Tips for Successfully Engaging in the Fulbright Scholar Experience

Patricia Hyjer Dyk, Ph.D., Department of Community & Leadership Development, University of Kentucky
Content Area
Diversity and Inclusion

At the 2014 NCFR annual meeting I presented a workshop/discussion entitled "Engaging in the Fulbright Scholar Experience." The impetus had been my experience of having served as the 2013-14 Fulbright-Masaryk University Distinguished Chair in Social Studies in the Czech Republic. I was hosted by the Sociology Department and taught courses in Family Sociology and Community Sociology. I had the privilege of collaborating with esteemed colleagues such as Ivo Možný (a father of Family Sociology in Europe) and presenting my research at the Family Upbringing Conference in Poland. Not only were these experiences personally rewarding but I am continuing to collaborate with Czech scholars and family-serving non-profits.

As the Fulbright website states:

With the support of the United States government and through binational partnerships with foreign governments, the Fulbright Scholarship Program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges in all areas of endeavor, including the sciences, business, academe, public service, government, and the arts and continues to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The core Fulbright Scholar Program sends approximately 800 U.S. faculty and professionals each year to 140 countries to lecture, teach and conduct research. An equal number of academics and professionals from overseas visit the United States each year under a Fulbright Scholar grant.

Because I firmly believe that the family is a core cross-national institution in society, we need to have family scholars embedded in programs such as the Fulbright Scholar Program. A critical element of the application process is a Letter of Invitation from a host institution. NCFR members in the International Section have an opportunity to foster these cross national relationships and develop collaborative research projects.

Included below are some of the suggestions I shared that may be helpful in strengthening future Fulbright applicants' Project Statement. As you will see, these strategies are generalizable to other grant program application materials. Best wishes for a successful outcome to your future applications!

For Teaching or Teaching/Research grants you will want to describe:

  • What you propose to teach and your related teaching experience
  • How you will adapt content and teaching style to the specific culture and academic setting
  • Why you are particularly suited to the advertised grant
  • Why you want to teach in the particular country
  • Why you want this experience

In your narrative documents be sure to draw attention to relevant expertise and experience in your CV or resume. Evaluators are looking for evidence of flexibility and adaptability as well as evidence of cultural intelligence. Observe the three "C's" — Complete, Clear, Compelling. Don't make the reviewer try to make a case for your acceptance — convince them!

For Research grants describe:

  • What you will do
  • How you propose to do the research
  • Why the research is needed
  • Why it must be done in this country (REALLY KEY POINT!)
  • How you will adapt to conducting research in a foreign language (if necessary)

Be clear about your expectations of the host institution/country and what you/your home institution will provide in terms of resources and expertise. Again do your homework on the culture and politics (policies) of the host country and make a strong case for how your research is a mutually beneficial fit for parties involved. And by all means your research strategy must be feasible for the time frame of the grant term. Strong letters from host institutions that reflect that a collaborative relationship has been established carry a great deal of weight when evaluating a return on investment by the funder.