Inside Rensselaer
* Fulbright Scholars

The Fulbright Scholarship recipients who are attending the Lally School this year at (l-r) “Maggie” Almanza, Atif Majeed, and Rolando Binns.

For the first time in history, three Fulbright Scholars are enrolled in the same MBA class at Rensselaer’s Lally School of Management & Technology. First-year MBAs Madgledis “Maggie” Almanza and Rolando Binns both received Fulbrights from Panama; Atif Abdul Majeed is an honoree from Pakistan. They joined an increasingly global Lally MBA program, which currently hosts students from 13 countries, with Ph.D. candidates adding another five countries to the mix.

The Fulbright Program is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). “IIE has had a long-standing relationship with Rensselaer. When I think of using programs with a strong focus on IT and technology, Lally obviously comes to mind,” according to Bill Kolsun, senior placement officer at IIE. “Lally is a reliable source of academic excellence and fills a niche for IIE.”

Almanza, Binns, and Majeed all went through a rigorous application process, which requires nearly a year and a half to complete. Following the initial application, academic grades and test scores determine whether an applicant is selected to be one of his/her country’s finalists. Ranked in priority order, the finalists are then interviewed by their country’s embassy, which selects who and how many candidates are awarded a Fulbright.

The scholars all say they are proud of their Fulbright status. About 1,800 foreign students receive Fulbright grants annually to study in the U.S. Panama awards between five and eight Fulbright Scholarships annually. Pakistan has the distinction of being the largest Fulbright program outside of the U.S., awarding roughly 300 Fulbrights annually.

Although Rensselaer is well-known in Pakistan, neither Almanza nor Binns had heard of Rensselaer, let alone the Lally School. That is, until IIE strongly recommended Rensselaer as a good fit for students seeking to bridge the gap between their technical backgrounds and future business roles. The students had selected other institutions that fulfilled their objectives; they already had been admitted as candidates. But after carefully evaluating Rensselaer’s geographic proximity to major metropolitan hubs, its networking opportunities, and its facilities and faculty, both determined Lally was the best option. It was during this “validation process” that Binns leveraged his father’s network to reach a Rensselaer alumnus — Ricaurte Vazquez ’77, Ph.D. ’79 — who confirmed what they had heard from IIE and others. (Vasquez currently serves in the Ministry of Economy and Finance for Canal Affairs.)

Typically, Fulbright Scholarships are awarded to students whose academic interests mirror the core interests of the Fulbright Program, and the awarding country. As part of the program, scholars are encouraged to contribute to developing their home countries when they return.

The Lally MBA is seen by all three as key to launching their professional careers. In the long run, Majeed believes it will help him forge meaningful and economically beneficial ties between his country and the U.S. Almanza and Binns agree an MBA will help them participate more easily in Panama’s economic and social transformation, as well as allow them to earn more.

For now, the three Fulbright Scholars remain focused on their individual MBA programs and making the most of the opportunities available at Lally. Almanza and Binns are currently in the process of choosing their program concentrations and seeking internships for the summer. Majeed is considering his particular program focus, perhaps in technological entrepreneurship and finance, and seeking a summer internship with a U.S. company based in Pakistan. And they all say they are one step closer to realizing their personal business plans.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. exchange program for international graduate study and research. It is one of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide—more Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes than those of any other academic program. 

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 4, April 10, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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