How to host a Fulbright Scholar on your home campus

Imagine hosting an international visiting scholar on your own community college campus who can engage with students, faculty, staff, and your entire community for weeks or even months. Sound exciting? Of course it does! Yet how can chronically underresourced U.S. community colleges dream of doing so? This was the inquiry question posed by two Texas educators from St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas during our April Global Educators meetup.

Both presenters were former Stanford EPIC fellows and longtime GEN inquiry meetup participants who bring decades of experience in internationalizing the curriculum. Andrew Hill, associate professor of philosophy, has previously served as an international volunteer in Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom and studied abroad at Cardiff University. Irene Young, assistant professor of psychology, is a national certified counselor with more than 20 years of higher education experience. 

Andrew Hill and Irene Young

“There’s such a great dynamic interaction between the Stanford EPIC and GEN programs and the Fulbright Scholar program,” said Hill. “Both Professor Young and I were working collaboratively on projects that had to do with faculty development. Simultaneously, by 2015, we had co-created a new study abroad program with the Corrymeela Ballycastle Centre in Northern Ireland.” Their program offered courses in philosophy, social psychology, and humanities, helping participants understand contemporary divisions and conflict, ethical reflection, and theory and practice of peace and reconciliation. Yet following the completion of the program, they recognized how a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence could further enhance global learning on their home campus.

Within less than a year, St. Philip’s College welcomed several Fulbright Scholars-in-Residence. And today, the college has hosted many foreign scholars and offers global learning courses focused on peace and reconciliation studies.

Many community college educators are already aware of the Fulbright Program, which allows American scholars—including community college faculty—to teach and conduct research overseas in over 106 countries. However, the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program is far less known. This program allows community colleges and minority serving institutions to become the lead institution in organizing a visit from a foreign scholar in any field.

The first pair of Fulbright Scholars-in-Residence to arrive at St. Philip’s College were Rich and Yvonne Naylor, who came from Northern Ireland in the spring of 2016. “Both scholars had been working with the Peace Center in Ulster for over 45 years, from when they were college students all through the Troubles, up until we brought them to St. Philips," said Hill. "When they came, they brought with them lots of expertise in peace and conflict studies.”

"There were significant costs involved,” Hill conceded. “There is cost-sharing. Fulbright pays transportation and salary, but we paid for housing and car rental.” Despite these funding obstacles, “It went so well that we then did it again for the entire 2019-20 academic year.” Why? Because St. Philip’s administrators could see that students and the community received enormous value for the funds expended.

Fulbright Visiting Scholar Rich Naylor teaching at St. Philips College

Fortunately, St. Philip’s role in hosting Fulbright Scholars didn’t end with the Naylors. Nor did it stop at the physical edge of the St. Philips campus. Instead, the Fulbright Commission said, “We want to encourage you to bring a scholar from a developing country. If you don’t have a specific scholar in mind, you can still get the Fulbright grant. The grant comes to the institution, to the college. But then you can either name someone or ask us here at the Fulbright Foundation to help you find someone.”

And eventually, the entire city of San Antonio became involved in hosting visiting Fulbright Scholars. Consequently, scholars had the opportunity to participate in a host of events across the city. For example, a theater group did a show about conflict, and one visiting scholar became part of that cast. Additionally, active duty service members at Lackland Air Force Base asked Dr. Naylor to discuss his experiences interacting with the British military during the Troubles. As Hill noted in his presentation, “It was interesting to see them find common ground, and to discuss the ethics of violent conflict and peacekeeping.”

To kick off the second portion of their joint presentation, Young explained, “At that time our college was going through an institutional improvement plan focused on ethical decision making. These scholars helped to reinforce that theme to our students.” Today that same theme continues through discussions about global decision making, not just for students, but also with interested faculty and staff. In this way, the entire institution benefits from interacting with visiting scholars. 

“In my class, for example,” Young emphasized, “Professor Naylor led discussions about peace, reconciliation, and conflict. To do so, she made special puppets and brought them to my class. She talked about ‘a time that you felt dismissed or left out.’ We had conversations about what it’s like to be dismissed or to be treated as other. It was a psychology class. You could see the students open up. Having an opportunity to take on a role yet expressing thoughts feelings and emotions that all of us have experienced. The student response was wonderful. They were very engaged. The conversations were phenomenal.”

Years after the Naylors’ visit, some faculty are still engaging students using this method.  It helps students build their confidence in speaking, brings about cultural awareness and engagement, and directly benefits students in terms of global cultural learning. 

In terms of offering practical nuts-and-bolts advice for crafting Fulbright applications, both presenters stressed that, “If you’re looking to host a scholar, be prepared to provide a designated institutional contract. And specify what it is you want to do for your students, for your institution.  Even if you have a project statement handy that you can submit, it still does require a level of effort and commitment. But the results are so worth it. What is it that you want to do as a visiting scholar, or with a visiting scholar? In terms of putting together an application. We’re all about the students.  To see how the students respond. To see their excitement. To see their engagement. The questions that they ask. It just changes their way of thinking. We want them to be global citizens and to have global competence. We see that unfolding as they engage with the Fulbright Scholar.”

Finally, in response to a question from GEN Board Member Stephanie Roach about how they received local funding Hill responded that, “Irene and I had good existing relationships with administrators. We started with the Dean. We said this is what we want to do. He gave us some good advice. He told us, ‘You need to just come in well prepared and justify it. If you try to go down the path of getting a grant, or rededicating grant money from a Title 3, that gets complicated. Come in. Ask for hard money. Just be prepared. Talk about how it fits in with your Stanford EPIC work. Talk about how it fits in with your pedagogical approach. The impact is going to be there. Just show value.”

Here’s more good news: Once they had a firm track record of success, finding funding to expand the program became easier. As Young stressed repeatedly, “When the Naylors came to our campus, our administrators could see impact. Being able to see the depth and breadth of their engagement while they were here, we were able to show that, yes, this is a worthwhile investment for our institution.”

So if hosting a Fulbright Scholar full-time on your own campus still seems like too big a stretch, Hill emphasized that, “You can apply for a grant to bring a nearby Fulbright Scholar at another institution to your campus for as little as one week. That’s also a good way to wade into the process without making a full commitment. The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program will pay to bring a scholar from another campus to you, for a semester, for a week, or for a year!”

In closing, the presenters also talked about a little known program called the Fulbright Specialist Program, which community college faculty can apply to and go overseas as Fulbright faculty at the request of participating host institutions outside the U.S. 

As Hill explained it, “Here you say, ‘I’m an expert in teaching conflict studies.’ So you apply. They put you into a pool. Then what happens is that colleges and universities and institutions from around the world call in and they say ‘Hey, we need a consultant to come over for two to six weeks.’ So, again, a very short, concentrated period. And then what they do is they match you up, and you come out of the pool, and you go over as a consultant, and Fulbright pays for all your housing, transportation: everything. They pay you a salary, a stipend, while you’re there. And you lend your expertise to these people, this institution for their project, this report, or whatever you’re working on while you’re there.”

“To help you to connect with a specific partner institution you would love to work with, Fulbright encourages you to first apply to the general Specialist Program pool,” Hill continued. “And then to reach out directly to a college or university with which you already have an existing relationship. That’s why, when they ask Fulbright for support, they don’t just say ‘Hey, give me somebody in the pool.’ They say, ‘Give me Irene Young.’ And then they send you over there.”

Already have a possible partner institution in mind? Or do you already have a specific project you hope to strengthen through overseas research?  If so, you’ll be happy to learn that applications to the Specialist Program are always ongoing, on a rolling basis, and hence not tied to one specific annual deadline (unlike some other Fulbright opportunities linked to an annual calendar).

Still have more questions? Here is a handy list of links to resources: