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CGI’s Iyman Gaspard Answers Questions About Applying for Fulbright Awards

November 6, 2016
UNC Global

The Fulbright Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is robust and nationally recognized: between 1973 to 2015, more than 250 students from UNC received Fulbright Student Awards grants to research, study and teach abroad. In 2014-15, UNC was ranked 10th among research universities in Fulbright Student Awards.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is managed nationally by the Institute of International Education and through the Center for Global Initiatives at UNC. The program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide and awards approximately 8,000 grants each year.

Iyman Gaspard, program manager for the Center for Global Initiatives, serves as the Fulbright Program adviser at UNC. Gaspard works with students during the Fulbright application process to ensure that students submit quality applications and grant proposals. Originally from Khartoum, Sudan, Gaspard spent her elementary years in Cairo, Egypt, before her family migrated to Toronto, Canada, as political refugees when she was 11 years old.

Her global experience, coupled with her academic background in international politics, allows Gaspard to provide helpful information to students interested in study and research abroad, advice on the practicalities of travel and living abroad, and support for students interested in applying for awards such as the Fulbright. Like her colleagues at CGI, Gaspard is committed to helping traditionally underserved students access global opportunities.

UNC Global recently sat down with Gaspard to learn more about the Fulbright process at UNC and to get her perspective on how to write a strong application.


Who can apply for a Fulbright?

Graduating seniors, master’s students, doctoral candidates and recent graduates are eligible. There is no GPA requirement to apply for a Fulbright.

Do applicants need prior international experience to apply?

Prior international experience varies by country. Some prefer prior international travel and others do not require any travel experience. I would like to remind students who might have not traveled outside the U.S. that working with immigrants in your local community is an example of international experience.

Do applicants need to work in a certain field or discipline to apply?

Students from all fields and disciplines are eligible to apply.

What’s the difference between the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad award and the Fulbright Scholar Program?

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is open to graduating seniors, master’s students, doctoral students and recent graduates.

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad is open to doctoral students only, specifically, doctoral students who conduct research in other countries in modern foreign languages and area studies for periods of six to twelve months.

The Fulbright Scholar Program offers faculty, administrators and professionals grants to lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. The Center for Faculty Excellence can provide application support through editing assistance and mock reviews.

What can awardees do with a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award?

Awardees may self-design a research or study project, or serve as an English teaching assistant in one of over 140 countries. For example, the 10 award recipients from UNC for the 2016-2017 academic year will pursue a range of projects, including researching the history of decolonization in Canada, exploring current German-Turkish discourses on migration in Germany, and teaching English in South Korea.

What are some of the advantages of receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award?

Receiving a Fulbright enhances your chances of enrolling in highly competitive graduate programs. It is a great chance to build a strong international network of like-minded people and will place you at a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive job market.

What are the most common problems you see in applications?

The most common problem is poor writing. I advise applicants to avoid using field-specific jargon.

The Fulbright review process is multifaceted, so it is best to write for a generalist audience. Applicants should be clear, concise, stay on topic and keep it simple. And most importantly, be yourself!

If you had to describe the ideal Fulbright participant in one word, what would it be and why?

There is no ideal profile for a Fulbright awardee. However, a strong, well-written proposal coupled with a kind yet confident demeanor goes a long way.

Do you have any other advice for applicants?

Fulbright is an incredible, fully funded opportunity that allows you to travel the world, gain invaluable experience and realize your dreams. It is within your reach! Applying for grants can be a very intimidating task. It involves talking about yourself and many people, particularly students, are not comfortable sharing details about their academic and personal achievements. It is a difficult undertaking even for experienced grant writers, but not impossible. That is why it is important to start early, research, draft and revise. Contact me and I can help you along the way.


If you’re interested in learning more about the Fulbright Program at UNC, contact Iyman Gaspard at or 919.843.6842.

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