Bray Named Semifinalist for Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Ralph Bray has been recommended as a semifinalist by the National Screening Committee of the Institute of International Education for the 2024-25 Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Bray’s Fulbright application would place him in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, India. He proposed research focused on uncovering new strategies for dealing with agricultural economic challenges in India due to changing weather.

“India’s farming business model, like Arkansas, is to buy seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, plow topsoil, rotate a small variety of crops, and hope weather conditions allow for a good harvest,” Bray wrote in his proposal. “These farming practices produce short-term rewards with negative long-term environmental and financial consequences as soil quality and water levels diminish, which impacts yield. Agroforestry, as a circular economic solution, could minimize these problems.”

Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. Bray noted that in order for these strategies to work, economic value must be gained. His focus is on researching economic-driven solutions, both in the short and long-term, that are also environmentally-friendly.

“I wanted to research how we can help farmers move from monoculture farming or simple crop rotation farms to more biodiverse farms like Agroforests,” Bray said. “My research would uncover barriers Indian farmers face and explore potential short and long-term solutions to help them be more environmentally friendly while generating profits.”

Bray chose India because of its population and strong agricultural output. India is the second-largest producer of rice in the world. Bray’s home state of Arkansas ranks first among U.S. states in rice production, accounting for more than 40% of rice produced in the country.

“I plan to research short and long-term solutions to move towards more biodiverse farms and disseminate that information in my home state and federally.”

Bray also applied for Fulbright’s Critical Language Enhancement Award to learn Hindi over an additional six months. The purpose of the Critical Language Enhancement Award is to cultivate higher levels of language proficiency prior to and during the Fulbright grant period and beyond. In addition to English, Bray also speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

“Learning and speaking Hindi would greatly help facilitate my field research, interviewing farmers, government officials, and environmentalists.”

Bray, who will earn a concurrent Master of Business Administration from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, credits his dual degree curriculum with equipping him with the skillset to identify and conduct research on issues like this one.

“The Clinton School and Walton College of Business have helped me pursue finding economic solutions to environmental issues,” Bray said. “The Clinton School taught me how to conduct field research effectively and gave me tangible experience with my elephant research in Kenya, and the Walton College helped me think of solutions through a financial lens and gave me experience consulting businesses to achieve B-Corp status.”

Bray is currently completing his final Capstone project in Fayetteville, Ark. He and his MBA classmates have developed a program to mentor at-risk high school students, preparing them for college and life after high school.

Bray recently completed his David L. Boren Fellowship, studying Portuguese in Brazil. Boren Fellowships provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an important international and language component to their graduate education through specialization in area study, language study, or increased language proficiency.



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