Fulbright Chooses K Adviser to Mentor Colleagues Nationwide

Fulbright is honoring a key individual at Kalamazoo College when it comes to referring students to the federal program’s international immersion opportunities. 

Jessica Fowle ’00—K’s director of grants, fellowships and research—was selected to be part of the inaugural Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) Mentors Cohort. As an FPA mentor, Fowle is one of 20 from around the country who will provide virtual training and information sessions, presentations at the Forum for Education Abroad, and personal advice to new Fulbright program advisers who are looking to structure applicant support and recruitment at their own institutions. 

Fulbright is the federal government’s flagship for international exchange. It allows graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year. 

“The mission of the Fulbright program makes it one of the competitive postgraduate fellowships that seeks a variety of people, without a minimum GPA for applicants, while laying some foundations to make access feasible,” Fowle said. “FPAs are the liaisons between the Fulbright program and the Fulbright student applicants.” 

Fulbright grant recipients are chosen for their own merit and leadership potential, but there’s certainly data to back up the value of Fowle’s counsel to those who apply, making her insight and experiences valuable to professional counterparts who seek to do the same. For example, K has been a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Top Producer in six of the last seven years; the College had a total of 11 representatives abroad this year; 12 current applicants are semifinalists for awards that will be announced this spring and summer; and K has been the only college in Michigan to earn Top Producer distinction in the bachelor’s institution category in the past two years. 

“I’m a lover of storytelling and I get to do that with students, alumni and faculty on their applications for grants and applications for fellowships like Fulbright,” she said. “They reflect on what they want from the opportunity, and I help foster some reflection that strategically highlights what pieces of their stories are the most compelling. 

“I love the opportunity to transfer my experience working with students into a different format of the story of Fulbright. It’s really exciting to have a seat at the table and meet the folks at the Fulbright Program who are thinking about what they want to do on the national level. We’re asking, ‘What’s the story of Fulbright?’ and ‘How are we incorporating that story to keep federal funding and help FPAs understand their institution’s storytelling?’ It’s fun for me.” 

Fulbright Adviser Jessical Fowle
Kalamazoo College Director of Grants, Fellowships and Research Jessica Fowle ’00 is one of 20 professionals from around the country who will provide virtual training and information sessions, presentations at the Forum for Education Abroad, and advice to new Fulbright program advisers at other institutions.
Fulbright Adviser Mentors
Fowle (front row, fourth from right) is grateful for an opportunity to network with her fellow Fulbright Program advisers.

The fact that Fowle is an office of one at K makes connecting with colleagues in addition to Fulbright officials appealing, and she appreciates the recognition this opportunity presents, as mentors have reputations for successful program growth. 

“I like building things, so the opportunity to help other FPAs build a successful program is intriguing,” Fowle said. “I’m kind of the ‘small liberal arts college’ representative. There are folks from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and community colleges. They want Fulbright grantees to represent all of America. Historically, as with many selective fellowships, selectees primarily are white students from the coasts, so they want to expand the applicant pool to include all of the country’s identity and geographic representation.” 

Fowle has been part of K’s staff in various roles for more than 20 years—nearly five as director of grants, fellowships and research—and the advice she has to offer students is applicable to any post-college experience they wish to pursue.  

“The universal quality of each Fulbright experience is this genuine desire and curiosity about a new culture and community, so it’s important to pursue opportunities in college that build those skills of getting to know a new community and understanding cultural dynamics,” Fowle said. “For our K students, that shows up by taking full advantage of things like the Center for Civic Engagement and the interdisciplinary components of K’s curriculum. My advice would be that they dig into how the topics that come up in language classes can intersect with issues that come up in other academic departments. They should see how their peers major in a million different things while taking advantage of study abroad, study away and Senior Integrated Projects. Build that curiosity, that critical thinking and the flexibility to be uncomfortable, because those are things that not only the Fulbright program looks for, but employers, as well.”