Image: Syrian Refugees in Greece

The Fulbright Program Works to Develop a Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

Founded in the aftermath of World War II, the Fulbright Program has always been about fostering mutual understanding and solving global challenges. Today, there are more refugees, fleeing crises like the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic State, than at any time since the last World War. In light of this global crisis, the Fulbright Specialist Program – which allows U.S. Scholars to take on short term projects overseas –developed positions for scholars who could assist in a response.

Quotation from Fulbright Specialist Dr. Nicole DubusTwo Fulbright Specialist grantees were sponsored to Iceland and Greece for work directly linked to the refugee crisis. Dr. Joseph Bock of Kennesaw State University in Georgia was requested by the city government of Athens to help manage the flow of refugees arriving, via the Aegean islands, and creating spontaneous camps in the squares and parks of the city. Dr. Bock helped to set up a system of needs and resource assessment to provide assistance toward solving the overwhelming influx. “I feel like the Fulbright Program has taken a really good step with this approach of a grant that brings people in who have a certain kind of knowledge base and can apply it to real life problems in other countries. I think that’s a wonderful application of the Fulbright methodology,” said Dr. Bock.

At the other end of Europe, Dr. Nicole Dubus of San Jose State University visited Iceland where she was hosted by the Ministry of Welfare. Her mission was to work with community leaders, providers and educators in four cities to prepare the island for the arrival and resettlement of a growing number of refugees. Dr. Dubus worked most closely with three city managers who are expected to take leading roles over the next months. In each case the grantees have remained in contact with their hosts while also enriching their home university instruction. “Fulbright has allowed me to be part of a historical moment in world history where Iceland is positioned to develop a refugee resettlement process that learns from other countries’ challenges, and can become an exemplar as our world faces heartbreaking tragedies of forced migrations. I hope to stay in contact with colleagues here, to be available as needed, and to bear witness to their progress in welcoming refugees."

Congress created the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government, in 1946. IIE has proudly administered the Fulbright Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, since its inception. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars, and 900 visiting scholars receive awards, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals. Approximately 310,000 "Fulbrighters" have participated in the Program since it was created.