We recently met Hillary Evans at our first Esteemed Fellows Dinner in San Francisco. When you first meet Hillary, she seems like your typical recent graduate. But when you ask her how she came to her new position at the Silicon Valley Center For Global Studies, you learn that while she was student, she lived and studied in some of the most far-fetched corners of the globe, including Russia, China and most recently, Tajikistan. During her senior year at Syracuse University, Hillary applied for a Fulbright Research Scholarship to study drug trafficking along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. We asked Hillary to tell us more about her fascinating Fulbright experience.
1. What inspired you to apply for a Fulbright in Tajikistan?
I’m extremely passionate about international education and public diplomacy efforts of engagement. What inspired me initially to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to Tajikistan was my itching travel bug (turns out, that never leaves some people!). I narrowed down a couple of languages that I wanted to learn and geographical regions I was most interested in, and was left with Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran. Since there are no fellowships for American students that I was qualified for in Iran and Afghanistan, the decision was made for me. As a student of International Affairs focused on CIS countries, I was able to prepare a solid research proposal on current, relevant issues.
Tajikistan shares a long, mountainous, sparsely-regulated border with opium-rich Afghanistan. Estimates of Tajikistan’s economic dependence upon profits from the trafficking of opium via the Northern Route ranges from 30-50% of their GDP, making this an incredibly relevant national security issue for the United States. So, given Tajikistan’s geopolitical importance, it seemed only natural to write a grant proposal on “The Economics and Politics of the Opium Trade from Afghanistan.”
Once I found out I was granted the research scholarship for 2011-12, I started networking like crazy in Washington, DC and set myself up with a nice arrangement with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a supporting institution. In exchange for social media/marketing/and press relations training and assistance at their office, they gave me access to their broad network of contacts in the field and included me on several UN border missions.
2. How has the experience impacted your career path and interests?
While I have yet to formally publish anything on my findings, I anonymously contributed to several articles written by journalists passing through demonstrating my ultimate conclusion: without the profits of the drug trade, Tajikistan would be a failed state, which is not in anyone’s interest. Questions that I am currently exploring and working to articulate diplomatically are: Why then spend so much money and resources on counter narcotics enforcement?; How are the counter narcotics training and US-funded programs affecting Tajikistan?; and What would be left, if all of the opium fields were eradicated in Afghanistan?
Had I taken credit for my contributions, it would have jeopardized my connections and positions. A friend of mine was a journalist who experienced the unfortunate wrath of the Tajik government, and was forced to pay some hefty bribes to leave the country for fear of being arrested. Naturally, I was cautious.
I’m now back in the U.S. and working as a contract manager for a U.S. State Department-funded distance education enhancement program in Pakistan. Our goal is to give them the pedagogical resources to expand their operations and outreach and make them more capable of providing affordable or free education. One of the ways we are doing this is by building a partnership between San Jose State University and Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad. Eventually, I hope to join the Foreign Service someday as a Cultural Affairs Officer, or Public Diplomacy Officer.
3. What advice would you give others applying for a Fulbright?
A Fulbright application differs greatly from country to country, and when selecting your destination and research topic, you should be aware of what the particular selected country/region has a demand for. You can do this by researching the US Embassy funded programs and by keeping yourself abreast of current international issues. This is not to say that if you choose something that does not fall under the “necessary” category, you will not be picked. Just keep in mind that the Public Affairs section of the US Embassy does the final selection.
When planning for a supporting host institution, or “affiliation,” make sure you’ve reached out to several people within that institution that are willing to support you. In order to secure mine, I drew up an informal “memorandum of understanding” and wrote where I could volunteer and help out in their organization in exchange for office space, contacts, resources, etc. People are usually open to free labor! If you need assistance on selecting one, the US Embassy Public Affairs office staff are generally willing to help, or I would be more than happy to be someone to bounce ideas off of – especially in CIS countries!
Another piece of advice that may go without saying for most people would be to show up to your interviews knowing more about your research topic than your panel (or at least appearing to with confidence). They don’t want to fund someone that they think might get there and just be wandering and lost the whole time. Show focus, determination, and passion for your topic. Indicate clear goals and timelines. You will not necessarily have to stick with it, everyone knows when you get in country things tend to shift. This is where many of my fellow Syracuse applicants did not pass. They wrote amazing grant proposals, but had no clear plans of how to deliver and conduct their research.
Lastly, know the language of the country you are applying to. This will make your application more competitive and your life a whole lot easier.
Hillary Evans earned her B.A. in International Relations, with a concentration in Europe and Eurasian countries, from the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. In her fall semester of 2009, she was accepted into the Library of Congress’ Open World Leadership Program, a prestigious international security studies work/study program in Washington, DC, where she interned at a public diplomacy organization specializing in Eurasia. Hillary is now the Contract Manager for the Pakistan Distance Education Enhancement Program at the Silicon Valley Center For Global Studies of the San Jose State University Research Foundation in California. She speaks fluent Russian, moderate Mandarin Chinese, and some Tajik/Farsi.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.
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Recently we had the opportunity to Skype with Reynaldo Rojo-Mendoza, an accomplished researcher with a keen interest in political behavior and Latin America. A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, Reynaldo is currently performing field research in Mexico on a Drugs, Security and Democracy (DSD) Fellowship. The DSD fellowship provides 3-12 months of support for research performed in Latin America or the Caribbean. Reynaldo’s dissertation is focused on drug violence in Mexico and its broader implications for democracy, which made the DSD Fellowship the ideal funding opportunity for his research. Reynaldo sat down with us to provide tips and advice for applying to the fellowship.
1. Why did you apply for the Drugs, Security and Democracy Fellowship and what did you propose to do?
I applied to the Drugs, Security and Democracy Fellowship because its theme squared perfectly with my dissertation topic and, more importantly, because it allowed me to propose a plan to conduct international fieldwork for up to 12 months. This unique combination is what made me set my sights on this particular fellowship.
My dissertation looks at the micro-level impact of criminal violence in Mexico, particularly at why and how violent victimization and trauma affects people’s beliefs, preferences, and actions. In the proposal, I laid out a research plan that included laboratory and field experiments in different research sites in Mexico, as well as conducting semi-structured interviews with victims, social activists, and public officials.
2. What do you think made your application stand out?
What I think made my application stand out was the clarity and feasibility of the research proposal. In a nutshell, my proposal had a straightforward research question, a concise theory, clear hypotheses to be tested, a summary of expected outcomes, and a detailed methods section. Since I knew the committee was interdisciplinary, I was careful to avoid political science jargon and kept the literature review to a minimum. Furthermore, I kept the fieldwork plan within the bounds of what I thought was feasible. I identified and listed my contacts in the field, explained how I would gain access to interviewees, described the key questions I would ask, and discussed the challenges that could arise. In short, my research proposal showed the committee that I had thought about the necessary steps to answer my research question, that I could convey my ideas clearly in non-technical language, and that I was ready to take my project to the field.
3. What advice would you give others applying to fellowships to support dissertation research?
First, I would say that talking to your advisor(s) about applying to fellowships is of utmost importance. This should happen very early in the process. In addition to their comments, consider that you will likely ask your advisor(s) to write you a letter of support for the fellowship, so they need to be familiar with your project well in advance of the deadline.
Second, ask your grad student peers or professors that are unfamiliar with your research to read your proposal (or parts of it) so they can give you fresh comments and suggestions. If possible, share your proposal with a seminar or discussion group. This is a great exercise that allows you to anticipate what the fellowship committee may think of the proposal.
Finally, read the fellowship application judiciously and fulfill all of the requirements to the letter. This may sound pretty obvious, but I cannot stress enough how important this is given how easy it is to overlook the fine print when you have a deadline. If the fellowship asks you to describe previous work you have done on the topic or the policy implications of your research, do it. If you have page limit, respect it. If you are asked to give names of contacts in the field, provide them with a list. The last thing you want is to get “desk-rejected” because you failed to follow the instructions of the application.
Reynaldo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. His fields of study are comparative politics and mass political behavior, and he specializes in political psychology and experimental methods. His dissertation looks at the psychological and behavioral impact of crime-related violence in Mexico and discusses its broader implications for democracy. His other research focuses on assessing the impact of donor-sponsored civic education programs in developing democracies and on methods for program evaluation. Prior to his doctoral studies, Reynaldo worked as a researcher at the Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias at San Diego State University, collaborated on a project on human rights, rule of law, and judicial reform in Latin America for Emeritus Professor Brian Loveman, and served as deputy director of immigration enforcement in Baja California for Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Migración. Reynaldo graduated with a M.A. in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University in 2008 and with a Bachelor of Laws from Universidad Anahuac (Mexico) in 2002.
To learn more about Reynaldo T. Rojo-Mendoza, his research and publications, and to view his CV, please visit: http://reyrojomendoza.com.
© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.
We had four fantastic seminars at Tufts, Harvard, MIT and BU this week, and one of the most common questions I was asked is will ProFellow have fellowships for non-U.S. citizens. The resounding answer is YES. In the past year we’ve come across a large number of fellowships that international applicants are eligible for. Considering how difficult it is to find these opportunities, we are working on a way to make it easy for ProFellow users to find them in our database when we launch this summer. In the meantime, here is just a small selection of fellowships and tips for international applicants.
You may have your heart set on a certain university for your graduate studies, but be flexible in your choices. Some universities offer full graduate fellowships to their students in certain disciplines and some are specific to international applicants. Yale University offers 20-25 annual Gruber Science Fellowships for students of any nationality pursuing a PhD in biomedical and biological sciences or in astronomy and astrophysics. Also the Harvard Kennedy School of Government provided us information on two fellowships, the Luksic Fellowships for Croatian students, and the Kokkalis Degree Program Fellowship for natives of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.
There are also a number of foundation fellowships for international applicants for either graduate study or research. The International Student Research Fellowships sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provide up to $43,000 to talented science and engineering students during their third, fourth, and fifth year of graduate school. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Research Awards offers funding to Canadians, permanent residents of Canada, and citizens of developing countries for research carried out in one or more developing countries. The AAUW International Fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Also, the Robert S. McNamara Fellowships Program provides support to young researchers working in academic and research institutions from eligible countries preparing a doctoral thesis.
There are also a number of professional fellowships for international applicants. The Community Solutions Program is a 4 month professional fellowship that allows Fellows to work in a U.S. nonprofit organization on topics such as transparency, conflict resolution, and women’s issues. Also the Acumen Fund Global Fellows Program is a social entrepreneurship fellowship for applicants of any nationality with 3-7 years work experience.
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The University of California, Riverside wants its undergraduate students to be more involved in campus research, and recently established a program to do just that. Announced earlier this month, the new Chancellor’s Research Fellowship (CRF) will support undergraduate student engagement in faculty mentored research and creative activity projects.
The Chancellor’s Research Fellowship is great opportunity for undergraduate students interested in pursuing graduate or professional school to gain relevant experience and stand out from the crowd. All applicants must create a research project proposal, including a description of their methodological approach.
The competition for the Chancellor’s Research Fellowship is currently open. Current UC Riverside sophomores and juniors in any academic discipline who are maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above are eligible to apply. The program will award up to 12 fellowships to undergraduate students in amounts as much as $5,000 for the 2012-13 academic year. Applications are due on April 13, 2012. If you’re interested in learning more about UC Riverside’s Chancellor’s Research Fellowship and how to apply, please click here.
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The International Rett Syndrome Foundation’s (IRSF) Basic Research Program offers postdoctoral fellowships for international biomedical research to promote the study of Rett syndrome (RTT). The purpose of the fellowship is to gain a better understanding of the underlying pathology of the disorder, ameliorate the symptoms and produce a cure.
About the 2011 Fellowship Recipients:
“The awarded basic research projects explore a range of topics from basic biology in gene regulation to understanding pathways involved in neuronal cell communication. Together, these types of studies will allow for identification of novel therapeutic targets in Rett syndrome.” Read more
IRSF post-doc fellowships are for two years and offer up-to $100,000 in funding. The fellowships are designed to assist post-doctoral researchers establish careers in fields relevant to Rett syndrome research and to obtain future funding from other agencies. Eligible researchers will have working knowledge of MeCP2, it’s role during normal brain development, target genes, relationship between patterns of expression and related proteins in the nervous system, etc.
To learn more about IRSF postdoctoral fellowships, please visit the website.
The Center for Jewish History, based in New York City, recently announced the expansion of the Prins Program for Emigrating Scholars, Artists and Writers, to provide new fellowships to junior and senior scholars and emerging artists and writers seeking permanent teaching and research positions in North America. The program was expanded with a $750,000 grant from The Vivian G. Prins Foundation.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the program will support those who wish to pursue advanced study and original research in the extensive collections of the Center’s five distinguished partners: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Read more.
In addition to the Prins Fellowship, the Center supports scholars at various levels, including the only National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Scholar Fellowship granted to a Jewish studies institution; graduate and undergraduate research fellowships; a Visiting Scholars Program; and the Steinberg Emerging Jewish Filmmaker Fellowship.
The College of William & Mary announced today that it will begin offering new faculty fellowships for tenure-track faculty in the Mason School of Business accounting program. Thanks to a generous $3 million donation from alumnus Frank J. Wood ’74, the new fellowships will help to attract and retain top talent and increase the competitiveness of the business school.
The Frank J. Wood ’74 Faculty Fellowships will recognize and reward tenure-track faculty with summer faculty fellowship research awards. Peer institutions offer similar rewards for faculty research, and the Mason School’s ability to offer similar opportunities will enhance the accounting faculty’s development — and by implication their effectiveness in the classroom — giving them incentive to remain and grow at William & Mary instead of leaving to advance their careers at other institutions.
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The Ikerbasque Foundation for Science provides Visiting Fellowships for scientists from all parts of the globe to undertake collaborative research at centres and universities in the Basque Country of Spain for up to one year. The Visiting Fellowships aim to reinforce the System of Science of Basque Country, attracting exceptional scientists in order to consolidate the Basque Region as a European Reference Point for excellence in research.
The Fellowships require a joint application from a Research Group from one of the Universities or the Research Centres of the Basque Science System (RVCTI), and an experienced researcher with a PhD completed at least 4 years before the current call date.
A number of groups are seeking applicants. The research group of Prof. Conklin based in the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, University of the Basque Country, in beautiful San Sebastián, Spain, posted that they could support an application from a researcher in Music Informatics.
This fifth call for proposals for Visiting Fellowships is open until 31 October, 2011. They are seeking 20 senior researchers and are particularly interested in female applicants.
Can you picture yourself spending a year in Northern Spain, “basque-ing” in the sun? Apply now!
Join the crowd
Our step-by-step guide for a competitive fellowship application
1. Create a plan
2. Project proposal ideas
3. Talk to current / former fellows
4. Prepare an effective resumé
5. Find a host institution
6. Write a compelling personal statement
7. Prepare a strong project proposal
8. Get great recommendation letters (P1)
9. Get great recommendation letters (P2)
10. Nail the individual and group interviews