Fulbright awards are among the most prestigious honors that a U.S. college student can earn. Recently, a record four students from the College of Charleston won Fulbright awards for 2016-2017. In recognition of this accomplishment, the U.S. Department of State, which oversees Fulbright awards, named the College among the country’s Top Producers of Fulbright Students for the first time.

“We are delighted that four College of Charleston students have been honored with Fulbright awards in the current year,” says Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Brian McGee. “The Fulbright both acknowledges superior scholarly accomplishment and provides a great opportunity for professional growth.” The College was one of only two schools in South Carolina, and the only public institution in the state to be named a top producer in its respective class.

According to Professor Anton Vander Zee, who oversees the College’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, these four Fulbright recipients emerged from a record pool of 32 applicants and 15 semi-finalists – four of whom were also named alternates.

RELATED: CofC Study Abroad Ranks No. 4 in U.S.

“Only eight other schools in our class of master’s granting institutions earned more awards,” Vander Zee notes. “And only three fielded more applicants.”

The students who received these awards are currently enjoying their Fulbright year abroad. Patricia Cooney is doing independent research at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munich, Germany. Eden Katz is in Kampala, Uganda, continuing research that began in her bachelor’s essay on early and forced marriage in conflict zones. Matthew Ross is a master’s candidate at the University of Birmingham, UK, pursuing medieval and Scandinavian studies. And Rachel Taylor is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Mexico where she mentors local youth.

Vander Zee says he hopes that this recognition will help continue to build a strong awards culture on campus even as it continues to distinguish the College as a world-class institution.

“Every time a student wins a Fulbright grant, a Goldwater Scholarship, a Hollings Scholarship, a Rotary Ambassadorial Global Grant – whatever award it might be – it shows students across campus what’s possible,” he says. “Moreover, it shows the world what our students are capable of.”

Last year, with assistance from Vander Zee’s office, and with the support of dedicated mentors from various departments and programs across campus, students earned approximately $500,000 to support undergraduate studies and post-graduate opportunities.

RELATED: Fab Four: Meet the College’s 2016 Student Fulbright Winners

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study or work abroad, exchanging ideas and contributing to solutions for shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered grants to study, teach English, and conduct research each yearn under this program. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in over 140 countries throughout the world. A list of Fulbright recipients is available online.

Students from the College have been winning nationally and internationally competitive awards since 1905, when, for the first time, a CofC student was named a Rhodes Scholar. Students interested in exploring relevant award opportunities or learning more about the application process for such awards and scholarship, can visit the office online or contact Anton Vander Zee.