Wednesday, September 6. 2006
Experiencing America: Through the Eyes of Visiting Fulbright Scholars. Don, an American living in London and a regular reader of the Atlantic Review, wrote a comment suspecting that "the Ivy Leagues and the better public and private universities in the US get the lion's share of the feed, which is a shame in a way because places like Princeton, Palo Alto, and Ann Arbor aren't very typical of the US." He suggested: "Were I to design a visiting scholars program to spread knowledge about the US I'd send most of the scholars to places more typical of where the average American goes to college." Read his entire comment.
It is common criticism against correspondents of the foreign media in the US that they live in the big cities and are biased and don't understand Americans living in the "heartland." Is that true of Fulbrighters as well? I have asked some Fulbrighters if they know anything about the distribution of the Fulbright grants.
(Not Don, but I have brought up the term "heartland" in my email to the Fulbrighters. In hindsight, I should have avoided that controversial term, although it seems to be used more and more often in the increasingly divisive US politics.)
A Fulbright Alumnus from Argentina pointed out:
Neither Palo Alto nor Iowa Falls are more "typical of the US" than the other. What is indeed typical of the US is the diversity within the country. On a personal note, having been around much of the country, I wouldn't be caught dead living/studying in most "heartland" places.Two German Fulbright Alumni responded that the German-American Fulbright Commission distributes grantees equally all across the United States. The German-American Fulbright program is the biggest Fulbright program, in part because the Fulbright Commission in Berlin prefers to send three students to a "heartland" university rather than just one student to an expensive Ivy League school. The French-American Fulbright Commission seems to have the opposite priorities, one of them wrote.
Another German Fulbright Alumna wrote:
Also, the German program at least has a "philosophy" of spreading people out beyond five cities. We do not get to pick the program or university we go to, but instead the German Fulbright Commission chooses where it sends our application - based on, yes, our preferences, but mostly criteria like match and distribution. And we're told pretty clearly not to bother including only Ivy Leagues among our preferences. You then get what amounts to a take-it-or-leave-it offer. At least that was the case when I entered the program (which was not that long ago), but I'm at a private school, so that may be part of it. In other words, you have to build a strong case for the school you want to go to - and it better not amount to "the beaches are cool ...".Another German Fulbright Alumnus wrote:
I always assumed that the top schools are actually *underrepresented*, because they are private (with the exception of Berkeley) and hence more expensive. And although the Fulbright people don't say that officially, their funds do have limitations. ;-) Of course, most Fullies nevertheless end up near one of the coasts, simply because there are more universities there (and also because the Fulbright Commissions try to accommodate people's preferences, which rarely include let's say the University of Kansas). Thinking about it, most Americans also live near the coasts. So aren't the "real" Americans from the "heartland" actually a minority?The Fulbright Commission has made a list (PDF file) of the US universities German Fulbrighters attended in 2003 . This list included the University of California, the University of Kansas, Harvard University, MIT, Boston College, Indiana State University, Ball State University (Indiana), Texas A & M University and Texas Christian University and dozens others. The 2004-2005 annual report (PDF file) of the German-American Fulbright Commission shows on page six that German Fulbrighters are spread pretty equally in the Northeast, South, South-Central Midwest and West of the U.S.
An American Fulbright Alumnus, who taught English in Germany, wrote:
Concerning the number of grantees who go to each university in the US, I found this list http://www.cies.org/schlr_directories/vsdir05/vs_dir_state.htm on CIES website listing the names of each Fulbright Scholar who when to which university for the 2005-06 school year. You can see that people are pretty spread out. There is even one Fulbright Scholar who studied at "Heartland Community College" in Illinois. That sounds like a pretty non-elite place to me :)He added in another email:
My understanding of the Fulbright Scholar Program is that most Fulbrighters themselves pick where they want to go in the US. I'm fairly certain that only a minority are placed in specific universities.He also quoted from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars:
In many countries, particularly those with binational commissions, scholars are expected to submit evidence that they have identified a host affiliation in the United States as part of the application process, well before an actual grant is awarded. Scholars usually include a letter of invitation from the host institution in their application materials. In other instances, often in countries where the competition is conducted by the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy, scholars apply for awards and identify their specializations. This information is used to determine placement at U.S. host institutions. For these grantees, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) is active in confirming affiliations or arranging placements based upon the scholar's interests and needs."He also remarked:
Personally, I think it would be great if more Fulbrighters choose to go to smaller, less famous universities, or if they choose to go to the mid-west instead of the east or west coast, however, all the exchange participants and alumni I've met travel a lot during their exchange experience and don't just stay in one city.
A U.S. Fulbright Alumna pointed out regarding the distribution of Fulbrighters:
In order to host Fulbrighters, the U.S. institution must agree to provide "in-state" tuition to the visitors. That provides an edge for the public institutions. In addition, the prestigious "Ivies" can usually attract sufficient international students to "globalize" their campuses, whereas, the state institutions in smaller, less populated, "middle America" look to Fulbright grantees to help fill that function. New York, California, and Massachusetts are by far the leading states in numbers of international Fulbright grantees, but that's probably as much a function of their population size and the number of institutions in them as anything else. However, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Washington pretty regularly attract 60 or more visitors a year.
A Polish Fulbrighter, who studied at the Columbia Law School (CLS) wrote:
I had a conversation about it at the IIE somewhere in 2004. NYC has the largest number of Fulbrighters, over 300 annually. Columbia itself is, by far, the leading receiving institution in the U.S. with close to 120-150 grantees annually. Add something like 30-40 Upstate at Cornell, and you have New York State. California is distant second. Also, it's typical to hear (and is not that surprising), that grantees staying somewhere out there in the sticks are treated far better than those received by the big-name-institutions back East. This is not to say that I felt mistreated or neglected at Columbia, but still, my experience (e.g. being assigned a "hot desk" style common room with 12 workstations per 42 grantees at the CLS - I worked in the library anyway) is different from that of a friend of mine who went to Nebraska (and got his own office, a car, a fully furnished house for something like $450 - and was celebrated throughout his stay, taken to BBQs at the Governor's Mansion etc.). Still, I wouldn't switch. But...I could not find statistics to answer the question how many Fulbrighters attend private and public elite universities in comparison to less elite universities. However, the 41st annual report of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board provides this table of Fulbrighters by state in the academic year 2004-05:
State Foreign Grantees
New Hampshire 14
New Jersey 79
New Mexico 10
New York 480
N. Carolina 80
N. Dakota 4
Puerto Rico 0
Rhode Island 24
S. Carolina 39
S. Dakota 2
W. Virginia 1
This annual report was recently made available online and makes an interesting reading since it not only has more statistical information, but also informs about various initiatives and fascinating projects by many individual Fulbrighters. Here's a quote from the foreword by Steven J. Uhlfelder, Chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board:
This report highlights ways that the Fulbright Program is a force for positive transformation. Sometimes the change may be an increase in new knowledge about the past or cutting-edge research in an area challenging public health. Sometimes the change may be in the way a trade issue is viewed or the way a social prejudice is eliminated. The change may involve just one individual who makes a difference. Other times, there is a ripple effect when a teacher shares his or her new experiences with many students. A hallmark of the Fulbright Program is the cross-pollination of ideas and approaches to issues that takes place from country to country, from world region to world region. For example, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, was a Fulbright Student at Vanderbilt University, where he earned his Ph.D. in economics. The Grameen Bank’s use of micro-credit lending is changing the way in which the world seeks to eradicate poverty. The fact that Dr. Yunus came to the United States under the Fulbright Program is not the end of the story. In 1988, American Alex Counts went to Bangladesh as a Fulbright Student to study the Grameen Bank’s micro-credit program. He worked closely with Dr. Yunus and then went on to write a book—Give Us Credit—which chronicles micro-credit lending. So the Fulbright Program reached a Bangladeshi economist and an American anti-poverty activist (who became the first president of the Grameen Foundation USA) and both have made important contributions as they work to improve the human condition. This report is testimony to the fact that the
For more information about the Fulbright program and Fulbrighters, scroll down our Fulbright category and visit our Fulbrighters Make the World a Better Place page or surf around the homepage of the German-American Fulbright Commission, which explains:
The German-American Fulbright Program implements Senator J. William Fulbright's visionary concept: The promotion of mutual understanding between our two countries through academic and bicultural exchange.
ENDNOTE: Don just emailed Robert J. Samuelson's latest column in the Washington Post "How We Dummies Succeed" about the benefits of Community Colleges:
If you're looking for the action in education, forget the Ivy League. Talk instead to Anthony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. It has six campuses and 70,000 students taking classes in everything from remedial English to computer networking. With about 12 million students, the nation's 1,200 community colleges help answer this riddle: Why do Americans do so badly on international educational comparisons and yet support an advanced economy?UPDATE: Eric Howard, who spent his Fulbright year in Germany and is now the Executive Director of the Fulbright Academy, emailed this:
I enjoyed the article about “foreign” Fulbrighters in the US.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Don - #1 - 2006-09-06 17:17 -
I will point out that my initial comment was NOT criticising the geographical distribution of Fulbright scholars but rather the distribution between the various classes of US universities. I'm not going to play a bootless game of arguing that Chicago is somehow more typically American than New York. My point is that perhaps there ought to be fewer Fulbright placements at Columbia and Cornell and more at CCNY and the SUNY campuses at Stony Brook, or Buffalo, or Binghampton. The same applies to Chicago; fewer at Northwestern and the U of Chicago, more at Illinois - Chicago Circle. Even there you are still missing perhaps the most interesting and effective sector in US higher education. As Robert Samuelson points out the real 'action' is in the community colleges. I'm not sure how to include them because a vocational degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College would likely be of little use to a German who has to return to Dresden afterward.
Anonymous - #1.1 - 2006-09-08 16:50 -
The geographic distribution gives some indication about the share of elite vs. the share of average schools. And even within the states, there are not that many Fulbrighters at elite schools.
Don - #1.1.1 - 2006-09-09 04:04 -
It depends on how one defines 'elite school' I suppose. I personally define it more widely than the Ivy League and the little Ivies, and include most of the flagship state universities, particularly the University of California and the Big Ten schools. By that measure the elite take the bulk of the placements we saw on that list.
Don - #2 - 2006-09-06 21:56 -
More comments. The news is not as good as I hoped but better than I feared. I had a look at the detailed list of Fullbright scholars. In New York and California the list seems weighted toward the elite and neat elite institutions. Cornell, Columbia, and NYU get the lion's share although it's a pleasant surprise to see 8 studying at various SUNY campuses. California shows a similar story with the bulk of Fulbright scholars attending Stanford or various campuses of the excellent University of California system weighted toward the prestigious Berkeley, UCLA, and San Diego campuses. Very few attend the more plebian Cal State system. Wisconsin (where I grew up) is more balanced. Nine out of 14 attend the flagship UW-Madison campus but the state Universities at La Crosse, Green Bay, and Milwaukee have 4 scholars.
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