Getting to Know Your Funder: Fulbright IIE

Hi everyone!

Well, this is blog post number two and I’m in the midst of researching the application process for the Fulbright IIE. Let me tell you, this research endeavor is made significantly more challenging by rolling blackouts and unexpected cuts in the WIFI. These additional circumstances are all par for the course when you’re doing research in East Africa, which just means I’m getting a feel for the working environment even before my dissertation work officially begins!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am applying for a Fulbright IIE to support my doctoral research on global health funding patterns related to cervical cancer prevention and care in Tanzania. The Fulbright IIE is open to “graduate level candidates” but, in order to be a competitive applicant, these candidates “must demonstrate a capacity for independent study or research, together with a general knowledge of the history, culture, and current events of the country to which they are applying.” The crux of the Fulbright IIE is to promote educational and cultural exchange, as well as facilitate collaboration in the context of academic inquiry. I am hopeful that my project, which is both interdisciplinary in nature and policy-relevant, might be a good fit for this criteria.

However, as I delve further into the planning process for my Fulbright IIE application, I’m getting a bit scared by the statistics I encounter regarding successful applications. For example, the success rate for Fulbright IIE applications to Tanzania is low – at just under 10% – for the past two years. I cannot help but consider the fact that the bulk of applicants probably have far more in-country experience than I do in terms of travel and language training. It’s hard to not be a bit demoralized by these statistics but I am certainly trying my best to stay positive!

The grant period for a Fulbright IIE would be 9 months subject to approval by the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, which is actually right down the road from where I am staying! I will require a language evaluation and letter(s) of affiliation from organizations, individuals and academic institutions I’m planning on collaborating with during my research. The scariest hoop to jump through, at least for me, is the research clearance component of the application. Not only will I need to apply to Rutgers IRB but also to Tanzania’s COSTECH research clearance agency and the National Institute for Medical Research. That’s three different research clearance applications!! Yikes!!

All in all, I’m looking forward to the Fulbright IIE application process but I’m trying to stay very level-headed about my chances of success. I guess only time and effort will tell!

Until next week!

– Helen

About Helen Elizabeth Olsen

I'm a doctoral student living in the New York area.
This entry was posted in Doctoral Funding Mentoring Program and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Getting to Know Your Funder: Fulbright IIE

  1. Samantha Lee says:

    Nice job Helen. In addition to juggling complex application components, your application essay will need to demonstrate your ability to develop an idea for a project and carry it out successfully. A critical component of strong proposal is connecting the project with the mission, objectives, and goals of both the IIE Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the host country. Be sure to check out our Fulbright IIE tutorial available on Sakai. The 2015 on-campus deadline is September 18, 2015, at 9am!

  2. Jen Novikov says:

    Helen, anxieties and fears are a normal component of the application season. I suggest you channel your energies into shaping up your project rather than obsess about the chances, statistics or bureacratic hurdles. You may need to show the IIE that (1) you are an independent researcher who understand what she wants to do, and (2) you are familair with the research site. To provide evidence, think of the past projects and experiences, talk about the efforts you invested to learn about the region. Why are this region and your subject important of attention? Since your type of cancer you focus on is very much gendered, connect gender to health care and further to life chances. How would you project make our understanding of life of women in Tanzania better and more informed?

    • Helen Elizabeth Olsen says:

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks so much for those suggestions. Obviously, since I’m focused on reproductive cancers there is a clearly gendered component. However, I am not sure I feel comfortable or ethical making claims about improving people’s lives. Particularly since my work is largely centered on existing systems of care rather than making policy recommendations or improvements. It’s definitely a difficult balance that I take really seriously.


      • Jen Novikov says:

        Excellent point re: comfort and ethics. Western research may sometimes reek of white superiority and civilizational burden, so you are right to be cautious. Do note I suggested looking at improving our UNDERSTANDING of lives, not LIVES per se (however, sad and obnoxious it sounds). Shortly, try to focus on why should IIE bother with sponsoring your project. What is there to learn that is unique? What details may be revealed about the general functioning of care, be it in Africa or elsewhere? How do the legacies of empire/colonialism influence the health care provisions? Good luck.

      • Helen Elizabeth Olsen says:

        Thanks so much, Jen! I really appreciate the input and will definitely consider the community engagement and broader impacts aspects of the IIE application as I move forward.

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