|English edition by Dr. Proadpran Punyabukkana Pitsatorn, Fulbright ‘96
Fulbright: Why the name?
“If I’m not exceptionally bright, may be just half-bright, can I apply for a Fulbright grant?” A misconception of the word “full” with “bright” confuses many, particularly in Thailand. Still some do not know how “Fulbright” originated.
The name of the foundation and the scholarship “Fulbright” is after its founder, the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (1905 - 1995) who had a significant role in initiating international educational exchange programs in the U.S. Senator Fulbright, raised and educated in Arkansas, had never been aboard until 1925 when he was awarded Rhodes scholarship to study at a world-renowned institute in the U.K, Oxford University.
The experience during his 3-year student life and the chance to extensively explore Europe had rooted Senator Fulbright’s belief in the importance of having various perspectives from people around the world. Senator Fulbright brought with him this inspiration when he became a Democrat Senator from Arkansas.
During his first year as a Senator, he proposed to the U.S. Congress an international educational exchange program, to be funded in part by World War II reparations and foreign loan repayments to the U.S. The program passed the Congress and was signed into law by President Truman on August 1, 1946. Later in 1961, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate passed the 1961 Fulbright-Hays Act. (Senator Fulbright and Ohio Representative Wayne Hays proposed the draft act to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress respectively.)
It was Senator Fulbright’s conviction that compassion for one another could grow from within. When people from different countries had opportunities to live closely together, learn from one another, and understand each other, that compassion would ultimately lead to desire to live in peace and harmony.
Fulbright cultural and educational programs offer windows of opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas, to share beliefs and perspectives. There are more than 250,000 Fulbright grantees to date, be they professors, researchers, politicians, and more. They comprise of Americans and citizens from over 150 countries around the world. Many grantees became national leaders. Examples are Brazil’s former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Italy’s former Prime Minister Lamberto Dini. Several are word leaders like the former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Gali. Amongst foremost U.S. Fulbright alumni, we have President Derek Bok of Harvard University, Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, and Anna Moffo, a talented opera vocalist.
Fulbright’s unfailing endeavors have been the source of many progresses in academic, cross-cultural awareness, as well as mutual understanding between the United States and every country. “Fulbrighters” outstandingly assume prominent roles in various circles around the world. It is not such a surprise that the program is very well-recognized and is highly privileged. Those Fulbrighters have gained broader opportunities in helping to reinforce greater development and cooperation at national and international levels.
Fulbright Thailand: a Harmonized Collaboration
Thailand is one of the 50 countries that have a cost-sharing agreement with the Fulbright program administrated through Thailand-U.S. Educational Foundation which was founded in 1950. This foundation exemplifies the binationalism of the two countries. As a result of the agreement, the U.S. and Thai governments continuously grant financial supports to the Fulbright educational exchange activities. Today the annual allocation supported by the U.S. government reaches US $745, 000. The Thai government’s contribution was at 2 million baht in 1989 and grew to 5 million Baht in 1997. The Thai government also supports the Foundation by providing a 3 million Baht loan for new office establishment. Other forms of supports include, for example, additional funding for grantees’ tuition fees, airfares and accommodation expenses.
Fulbright Program administration is collaboration between the two countries in the form of a Binational Board of Directors consisting of seven Thai and seven U.S. representatives. The Board is chaired by the Director-General of the Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Thai delegates include senior officers from Thai government agencies and representatives from the Fulbright Alumni Association. The U.S. delegates include senior officers from the U.S. embassy, scholars, and executives from U.S. private enterprises based in Thailand. The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand has graciously assumed an honorary chairman position of the Fulbright Board of Directors each year. The balance of this binationalism is traditionally and rigorously practiced in every aspect of the program administration; that is grant selection process, interviews, orientations, meetings, and more.
Since its inception, the Foundation has granted more than 1,400 scholarships to the Thais and over 400 scholarships to the Americans. Many of the Thai Fulbright alumni become prominent figures in education, government agencies, state enterprises, and public sectors. Prime examples include Privy councilor, Dr. Kasem Watanachai, MD.; Former President of Ministry of University Affairs, Professor Kasem Suwannakul; Former President of Thai Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Ajva Taulananda; Congressman, Professor Wijit Srisa-an; Renowned- educator, Professor Sumon Amornwiwat, and former Government Spokesperson, Mr. Jakkapob Penkae.
Fulbright: More than a Degree
Fulbright offers not only graduate degree scholarships, but also several educational opportunities to those in academic circle and private sectors. There is a wide range of programs from which to choose such as doctoral research program, lecturing/research program, administrator exchange program, non-degree program for mid-career professional, etc. In addition to the educational advantages given to Thai graduates, scholars, and those who are interested in gaining academic experience in the U.S., the
Fulbright program also supports higher education institutions by allowing U.S. scholars who are awarded Thai Fulbright scholarship to lecture and research at Thai institutions. Through this program, the Thai institutions have opportunities to expand their cooperation networks by inviting U.S. Fulbright scholars who are positioned in other countries to share expertise and exchange ideas.
To make sure that Fulbright Program allows for opportunities to learn and nourish cross-cultural awareness, U.S. Fulbright grantees are encouraged to learn Thai language in order to communicate effectively with the Thais and to volunteer in community services as much as possible.
Privilege for “Fulbrighters”
Above and beyond the recognitions of being one of the highest calibers, members of “Fulbright family” receive special access to the network of Fulbrighters worldwide through Fulbright conferences and get-togethers. These events widen Fulbright connections and networks, and foster collaboration amongst the Fulbrighters, who share common experiences and expertise with a vision to create future cooperation and academic advancement to the world society.
Fulbright: Past, Present, and Future
From the unswerving “conviction” and profound determination of one person in promoting peace and understanding among nations, Fulbright’s foundation was firmly rooted. Its academic cooperation networks have expanded to people of different races, cultures and languages in over 150 countries since the day it began in 1946. The world today is a better place as a result of these exchanges and understanding. As long as we can fulfill Senator J. William Fulbright’s vision for tomorrow, the world will continue to be a better place for all of us.
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