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Black schools winning more Fulbright awards

Kenneth J. Cooper | 7/9/2008, 4:55 a.m.

She cited the example of a Morgan student, a French major, who went on a Fulbright to French-speaking Cameroon in Africa and afterwards got a job at an American bank.

“All of a sudden, he became the international expert” because of his experience overseas and was assigned to handle foreign accounts, she said.

Morgan’s aggressiveness in getting students into the Fulbright program, unfortunately, is relatively rare at black colleges. Only 10 of the nearly 150 historically or predominantly black colleges have sent students abroad on Fulbright awards in the last 14 years, the period for which statistics are available on the Web site of the Institute for International Education, which administers the program.

After Morgan’s 22 awards during those 14 years, Howard follows with 17 and then Spelman with 16. The next is Morehouse with six. The other six black colleges whose students have won awards have one or two.

During that period, the high water mark for wins by black colleges in a year was 11 awards, reached in both the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years. That total is still less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1,200 Fulbright awards to American students each year.

This fall, three Morgan graduates will go to Vietnam to teach English, Germany to do research on music and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica to study reggae. Four Spelman alumnae will travel to South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Spain.

The Fulbright program professes a commitment to diversity and in recent years has worked with black colleges such as Hampton and Jackson State University in Mississippi to boost their participation — so far without producing Fulbright winners.

“Our interest in diversity is very intense and broad,” said Shirley Moore Green, chairwoman of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Like Morgan, Spelman has an active Fulbright adviser in Margery A. Ganz, who also directs the school’s study abroad program. Other black colleges, including Xavier University of Louisiana and Jackson State, admit they had not been well organized in efforts to get students into the Fulbright program.

Howard grew more aggressive under President H. Patrick Swygert, who departed this year after 13 years at the helm and appreciated the institutional prestige and student enrichment that comes with the Fulbright program.

During his more than half century at Morgan, McIntyre, who was also a professor of romance languages, wasn’t selfish. He visited other black colleges — and some predominantly white campuses — to promote the Fulbright program.

In that tradition, Morgan doesn’t feel threatened by the recent advances made at Howard and Spelman.

“I’m encouraged by that,” Leggett said. “They’re trying more.”