A record number of four Chapman University students have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships for 2013-2014, enabling them to study, teach and conduct research abroad after graduation this May.

Seniors Azriel Dror, Cambria Findley-Grubb, Erika Sanders and Nou Vang represent the largest single class of students to enter the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It is a significant number of students to send in one year, especially as competitive applications to the prestigious foreign study program rise, says Eileen Jankowski, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of fellowships and scholar programs at Chapman.

“Our students have accomplished something extraordinary,” Jankowski says. “Last year the student Fulbright Program received more than 14,000 applications and awarded a total of 2,774 grants. This year’s statistics will likely be very similarly proportioned. Our students thus join a unique group of outstanding individuals who demonstrated the academic, leadership and service characteristics that earned them the right to call themselves Fulbright Scholars.”

The students say their celebration has been happy but bittersweet, as each was among the last cohort of undergraduates to work with the late Barbara Mulch, whose long career at Chapman included a commitment to helping students apply for prestigious fellowships and scholarships.

“The first person I wanted to tell that I got a Fulbright was Barbara,” said Findley-Grubb, a double major in political science and peace studies who was awarded a full grant to conduct research in an indigenous population of Nova Scotia, Canada. “She really inspired me and made me believe in myself and that this was even a potential for me and worth applying.”

The Yorba Linda native will be associated with St. Mary’s University in Halifax, where she’ll work with the Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies. Findley-Grubb plans to research the impact of educational policy on indigenous populations. She had originally planned to apply for a Fulbright in Japan but was inspired to study in Canada after spending a summer as a Disciples of Christ intern teaching social justice at summer camps in Nova Scotia.

“I’m really interested in seeing this from the indigenous perspective and learning what they think works and what recommendations they have. I think a lot times we think we can go in and fix everything for other people. … We don’t always listen to those other perspectives and find out from the community what policy recommendations they would like to see.”

This year’s other three Fulbright scholars were each awarded English Teaching Assistantship awards.

  • Azriel Dror is a biology and chemistry double major who will teach English, biology, chemistry and math to bilingual students in Madrid, Spain. Dror is a first-generation Promising Futures student and a tutor at Handy Elementary School in Orange. After his Fulbright year he will return to his home state of Arizona, where he has been accepted into the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona.
  • Erika Sanders is a political science and peace studies double major who will teach English at a foreign language high school in the Bulgarian town of Rousse, near the Danube River. Sanders already has studied abroad in Bulgaria, a country she previously knew little about but felt compelled to visit because Chapman encourages students “to be willing to take risks and try new things.”
  • Nou Vang is an integrated education studies major with minors in women’s studies and psychology who will teach English in Taichung, Taiwan. Vang is also a first-generation Promising Futures student. She is a residential advisor and active in numerous clubs and honor societies, including the national Society of Collegiate Scholars and Mortar Board.

In addition to this year’s four Fulbright students, seven other Chapman Fulbright applicants were chosen by the Fulbright National Screening Committee as semifinalists.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries.