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Fulbright Public Policy Fellowships

13 Dec Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments

In 2012, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program inaugurated a new fellowship program:  the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowships (FPPF).  The FPPF is a professional development fellowship aimed at graduate students (and those who have recently completed a master’s degree) who are seeking to combine area studies expertise with international policy work.  Given the strong interest in public policy and international perspectives at Mason – and the D.C. metro area generally – it’s not surprising that Mason graduate students have been quick to take notice of this new opportunity.


Who is Eligible to Apply for the FPPF Program?

Eligible candidates for the FPPF must:

  • Be U.S. citizens by November 1 of the academic year in which they plan to apply.  So for example, this year applications are due by February 1, 2013, and applicants must be U.S. citizens by November 1, 2012.)
  • Have a Master’s degree with a focus that is applicable to public policy, OR a J.D., OR be currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program prior to the beginning of the grant period in the fall.  Applicants who already hold a Master’s or J.D. degree are eligible if they meet other eligibility criteria.  Applicants who hold a Ph.D. (in any field) at the time of application are NOT eligible.
  • Have at least two years of full-time, professional work experience in policy-related fields.  This experience can potentially include internships, service work, or programs such as Peace Corps so long as the work in question legitimately matches this description (full time, professional, policy-related.)

If you have determined that you meet these basic eligibility requirements, it’s time to take a closer look at the FPPF program.  Beyond the eligibility requirements, what are they looking for?  To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at what the FPPF experience consists of.


What does a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow Do?

Each year the FPPF is offered in a handful of countries around the world, which are listed at the program web site.  Applicants to the program must focus their application on one country, though they are also permitted to list one backup choice on the application.  Fulbright Public Policy Fellows will serve in professional placements in foreign government ministries or institutions in the host country.  In most cases their work assignment will fill the role of a “special assistant” to a senior level government official.  This professional assignment will take up about 32 hours of the fellow’s time per week.  The fellow is to spend the remaining 8 hours engaged in an independent academic research/study project of their own design.


What Does the FPPF Program Look for in Candidates?

The most preferred candidates for the FPPF are those who have some policy-relevant professional experience AND possess a depth of knowledge of the host country and/or region – including an understanding of both the local culture and the major policy issues both domestically and internationally.

Depth of knowledge can be demonstrated in a variety of ways:

  • Academic study – a degree, certificate, or minor in an area studies program (such as Latin American Studies or Middle Eastern Studies); a substantial record of coursework and/or academic research focused on a particular country or region.
  • Language study – people who are serious about becoming an expert in a particular country or region typically study the language(s) of that country.  For some of the FPPF countries, a high level of language proficiency is required.  Even where it is not, the most qualified candidates typically have at least some degree of language proficiency.
  • Overseas study, research, or work experience.  A review of the successful applicants from last year’s competition reveals that nearly all have some prior experience in the country (or at least the region) to which they are posted – through study abroad, Peace Corps or other international work experiences, or through international fellowship or scholarship programs such as Boren and Critical Languages.
  • Personal ties.  In some cases exposure to the country comes through family heritage or other personal ties (such as having spent part of one’s life in the country.)  Candidates who have such ties should not be afraid to reveal them – they add a human dimension and help to explain the source of your commitment.  But personal ties alone are not enough – they are only a point of departure.  A successful candidate must also present a strong portfolio of academic and professional experience.
  • Knowledge of one or more policy issues that are particularly pressing for the host country, or for relations between the U.S. and the host country

Prospective applicants to the FPPF are strongly encouraged to read the profiles of fellows selected in the 2012 competition to gain a sense of what this “depth of knowledge” looks like in practice.


How is the FPPF Different from Other Fulbright Awards?

The FPPF is only one of the various awards offered under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, each of which has specific preferences in terms of what it looks for in candidates.  With regard to the FPPF, one important difference is that whereas most other Fulbright competitions accept — or even give priority to — candidates who have had limited opportunity to live, work, or study internationally, such experiences will generally be positive factors for FPPF candidates.  Second, while other types of Fulbright grants tend to prefer candidates at an earlier stage of their educational and professional development, the FPPF is intended for candidates with advanced degrees and relevant professional experience.

Applicants who are not a good fit for the FPPF may wish to consider other opportunities available through the Fulbright program – or to peruse the list of international opportunities available on this web site, which  includes a number of programs offering international professional development experiences.


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