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Bahamian diplomats push for renewed access to Fulbright program for local students
Published on April 26, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Pictured clockwise during a meeting held at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department on Thursday, April 24, are: Chet Neymour, Deputy Chief of Mission, Bahamas Embassy; Dr Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States; Mikhail Bullard, Third Secretary, Bahamas Embassy; Mary E. Kirk, Director, Office of Academic Exchange Programs; Thomas Ingalls, Academic Exchange Specialist; and Marianne Craven, Managing Director of Academic Programs.

WASHINGTON, USA -- Renewed access to the Fulbright Program for Bahamian students was discussed during a high-level meeting held at Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department on Thursday.

Dr Eugene Newry, Bahamas ambassador to the United States, participated in the meeting along with deputy chief of mission Chet Neymour and third secretary Mikhail Bullard, during which they stressed that the “most relevant amongst the Fulbright program for The Bahamas are the foreign student and visiting scholar program.”

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs officials participating in the meeting included Marianne Craven, managing director of academic programs; Mary E. Kirk, director, Office of Academic Exchange Programs; and Thomas Ingalls, academic exchange specialist.

In their formal presentation, the Bahamian diplomats noted that the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program “provides grants to approximately 800 foreign scholars from over 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 Program enables graduate students, young professionals and artists from abroad to research and study in the United States for one year or longer. Approximately 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 Program, 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 (NEXUS) Program, which is a network of junior scholars, professionals and mid-career researchers from the United States and other Western Hemisphere nations participating in a program that includes multi-disciplinary, team-based research, a series of three seminar meetings, and a two to three-month research exchange visit to the United States.

“Another associate program which would be of relevance to Bahamian nationals is the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Program, which brings outstanding mid-career professionals from developing and emerging countries to the United States for a year of professional development and non-degree academic work at the graduate level,” the presentation outlined.

Noting that scholarship programs such as Fulbright are “key mechanism for cultural and academic diplomacy,” the presentation added that 29 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 that have studied abroad have studied at United States institutions. Further, as of 2012, there were approximately 1,700 Bahamians obtaining tertiary level education in the United States.

“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 programs for Bahamians.”

The presentation also highlighted the fact that the Obama Administration “recently launched the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program to foster region-wide prosperity through greater international exchange of students, who are our future leaders and innovators, further pointing out that the goal is to “increase exchange of students from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000 persons over the next decade and similarly increase the exchange of students from Latin America and the Caribbean to the US to 100,000 persons.”

The program provides assistance for setting up hemispheric exchanges through a public-private partnership where the US federal government matches grants provided by private entities to fund approved projects.

It was pointed out that College of Bahamas representatives have been advised that participation in the program would be an excellent opportunity for The College, particularly as it transitions toward university status and seeks to expand mobility opportunities to students. It is also envisioned that the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) can benefit from the program.

Newry also advised that the goal for The Bahamas was to access technical cooperation which contributed to sustainable development; therefore, The Bahamas was seeking cooperation at the academic, professional and vocational levels and particularly to assist the current administration’s goal of enhancing the agricultural sector.

Craven committed to advance the request by The Bahamas to the relevant US bodies involved in the program, particularly in light of the recent strengthening of the Public Diplomacy Section of the US Embassy in New Providence.
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