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Fulbright program sends 12 ASU grads across the globe

Janet Burke's office is welcoming and warm; her bookshelves covered with a variety of literature on scholarships to foreign travel guides.

The associate dean for National Scholarship Advisement and Internships guides ASU students each year through the long and competitive Fulbright Scholar program application process.

Burke remembers telling Taylor Spears once not to get excited about his 2008-2009 Fulbright application to the United Kingdom.

"I told him he could get a little bit excited when he made the 'short list,' " she said.

But even Burke was thrilled when the economics and math graduate was named as a scholar to the UK, making Spears one of only 2.5 percent of applicants that were accepted for the UK Fulbright program.

Spears is one of the 12 total ASU graduates who were declared Fulbright scholars this year.

He will be beginning his master's program in science and technology at the University of Sussex in England this summer.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is the U.S. government's flagship program in international education exchange and was initiated in 1945.

The U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 scholars and professionals each year to over 140 countries, according to the scholarship's Web site.

ASU boasts the fourth highest acceptance rate among public universities for the program and is one of the top 20 in overall universities.

Inside the entrance to Irish Hall the walls are inundated with the photographs of scholarship recipients, as well as the smiling image of every Fulbright scholar from ASU.

"Those are intimidating, I never thought I could be on the wall — and now my ugly picture is," said political science graduate student Jaime Adamson.

Adamson is participating in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program in Taiwan, which requires 20 hours a week of English instruction in local schools as well as community projects within the area.

When the Chandler native was notified of her selection, she didn't believe it was happening, she said.

Adamson, like many, was not sure which country she would apply to, but was finally able to decide on Taiwan when she learned that her grandparents had lived there in the 1950s, shortly after WWII.

The Fulbright application process takes time and dedication, Adamson said.

Anthropology graduate Cara Steiner Kiggins was notified while on her month-long honeymoon on the road to Alaska.

Kiggins was involved with ASU's Community Outreach & Advocacy for Refugees organization, or CORE, during her time at ASU.

This fueled her interests in pursuing a master's degree in forced migration and refugee studies at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

"Working with refugees in Arizona made me want to study from a broader perspective," Kiggins said.

She lived in Cairo in 2006 for five months and studied Arabic and was able to experience the culture, which proved to be informative when selecting a country to apply for in the Fulbright process, she said.

Out of 6,674 applicants only 1,410 were accepted for the 2008-2009 academic year, but both Kiggins and Adamson credited Burke with their success.

"If there were more scholarship mentors like Dr. Burke," Adamson said, "no one would have to pay to go to school."

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