth and breadth," Kollman said. "We're good in so many areas across the board, and we provide such outstanding international opportunities for our students."
The grants are awarded to about 1,700 students each year on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. It offers grants in nearly all fields and disciplines and operates in more than 135 countries worldwide.
Ranking behind U-M this year was Northwestern University with 27 recipients, Yale University with 26 and the University of Chicago with 25.
George Dong, who completed his U-M bachelor's degree in 2009, is among the new grantees. He plans to research access to higher education for minorities in Yunnan, a province in southwestern China.
"My parents grew up in rural China and never had the opportunity to attend college," Dong said. "I applied to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program because I want to return to my parents' home country to help underprivileged students in Yunnan Province. I hope to use insights gained from this experience to develop a broader understanding of how to improve and expand educational opportunities for all."
Kollman said fewer Fulbright grants were awarded this year virtually across the board because of federal budget cuts. Last year, U-M students received 43 grants.
David Pappano, a doctoral candidate in biological anthropology, recently spent his Fulbright year in Ethiopia studying monkeys. "I would describe my Fulbright year as the greatest year of my life," he said.