Eden Rickolt, right, of Landenberg, Pa., who expects to graduate this year from Bates College in Lewiston, is applying for a 2020–21 Fulbright. She is with her Fulbright mentor, Carolina González Valencia, assistant professor of art and visual culture, at Rickolt’s visual art thesis studio at the Olin Arts Center. Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

LEWISTON — For the second time in three years, Bates College has produced more Fulbright students than any liberal arts college in the nation.

The college’s 24 Fulbright honorees in 2020 are the most ever by a U.S. liberal arts college, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

“This extraordinary accomplishment is the result of a genuine team effort — beginning with the talent and creativity of our student candidates, the generosity and diligence of their faculty mentors, the leadership of our program director, and the efforts of many other members of our community,” Bates President Clayton Spencer said in a prepared statement.

The highly competitive program, sponsored by the State Department, sends American students to as many as 160 countries annually to teach, study or conduct research with the aim of promoting cultural exchange and building bonds across national borders.

For nine consecutive years, Bates has been named a Fulbright Top Producer, with the number of its students and alumni increasing from six in 2013 to the two dozen this year.

The second highest Fulbright-producing liberal arts college this year was Bowdoin, which had 17 of its students chosen.


There are eight universities nationwide that have more Fulbright students this year than Bates, with Georgetown University topping the list at 45. That set a record, as well.

“Bates students are talented, curious, and eager to understand the world and their place in it, which makes them strong Fulbright candidates already, as well as set up for success in any endeavor,” Robert Strong, a lecturer in English and director of national fellowships at Bates, said in a prepared statement

“It’s amazing what Bates faculty and staff will then do to help them grow intellectually and personally, and to help them identify their interests and goals.”

Strong said Bates has benefited from providing chances for students to develop one-on-one mentoring relationships with faculty and staff, including small classes, collaboration in activities, senior thesis advising and chances to do cutting-edge research.

That helps with the Fulbright application process in several ways, Strong said, since students and mentors get to know one another well. It also helps that Bates offers chances for its students to interact with the Lewiston community, including many of the immigrants from African nations.

Strong said a robust study-abroad program is also helpful.


Robert Strong is a lecturer in English and director of national fellowships at Bates College in Lewiston.

“Students come back totally on fire with their new academic interest and they find me, saying, ‘I just did this and I want to keep doing it,’” Strong said.

“Fulbright recognizes that our students are deeply curious, concerned about the defining issues of our time and already emerging as ethical and effective leaders committed to living lives of meaning and contribution,” Spencer said.

There are nine liberal arts colleges that have been top producers for Fulbrights for each of the past 10 years: Amherst, Hamilton, Oberlin, Pitzer, Pomona, Smith, Swarthmore, Vassar and Williams, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Since its beginnings in 1946, the State Department says, the Fulbright Program has provided nearly 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals “the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to important international problems.”

Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said in a prepared statement the State Department is “committed to the Fulbright Program’s goals of creating lasting professional and personal connections by sending passionate and accomplished” Americans around the world.

“Fulbright alumni are leaders in business, government and academia around the globe, advancing knowledge across communities and improving lives around the world,” she said.

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