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Week of September 19, 2011

International Institute funds student research following budget cuts

The International Institute (II) provided special funding this fall to doctoral students impacted by the U.S. Department of Education’s cancelation of the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program for fiscal year 2011. The institute funded seven students in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 who would not otherwise have had sufficient resources to complete their research abroad.

“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,” International Institute Director Ken Kollman says. “From the beginning, the II was committed to finding ways to support these doctoral students who would face significant educational and career setbacks without this key funding to support their research.”

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. 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 news of the cancelation of the Fulbright-Hays DDRA competition was devastating,” says applicant Jeremy Ledger, a doctoral student in the Department of History in LSA. “Cutting this program has jeopardized a lot of projects.”

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. 

“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,” says Nora Hauk, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology in LSA 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.”

Kollman says he was pleased that II was able to provide financial support for some students this year. “This is not sustainable in the long term,” he says. “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 2012-13 will still take place, and II staff is available to advise students preparing applications for this fall’s deadline. For more information about applying, go to



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