Fulbright-García Robles Scholarships: Why Do So Many ITAM Students Go to Graduate School in the United States?

Fulbright-García Robles is the name of a group of scholarships which promote the incorporation of graduates from Mexican universities to the best graduate programs in the United States. And, year after year, ITAM is proud that its alumni have been chosen for these scholarships of excellence. In 2018, 10 ITAM graduates will begin their postgraduate studies at universities in the United States thanks to the support of the Mexico-United States Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS), the organization that administers the Fulbright-García Robles scholarships, whose grantees are recognized worldwide.

Fulbright-García Robles
The COMEXUS Board of Directors is made up of 8 people who represent government, academia and business.

Consejo ejecutivo
Click on this image to meet the members of the COMEXUS Board of Directors.

Despite its credentials and its work, COMEXUS is not well known in the institutional sphere of our country, but, in fact, its work has been an example of binational public diplomacy since its creation in 1990 “by an agreement signed by the governments of Mexico and the United States of America, which is in charge of administering the Fulbright-García Robles scholarship programs.” The requirements for the annual call can be read at this link and the only restriction to keep in mind is that a priority is given to “Science, Technology, Mathematics, Engineering, and studies about the United States.”

For over 27 years, COMEXUS has supported aspiring research postgraduates so they can carry out their studies in the United States in order to improve relations between both countries and ensure that the knowledge acquired through the scholarship program generates a social impact in Mexico:

One of the few joint public diplomacy initiatives that Mexico has undertaken in partnership with the United States is the creation, in 1990, of the Mexico-United States Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS), whose mission is to achieve bilateral understanding through educational exchange. Its main scope of action has been developed in the educational field; the cultural one has yet to be explored. Within the educational sphere, the commission has dedicated itself to granting scholarships to Mexicans and U.S. students. The Fulbright-García Robles Program has been the most emblematic for having binational public resources and for having awarded scholarships to Mexicans who hold high-level positions, which has facilitated the relationship between both governments. (Baños Rivas. Reflexiones sobre la diplomacia pública en México. Una mirada prospectiva, page 156).

COMEXUS does not only grant the famous Fulbright-García Robles scholarships. It also provides all kinds of support for the improvement of cultural exchanges in the United States, from contributions to doctors who want to continue their research in the United States (research stays) to the position as assistant professor of Spanish at universities in our neighboring country (the so-called FLTA program).

The Fulbright-García Robles grants also have the added value of assisting students in the admission processes, combining personalized support in the review of documents and in the recommendations to improve the admission applications. In addition, grantees have the opportunity to meet many people from different areas of study with the same interest in Mexico and its relationship with the United States.

Fulbright-García Robles grantees 2018, ITAM. PHOTO: ITAM
Fulbright-García Robles grantees 2018, ITAM. PHOTO: ITAM

In order to qualify for the Fulbright-García Robles scholarship, applicants must go through a rigorous selection process that lasts more than a year. There is no quota or limit in the number of scholarships given, that is, the number of candidates who meet the requirements and skills necessary for obtaining a scholarship are accepted. In the 2018 generation, 94 scholarships were awarded and ITAM was the second institution with the most grantees, second only to the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
As the COMEXUS website itself indicates, many Mexicans who participated in this scholarship system, today form part of the Mexican state (some positions are out of date):

Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz-Mena

Minister of the Supreme Court

José Antonio Meade

Foreign Relations Secretary

Fernando Aportela

Undersecretary of Finance and Public Credit

Emilio Zebadúa González

Chief Administrative Officer of SEDESOL

Juan Manuel Valle Pereña

Mexican Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AMEXCID)

Salomón Chertorivski

Secretary of Economic Development, Mexico City Government

ITAM alumni who were granted the Fulbright-García Robles scholarship 2018

We proudly created this list of ITAM graduates who were granted these renowned scholarships in the 2018 call:

Alumni Program at ITAM University that will host them
Ana María Neri Barranco Business Administration and International Relations Duke University
Anais María Anderson Alonso Economics Harvard University
Carlos José Galina Pérez International Relations The George Washington University
David Alejandro Martell Juárez Economics and Applied Mathematics Carnegie Mellon University
Diego Cid Ortíz Actuarial Science and Economics Northwestern University
Gisela Pérez de Acha Chávez Law The University of California, Berkeley
Jesús Pacheco Vera Economics The University of Chicago
María José Urzúa Valverde International Relations Princeton University
Pablo Tortolero Martínez International Relations Stanford University
Rafael Rodríguez Rozadas Economics Columbia University

At the farewell ceremony, which was held at the Hotel Barceló, various personalities congratulated the scholarship recipients and presented them with awards. Among them were Professor Hazel Blackmore, former student of ITAM’s international relations program, former recipient of the Fulbright-García Robles scholarship and current executive director of COMEXUS; Professor Susan Elbow, COMEXUS counselor; Ambassador Agustín García-López and Dr. Rodolfo Tuirán, Undersecretary of Higher Education.

Fulbright-García Robles Scholarships; a Platform of Excellence for the Best Students

Why are the Fulbright Program scholarship programs so important? Their history dates back to August 1, 1946, when President Truman approved Senator J. William Fulbright’s initiative, which established an international exchange program aimed at promoting peace and international understanding after World War II. It was called the Fulbright Program and continues to this day to be one of the most outstanding initiatives for the training of future leaders in the heart of the United States.

Oxford students in 1938, the global community model that Fulbright wanted to apply to the United States. PHOTO: vintage.es (CC)
Oxford students in 1938, the global community model that Fulbright wanted to apply to the United States. PHOTO: vintage.es (CC)

Thanks to the initiative, thousands of students from around the world have studied in prestigious U.S. universities. Generation after generation, former grantees of the Fulbright scholarships (including the Fulbright-García Robles) have spread the seed of liberalism and understanding among nations around the world. “Increasing mutual understanding between people in the United States and people in other countries through educational and cultural exchange” was the recognized goal of Public Law 87-256, which was passed in 1946, but the underlying motivation was even more ambitious.

In 1988, after decades of implementation, Senator Fulbright affirmed it was

“a modest program with an immodest objective: the achievement of a more civilized, rational and humane regime in international affairs than the empty system of power of the past.”

As part of U.S. public diplomacy, Julia Catherine Starr, of Claremont McKenna College emphasized “its ability to inculcate mutual understanding, which represents a vital component in the success of multilateral cooperation necessary to create a secure and thriving international community,” beginning with three premises of its political development:

  •  Liberalism: “The mission and strategy of the Fulbright Program is consistent with liberalist theory by orienting away from state actors wielding sole power in international politics to rely on non-state actors such as individuals and organizations. One of the most fundamental premises of liberalism is that politics is embedded in a social context “analytically prior to the state” (Starr, The Fulbright Program’s Contemporary Relevance, 2012, pp. 8-9).
  • Soft power: “The Fulbright Program provides one tool with which the United States can shape the international community’s perception of America and its policies. Fulbright participants function as informal U.S. ambassadors that travel to over 100 countries every year to work and study.” (Starr, The Fulbright Program’s Contemporary Relevance, 2012, p. 10).
  • Multicultural leadership: “The Fulbright Program embodies the types of experiences that lead to developing a global perspective, multicultural personality, and an effective transformational leadership style. As participants are immersed in a foreign culture, they acquire a new perspective on the variety of traditions and norms that exist in the world and gain experience operating in an unfamiliar environment. (Starr, The Fulbright Program’s Contemporary Relevance, 2012, p.14).

The results of this generous initiative are colossal. Since 1946, 380,000 students from 160 countries have received financial support for their postgraduate studies in the United States, and it can be said that all those who received a scholarship, a stay or exchange in this program are today part of the Fulbright community.

The people who the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarships are named after

J. William Fulbright (1905-1995) is quite a legend in the United States. This Arkansas-born southern patrician was an outstanding university student and politician whose early formation at Oxford served as a reflection to promote a global academic community founded on the principles of liberalism and representative government.

“The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as an essential bond for a peaceful world.”
James William Fulbright (1905-1995)

This short biographic video presents his personal history, his political commitment and his moral imperatives that led him to take a critical position against his own party (the Democrats of President Johnson) in the 1960s in spite of his conservative thinking. It began with his sustained criticisms of the political and moral cost of the Vietnam War, which converted him into a convinced pacifist.

The second name is no less prominent. Alfonso García Robles (1911-1991) was one of the most outstanding diplomats of Mexico. His work in pursuit of denuclearization and control of the arms race earned him the Nobel Prize in 1982. This is how COMEXUS describes him:

In October of 1982 he received the Nobel Peace Prize, a distinction that he shared with the Swedish diplomat and writer Alva Myrdal, who had accompanied him in many of the negotiations in support of international disarmament. In his acceptance speech, he cited Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, who in 1955 declared that “we must learn to think in a new way, not as a member of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings, members of the human species whose future existence is in doubt.”

“To promote the sovereign equality of States, the self-determination of people, the prohibition of the threat or use of force, and non-intervention, Mexico has favored the safeguarding of its legitimate interests as an independent and sovereign nation.”

Alfonso García Robles (1911-1991)

May this text by a great Mexican man serve to remember the titanic task of García Robles: under the UN umbrella, he succeeded in getting opposing nations to sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and Caribbean, also known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, in February 1967:

What is a Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship and what is it not?

To better understand the meaning of this historic initiative, you can go to the United States government webpage that houses all the information (history, data, reports and case studies) about the #FulbrightProgram:

Click on this photo to visit the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

There is also a lot of information available on the COMEXUS webpage:

Click on the photo to visit the COMEXUS website.

To follow up in real time, these are the Twitter accounts to follow:

And if there are still doubts, we share this graph about the most common myths related to the Fulbright Program:



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