FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Fresno State and UC Merced announced on Monday that their campuses have been designated a Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leader for 2023. 

Zulette Orduña is a first-generation, second-year student at UC Merced. She says her experience at the Hispanic-serving institution has been positive so far.

“We’re able to share similar experiences, and even if we don’t, we’re able to empathize with one another,” said Orduña.

UC Merced was not the only Central Valley campus that was put on the map with the Fulbright designation – but Fresno State was also recognized.

“The Fulbright is considered to be one of the most widely recognized and possibly the most prestigious scholarships in the world,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “As a Fulbright HSI university, we will be able to tap into resources that are special for HSI institutions.”

Every year, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs selects universities that have a strong engagement of some HSIs within the Fulbright Program. 

According to Fulbright’s website, the program gives students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals at HSIs the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to complex global challenges.

“So we are one of 46, only 46 institutions in the entire United States to receive this,” said Jiménez-Sandoval. “This is the breadth and scope of institutions. This is community colleges, four-year institutions, master’s degrees, students, doctoral institutions. so it’s everyone competing for this.”

Orduña said it’s a privilege to be a part of a Hispanic Serving Institution because, to her, representation matters.

“I think it is important to all universities, not only UC Merced, to expand their diversity count,” said Orduña. “Because one, students are able to connect with one another more easily. We all have different backgrounds, of course, but I think it’s very important that by being a first-generation student, we’re able to connect better.”