For the past two days, I’ve had the honor of serving on the Commission’s Selection Committee, which determines which senior scholars Romania will send to the U.S. during the upcoming academic year. Our committee was comprised of four voting members: two Romanian Fulbright alums (one from the arts/letters and the other from the sciences), a Romanian staff member from the U.S. Embassy, and a current American Fulbright Scholar (me). We were joined by two of the Commission’s staff, who facilitated our schedule and enhanced our discussions but didn’t vote on the finalists.
I’m not sure why I was invited to participate…perhaps because I served on a national review committee for three years back in the U.S. or, more likely, because I still am based in Bucharest and, therefore, am convenient and cost effective. Regardless, I was happy to be included and really enjoyed reading the applications, meeting the candidates, and working with my dedicated colleagues.
Similar to the U.S. process, applications first are perused by discipline-specific peer reviewers, who provide a written evaluation and numerical score. Those who are deemed qualified are then sent to our committee. We read each proposal in advance and then convene during a two-day period to interview each applicant personally. Each interview takes 15-20 minutes, during which time the applicant makes a brief presentation and then fields our questions. Each committee member then writes a brief evaluation and determines a score. At the end of the process, the scores are averaged and the candidates ranked. Budget determines how many will be finalists and alternates. The process may not be perfect—no selection process is—but this one proved to be remarkably objective.
I was impressed greatly by the credentials of the applicants and the quality of their proposals, but I also was sad that only a fraction could be selected as finalists and alternates. So it goes. If there weren’t keen competition, then the process would suffer as would the Fulbright program. I didn’t make it on my first application many years ago, which only fueled my determination and efforts the next time.