• August 31, 2015

Fulbright Puts Money Where Problems Are

Fulbrights: Putting Money Where the Problems Are 1

Keith Dannemiller for The Chronicle

José Antonio Aguirre, a Fulbright scholar, works on a public-art project at the Metropolitan Autonomous U., in Mexico City.

The U.S. State Department wants its premier fellowship program to help develop creative responses to problems as serious as climate change and pandemics.

The Fulbright Program, which had a budget of $253.8-million in the 2010 fiscal year (the budget for 2011 has yet to be passed), sent 1,564 students and 1,110 scholars abroad during the 2009-10 academic year to teach or conduct research. Soon it will connect researchers in the United States, Canada, and Latin America in an effort to advance ideas to resolve issues of global concern.

The new Fulbright Nexus Program is one of several projects encouraged by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as they seek to adapt the program to changing needs.

"The administration and the secretary see that there are global issues, and the solutions to these global issues, whether it's health or energy or climate change or food security, require creative collaboration and partnerships," says Alina L. Romanowski, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. "We need to create the environment and bring these folks together."

Nexus will award fellowships in May to multidisciplinary scholars working in three broad areas: entrepreneurship; science, technology, and innovation; and sustainable energy.

The goal is for the academics to generate "implementable solutions" and receive financial support or other help from corporations and foundations to test their ideas, she says.

"We wanted to go beyond just theory and just research," says Ms. Romanowski. The department wants "to form a network not just of academicians, but of practitioners and applied research."

Expanding Its Outreach

In addition to tackling global problems, the Fulbright program this year has expanded the number of countries to which it sends English-language teaching assistants. The program, which enrolls many undergraduates fresh out of college, has been in operation since 1946, but participation has increased tenfold since the late 1990s, as more countries have requested such aid.

In the 2010-11 academic year, the department is sending 768 teaching assistants abroad, to almost 70 countries. Nine countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America are participating for the first time.

"It will continue to expand, but I don't expect it will expand as rapidly next year as it did," Ms. Romanowski says. "We have to take a deep breath and make sure we have the proper program support and the students in the right schools."

Another fellowship that is expanding this year is the International Education Administrators Program, which sends higher-education administrators abroad to study university systems for two to three weeks.

The program, which started in 1986 and sent 33 people overseas in 2010, is making India its fourth destination country; the others are Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

As American colleges and universities seek to internationalize their campuses and curriculum, Ms. Romanowski says, they should not limit their proselytizing to professors.

"You can expose your teachers, but if you don't work with your administrators to support the change you want," she says, "it's much more complicated."

Following are three Fulbright profiles: of a historically black college that is host to four foreign-language teaching assistants, of a student who is teaching English in Brazil, and of college administrators who spent several weeks studying the education system of Japan.


1. tpul2014 - October 24, 2010 at 11:07 pm

A beautiful mural and its artist illustrate this article. How do they figure in exactly ? I don't see that the arts or humanities constitute a part of the program. They should, but it is not made clear in the article.

2. fulbrightacademy - October 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

I realize that the article is mostly about sending US citizens abroad, but the article could have mentioned the other half of the program - bringing others here - to show the full extent of the program.

This statement, gives a misleading impression of the program. "The Fulbright Program, which had a budget of $253.8-million in the 2010 fiscal year (the budget for 2011 has yet to be passed), sent 1,564 students and 1,110 scholars abroad during the 2009-10 academic year to teach or conduct research. "

Instead of about $250 million and 2,500 participants, the actual figures for the entire program are closer to $375 million and 7,000 participants.

The $253.8 million budget figure refers only to portion of funds contributed by the US Government. In 2008 (the most recent figures posted on the Fulbright Program's website), the US portion was about $234 million, but foreign governments, through binational commissions or foundations abroad, also contributed approximately $75 million directly to the Program, and an additional $67 million came from universities, foundations and corporations in the US and overseas.

Similarly, the participant figures (sent 1,564 students and 1,110 scholars abroad) only refer to the US participants in the two largest programs. As comparison, in 2008, there were 1,526 US students and 1,167 US scholars going abroad, but 3,193 foreign students and 828 visiting scholars. In addition, there are hundreds of others who participate in smaller programs administered under the Fulbright umbrella, such as Teacher and Administrator Exchange program, Humphrey fellows, Fulbright-Hays Research Abroad and Projects Abroad grantees. The total number of Fulbright grantees in a given year is actually closer to 7,000, not 2.500.

3. rachaelski - October 25, 2010 at 10:56 am

I am in the current applicant pool for a fulbright research grant. As a student, I am thankful for a program that provides the opportunity for students to conduct research aboard. Many of my friends have participated in the program, both as Americans going abroad and as students coming from other countries to the US to do graduate study. Great program. Here's to hoping I receive a grant!

4. collaccfdn - October 25, 2010 at 01:41 pm

@tpul2014 - While the article focusses on some special initiatives, the larger Fulbright Program includes students and scholars in just about every academic field, including the humanities. I agree this article could have been more clear about a number of issues (such as those raised by fulbrightacademy), but I'm glad to see the program highlighted by the Chronicle!

5. pietro - October 25, 2010 at 01:48 pm

In the map you show that 34 Fulbright scholars came from Afghanistan. I am happy that one of those was a student of mine, whom I got to know at Kabul University where I taught urban policy and urban theory in 2007.

However I was dismayed to discover that the Fulbright program would not even consider applications for U.S. scholars to study in Afghanistan. I may not have qualified--the Fulbright program is and should be very competitive--but I was disqualified from even applying because I was going to study urbanization and urban policy in a war zone. I was aware of the risks, which were primarily traffic accidents and contagious diseases, as in much of the world. I had already worked in Kabul in 2003 for the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing. Furthermore, if the Fulbright program is intended to "put money where problems are," shouldn't we think of Afghanistan as a place worth studying?

As scholars we should consider: for the past nine years, essentially four stories have come out of Afghanistan: war against Islamic extremists, government incapacity and corruption, opium, and the plight of vulnerable women. Shouldn't we know more about Afghanistan by now?

None of us can be certain whether our research will really help, in what remains an exceedingly difficult situation. But I hope that in the future, such research in 'difficult places' will be supported by the United States.

6. suhair_tabanja - October 25, 2010 at 04:11 pm

It's not Fair that Fulbright didn't chooses me for Master's scholarship this year , i have prepared myself very well , and my thesis was very good, and interviewed , but i really shocked when they said sorry we cant take you...

7. joyceslaytonmitchell - October 31, 2010 at 05:57 am

Where's China!! The beauty of American higher education is our liberal arts approach, producing innnovative and creative solutions to problems and broadening the view of the specialized engineers and physicists. An American approach to problems could be our best export! Joyce Slayton Mitchell, Global Education, Beijing.

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