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Fulbright candidate Julia Gustafson '20 to study landscape archeology abroad next year

USM senior Julia Gustafson, of Falmouth, Maine, is weighing several graduate school options for next year — all of them prestigious and international.

The Geography-Anthropology major has been accepted to master’s degree programs focusing on landscape archeology — the study of how people in the past constructed and used the environment around them — at the University of Cambridge, the University of Bradford, the University of Sheffield, the University of York and the National University of Ireland Galway.

Senior Geography-Anthropology major Julia Gustafson says completing two Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) fellowships at USM gave her "a solid foundation" for her 2020 Fulbright application to pursue a master's in landscape archeology at NUI Galway. (Marc Glass/USM Public Affairs.)

Her heart’s desire is NUI Galway. While perhaps not as esteemed as Cambridge, the school stands among the top 1 percent of universities according to recent Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings and enjoys a full five-star rating from QS. But the real draw for Gustafson is something distinctive in the offing there — a highly competitive research award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Gustafson has been named a 2020 Fulbright alternate and is awaiting word on funding to support her master’s in landscape archeology at NUI Galway next year.

For the uninitiated, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given accomplished individuals the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and find solutions to important international issues.

With final notification possible by May’s end, Gustafson says she feels “very privileged to have made it this far” in the Fulbright application process.

“It’s extremely competitive and many deserving applicants are turned down,” says Gustafson. “Even though I am an alternate, I’m very grateful.”

As for what about her likely stood out for the 2020 Fulbright jurors, Gustafson points to her research experience at USM, including two Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) fellowships.

“Both opportunities gave me a strong background in applied research and through the UROP funding, I was able to present my research at the Canadian Archaeology Association's annual meeting — a rare opportunity for an undergraduate student,” says Gustafson, who also minored in Geography and Archeology at USM. “I believe that this, as well as the strong encouragement I received from the Geography-Anthropology faculty, gave me a solid foundation for the Fulbright application. Dr. Nathan Hamilton (Associate Professor of Archaeology) was my mentor on both of these projects and has also been a source of tremendous support for me during this process.”

Gustafson also credits Kaoru Watanabe Phillips, Assistant Director of International Programs, and Dr. Matthew Bampton, Professor of Geography in USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, for being with her “every step of the way during the application process.”

“Dr. Bampton, who is also my advisor, has been supporting me academically since I first decided to apply to USM three years ago,” she says. “The entire Geography-Anthropology staff and faculty have been an outstanding source of guidance. I could not have done this without them.”

Whether or not her Fulbright status changes from alternate to finalist, Gustafson says her post-USM plans ultimately involve pursuing a Ph.D. in archaeology with the goal of becoming a university professor. But achieving a Fulbright means far more to her than the prestige that accompanies the honor.

“I was motivated to apply by the chance to pursue my degree abroad and for the lifelong relationships I would be sure to make as an alumna of the Fulbright program,” she says. “I also believe deeply in the values of the Fulbright program, such as building international partnerships and fostering shared educational goals.”