The Fulbright Program
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affections for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its body.”
- Albert Einstein -
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together”
- Woodrow Wilson -
Great wars have taught valuable lessons to humanity. It’s not surprising to see governments and organizations trying to build alliances in the aftermath of regional and global conflicts throughout the history. World War II - the biggest war fought over the most number of fronts all over the world –was even a louder wake-up call for nations. This was a call that made governments realize how important it is to build a global understanding and acceptance among nations. Many people hoped and believed that only such an understanding and collaboration would prevent similar tragedies from ever happening again.
J. William Fulbright, a freshman senator in the U.S. Congress in 1945, was also a firm believer in developing a mutual understanding among countries. His vision and efforts started a global program that had a significant impact on U.S. higher education. The Fulbright Act was approved by the Congress and signed into law by President Truman in 1946. According to U.S. Department of State, over 94,000 American “Fulbrighters” have studied, taught or done research in 140 countries around the world, and more than 155,000 internationals have come to United States and experienced the U.S. higher education since the program’s inception in 1946. Today the program continues to award approximately 4,500 new grants each year. (U.S. Department of State, 2002).
Although the program was build with the mission of promoting capacity for empathy and understanding among nations its launch was also prompted by a very practical purpose, namely the need to deal with the millions of pieces of war surplus equipment that remained overseas after the war.
II. The Historical Context
Exchange of Scholars in early U.S. Higher Education
There is no record of any state or federally funded scholar exchange program until the twentieth century. However, it wasn’t uncommon for American students and scholars to study in educational institutions abroad even early in the history of U.S. higher education. German universities were usually the early favorites. Benjamin Franklin had become the first American to visit a German university, when he went to Gottingen in 1766. In the 19th century many professors in the American universities, including the ones that had German origin had studied in...