Application Tips from Suzanne Dunai, Recipient of Research Grant to Spain

Hi! My name is Suzanne Dunai and I am a PhD student in the History Department at UCSD. I was awarded the Fulbright to Spain for the 2015-2016 academic year so that I can perform the research necessary for my dissertation on food culture and food politics during the years of rationing in Spain(1939-1952). This was my second application to the Fulbright grant (my first application was rejected in the first round last application cycle), so I strongly encourage you to keep applying and refining your application as long as you are eligible for the grant.

Because of my experience in having both one unsuccessful and one successful grant, I want to share some of the things that I learned in the process. First and foremost, have as many people read your statement of purpose and personal statement as possible. They don’t have to be in your field or department. In fact, it is better to find people with different backgrounds to read your grant application because the grant committees can be diverse. This is especially true if you have to translate your grant to another language. [Comment from FPA: Spain requires applicants to submit their statements in both English and Spanish.] Second, save enough time before the submission deadline to ensure that you have the proper page formatting. Every line counts in the grant application, so do not wait until the final draft to write your heading. By my final draft, I was making revisions based on the number of letters in each word to keep my draft within the page limit.

Thirdly, what is important is that your research goals are very narrow and very polished. Remember that the Fulbright does not have to encompass all of your dissertation work, so there is no need to include ALL theory, sources, archives, etc., in the application. For my successful application, I narrowed the scope of my application to one city instead of three. While my dissertation will still include archival materials for a larger project, I only presented the most precise elements of my research in the application, which helped with clarifying my research goals for the grant and for my project. The statement of purpose should present a cohesive project which is obtainable in the time/financial allotment of Fulbright. In the end, it is the coherent project that gets funded, not the exhaustive. This also applies to the content of your proposal. Make sure that your application doesn’t favor theory to the extent that your own intervention is lost, and you do not want to present too many lists of sources or archives in your statement as this consumes space without providing interest in you as a candidate.

Finally, one major change that I made between my first application and my second is that I included the presentation of my initial research at a conference in Spain near the end of the academic year. I explained in the “country participation” section that I was going to apply to present my initial findings at a conference for young scholars in my field so I could further develop my project and academic network. This addition might have shown greater purpose or academic motivation for my dissertation, or perhaps it did not help or hurt my application at all. Unfortunately, we do not receive comments on our applications, so my thoughts are just speculative.

I hope my reflections on the Fulbright appliction help. Good luck!

Fulbright Application Tips from Troy Kokinis

Note from FPA: Troy is currently recommended for a grant, which means he has about a 50% chance of becoming a Fulbright grantee.  He applied for the grant in fall 2012 and will find out by July whether he’s received the grant.  (There are two main types of Fulbright grants: research grants and English teaching assistantships. Troy has applied for a research grant.)

Troy Andreas Kokinis

Project: Collective Historical Memory of Rural Anarchism in Andalusia

Location: Andalusia, Spain

I am writing this from a slightly awkward position, as I have not actually won the Fulbright grant yet. However, I have been named as a finalist for a very competitive country, Spain. I think I can offer some useful advice regarding the writing process, and my own strategies for writing the application.

Advice for Applicants

First, I must say that Zoe Ziliak Michel is an invaluable resource in the writing process. I highly suggest starting early (during the summer, as the application is due in October). She is available to give feedback during this time as well. I sent about seven different drafts to her, and she always responded with very helpful and useful feedback. I spent the duration of the summer working on this application, and I do not think I would have been able to complete the application process while trying to balance classes, thesis, and TAing during the fall quarter.

Convey passion for the topic. The topic I chose, nineteenth century anarchism in southern Spain, is a topic that I have been interested in for nearly a decade. The topic does not have any close relation to my current M.A. research, but I was able to convey a long-lasting interest in the topic, as well as an application for the topic on an everyday level (as I am active in migrant labor struggles in my own community). In some ways, I feel I took a risk. Most research is expected to come from an objective viewpoint. But, in terms of subaltern studies (especially when researching communities that have experienced a history of state terror), it seems appropriate to demonstrate a connection to the actual topic and a solidarity with the struggle of the research subjects. I recognize that this does not apply to every project (and may actually only apply to very few), but I feel it is important to be honest about one’s connection to a particular topic.

Current relevance of the topic. Make sure you can connect the project to en vogue current events in the host country. This is especially important if you are researching something that is historical. What is the practical application of your research considering the current climate of the country?

Plans for research results. You should have a clear idea of what you are going to do with the information you collect while you are researching. Try to have a plan that includes some sort of use for the host community. In other words, do not just say that you want to collect this information for your thesis. It is important that we, as researchers, establish connections with our host communities; and that our research has some sort of benefit for the host community.

Faculty support. This also connects to the previous point, but your faculty supporters should also be involved in the final products of your research. Again, this should be more than simply your Ph.D. thesis. If you cannot think of any other use for your research than your thesis, ask your faculty supporters if they can connect you to local organizations, museums, media projects, etc., in your host community. This adds a personal touch to your project. Furthermore, make sure your faculty is well connected in the host community already. They want to know that you aren’t going to be roaming around like a lost soul for three months before you can actually get started on the research.

I suppose I will just wait for the results now. I will update this once I hear. For now, consider these suggestions valuable for getting at least half-way there.