Fulbright Advisor Tells RIC Students to “Reach”

Vincent Bohlinger
Rhode Island College Impact

Prof. Vince Bohlinger is on a mission to increase the number of Fulbright scholars at Rhode Island College.

“To win a Fulbright is a life-changing experience for our students,” says Professor Vince Bohlinger, who is also RIC’s Fulbright program advisor. “That’s why I encourage students to apply. I believe reaching for things is how you gain opportunities. If you don’t reach, you’ll never know what you could have achieved.”

Bohlinger is on a mission to increase the number of Fulbright scholars at Rhode Island College. The Fulbright Program is the most highly competitive and prestigious academic cultural exchange program in the world. Recently he attended a Fulbright-sponsored training to help RIC students write winning essays on their scholarship application.

“Basically, the goal of the essay is to tell your story,” he says. “I tell students that people are going to read 100 of these applications and only select maybe 12 of them, so, you’ve got to find a way to state what makes you unique and how you’ll make a compelling U.S. representative overseas.”

Perhaps the system Bohlinger already has is working well enough because this is the second year in a row that a RIC student won a Fulbright (Jennifer Contreras ’22 won it this year and Anthony Diebold ’21 won it last year).

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright is open to graduating seniors, graduate students and young professionals. It funds their research, graduate study or teaching of English abroad for a year.

To be eligible, applicants must be citizens or nationals of the United States and have a conferred bachelor's degree or equivalent before the start of their program. When applying, they must select one host country and specify what they’d like to do in that country – research, graduate study or an English teaching assistantship [ETA]. Most RIC students apply for an ETA.

As program advisor, Bohlinger guides the candidates through the application process and facilitates their on-campus interview with the Fulbright Campus Committee. The committee consists of six faculty members selected by Bohlinger to read through the student’s application and make suggestions that would strengthen the application.

“After the online applications are completed, a screening process takes place by area experts in the United States, who review all of the applications, rank the candidates and submit scores,” Bohlinger says. “There’s a cut off in terms of how many applicants a specific country will accept, so they have to narrow their choices down. Those candidates who are selected then become semi-finalists. The final screening is done by the embassy of the applicant’s host country.”

“As a Fulbright scholar you are representing the United States,” he says. “You get invited to the U.S. Embassy and attend embassy events. You’ll also have trainings there sponsored by the embassy.”

“I didn’t know about the Fulbright when I was graduating from college,” he notes. “I was in graduate school when I applied for and was awarded a Fulbright-Hays scholarship, which funded a year of research in Russia for my dissertation. These experiences are more than just a vacation. Being in Russia for a year, being there in winter, living like the people in that country is how you really come to understand a place. I made extraordinary friends who are some of my closest friends today. I want that for our students.”

RIC seniors and graduate students are encouraged to get in touch with Bohlinger to begin the application process this summer or early fall. You can contact him at vbohlinger@ric.edu.