RENEWED access to the Fulbright Programme for Bahamian students was discussed during a meeting at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department on Thursday.
Dr Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the US, took part in the meeting with Deputy Chief of Mission Chet Neymour and Third Secretary Mikhail Bullard, during which they stressed that the “most relevant amongst the Fulbright Programme for the Bahamas are the Foreign Student and Visiting Scholar Programme”.
Bureau officials taking part in the meeting included Marianne Craven, managing director of academic programmes; Mary E Kirk, director, Office of Academic Exchange Programmes; and Thomas Ingalls, Academic Exchange Specialists.
The Bahamian diplomats noted that the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Programme “provides grants to approximately 800 foreign scholars from more than 95 countries to lecture and/or conduct postdoctoral research at US institutions for an academic semester to a full academic year”.
Likewise, the Fulbright Foreign Student Programme enables graduate students, young professionals and artists from abroad to research and study in the US for a year or more. Around 1,700 new awards are granted annually to foreign graduate students for support at US universities, and some 1,350 renewal awards are also made annually.
It was pointed out that other Fulbright opportunities could include the Fulbright Faculty Development Programme, which offers opportunities for community college and university faculty from abroad to engage in graduate study at US universities, and the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research Programme, which is a network of junior scholars, professionals and mid-career researchers from the US and other Western Hemisphere nations.
“Another associate programme which would be of relevance to Bahamian nationals is the Hubert Humphrey Fellow Programme, which brings outstanding mid-career professionals from developing and emerging countries to the US for a year of professional development and non-degree academic work at the graduate level.”
Noting that scholarship programmes such as Fulbright are a “key mechanism for cultural and academic diplomacy”, the presentation added: “Twenty-nine countries in the Americas are annual recipients of this scholarship, including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and other Eastern Caribbean countries – all fellow CARICOM countries.”
Currently, however, Bahamians are not able to apply for a Fulbright scholarship. The upcoming deadline for Fulbright Scholarships in the Caribbean is July 1, 2014.
It was also stressed that, historically, the vast majority of Bahamians who have studied abroad have studied at US institutions. Further, as of 2012, there were approximately 1,700 Bahamians obtaining tertiary level education in the US.
“This is certainly a significant constituency, particularly for the State of Florida, and one that has the potential to be further enlarged,” the formal presentation noted. “Additionally, the Bahamas has one of the highest percentages of tertiary educated populations in the region and, as evidenced by the annual scholarships afforded to Bahamians by other states and agencies, maintains an annual pool of graduating students who can compete with students anywhere in the world.
“Given the close and friendly relations between the two countries, and the size and importance of the US Embassy in New Providence relative to others in the Caribbean region, we wish to enhance this area of technical cooperation between our two countries and work towards renewed access to these prestigious scholarship programmes for Bahamians.”
Academic programmes managing director Marianne Craven is committed to advancing the request by the Bahamas to the relevant US bodies involved in the programme.