International Institute Funds Student Research Following Federal Budget Cuts


By Kirstin Olmstead
Sep 08, 2011

Department of Education eliminates 2011 Fulbright-Hays funding

ANN ARBOR, MICH., Sept. 8, 2011—Doctoral students nationwide who applied last year for Department of Education funding through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) program found themselves in a quandary this spring. Instead of making award offers, the Education Department canceled the fellowship program altogether for fiscal year 2011.

“The news of the cancelation of the Fulbright-Hays DDRA competition was devastating,” said applicant Jeremy Ledger, a doctoral student in U-M’s Department of History. “Cutting this program has jeopardized a lot of projects.”

The Fulbright-Hays program provides grants to colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students who wish to conduct research abroad for periods of six to 12 months. Designed to foster U.S. competence and expertise in foreign languages and area or international studies, the program was slated to disburse nearly $6 million for student research.

A total of 19 U-M doctoral students from departments and schools throughout U-M’s campus applied for the prestigious fellowship. The U-M International Institute (II), which handles the administration of the program on campus, immediately contacted applicants regarding their funding levels. Nine students had acquired sufficient funds through other prominent grants, including the Department of State U.S. Student Fulbright fellowship, which was not affected by Education Department cutbacks.

“The loss of funding through the Fulbright-Hays program was a significant blow to students who often combine grant funding to cover their research expenses,” said International Institute Director Ken Kollman. “From the beginning, the II was committed to finding ways to support the remaining doctoral students who would face significant educational and career setbacks without this key funding to support their research.”

As II leadership reviewed the budget to see how they might allocate funding for the remaining students, they received word from the nonprofit Institute of International Education that the Mellon Foundation had agreed to provide one-time emergency awards for the 80 top-scoring Fulbright-Hays DDRA applicants nationwide, including three from U-M. This was approximately half of the number typically funded through Fulbright-Hays.

“It was amazing how quickly the International Institute worked to help all Fulbright-Hays applicants meet a certain level of research funding in the face of cuts from the Department of Education,” said Nora Hauk, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology and Mellon award recipient. “If I had not received funding from the Mellon Foundation, I may have had to push my research start date back much further. I am certain that this support will help me to do the best possible field research.”

The II supplied support to seven students in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 who would not otherwise have had sufficient funding to complete their research abroad.

“Although we are pleased that we were able to provide financial support for these students to continue their doctoral research, this is not sustainable in the long-term,” said Kollman. “This loss of funding is a very serious problem. Without it, even more burden falls on the students to find alternate funding sources.”

The Education Department has indicated that the Fulbright-Hays DDRA contest for 2012-2013 will still take place, and II staff is available to advise students preparing applications for this fall’s deadline. For more information about applying, visit www.ii.umich.edu/fellowshipsandgrants/graduate.

University of Michigan International Institute
The University of Michigan International Institute houses 18 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes. The institute develops and supports international teaching, research, and public affairs programs to promote global understanding across the campus and to build connections with intellectuals and institutions worldwide. For more information, visit www.ii.umich.edu.

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