Tag: Fulbright Scholar Program

Lawrence’s de Meij earns 2019-20 Fulbright honor; 58th in school’s history

Milou (Emmylou) de Meij performs at the piano.
Milou (Emmylou) de Meij ’19 is pursuing a double degree, one in Russian studies and one in music performance. She will put both to work as a Fulbright scholar in Latvia.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University continues its strong tradition of producing Fulbright scholars.

It was announced Thursday that Milou (Emmylou) de Meij ’19 has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award, the 58th time a Lawrence student has been so honored over the past four decades.

She will teach English in an assistantship position in Latvia during the 2019-20 academic year. The selections for Fulbright honors came from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

De Meij, of Bozeman, Montana, is one of more than 2,100 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research, and teach abroad for the coming academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields. 

De Meij, who is pursuing degrees in both Russian studies and music performance (piano), will work with an English instructor in Latvia.

She said she also will be pursuing a research project studying folk music in the region.

De Meij previously studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, as a Gilman scholar. That experience led her to the Fulbright program, and her interests in both music and Russian culture and history proved to be an ideal fit.

“While I was abroad in Russia, I took a Soviet music history course, and while doing research for a paper, learned about the singing revolution in the Baltic states where Latvians literally used singing as a means for peaceful protest against the Soviet Union,” de Meij said. “Thus, as a music major, I’m really thrilled to be able to experience a culture so intimately tied to music and singing.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Lawrence University through Kia Thao in the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement.

Information on the Fulbright and other fellowship and scholarship opportunities here.

Lawrence earlier this year landed on a prestigious list honoring the top-producing Fulbright schools. Each year the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

“Getting recognized as one of the top-producing institutions is an acknowledgement of the great things Lawrence students can achieve,” Thao said at the time.

Lawrence has had 57 student Fulbright recipients since 1976. De Meij will be No. 58.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.  Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence University Political Scientist Awarded Fulbright Grant to Study Role of NGOs in Refugee Resettlement in War-Torn Sierra Leone

For more than 20 years, political scientist Claudena Skran has held an intense interest in refugee issues. This fall, she will embark on a research project in Africa that will put her in the middle of an ongoing struggle to rebuild lives and resettle refugees in a country ravaged by war.

An associate professor of government at Lawrence University, Skran has been awarded a $60,000 grant by the Fulbright Scholar Program to conduct a study on the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in refugee resettlement in post-civil war Sierra Leone.

Arguably the poorest country in the world, Sierra Leone is dealing with the aftermath of a brutal 10-year-long civil war that left 50,000 citizens dead, destroyed 300,000 homes and 80% of the country’s schools and forced nearly three-quarters of a million people to flee their homes. Since the war’s end in 2001 and national elections in 2002, an estimated 245,000 refugees have returned to the war-torn country, while more than 200,000 others who were displaced have made their way back home.

Among the nearly one-half million returnees are thousands of people with special needs, including amputees, orphans, former child soldiers and women who were victims of rape and sexual abuse.

“Under any circumstances, the task of assisting so many returning people would be difficult, but for Sierra Leone, which had the lowest ranking among 177 countries on the 2004 Human Development Index, it is proving to be especially daunting,” said Skran. “These people are now trying to rebuild their lives in a country that has been shattered.”

According to Skran, the new Sierra Leone government is attempting to reconstruct a economic, political and social infrastructure in a country with a grim profile. The annual per capita income is $150, the literacy rate is just 36% and life expectancy is less than 35 years of age. Only two percent of the country’s population is 60 years of age or older and with 250 of 1,000 children dying before the age of five, it has the world’s worst infant mortality rate. Because of the sheer enormity of the situation, says Skran, NGOs will play a vital role in the process of refugee resettlement and reintegration in Sierra Leone.

“Local NGOs and the local affiliates of international NGOs are working hard to create important links to the major international agencies that are involved in Sierra Leone, including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” said Skran.

Using the capital city of Freetown as the base of her operation and working closely with the Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centre (SLOIC) Skran will turn her research project on the role of NGOs in world politics in Sierra Leone into a case study. She will focus her study on four major questions: organization, governance, goals and impact.

“I plan to investigate how NGOs in Sierra Leone are organized, how they are funded, how they are governed, how they interact with each other as well as with the local and national governments,” said Skran. “I am also interested in seeing what impact they are having on the resettlement and reintegration of refugees and how they are specifically addressing those victims with special needs, especially the former child soldiers and the female victims of sexual abuse.”

Skran has conducted extensive research on refugee interests in Europe and is the author of the book “Refugees in Interwar Europe: The Emergence of a Regime” in which she analyzed the major players in the early days of the international refugee arena, including private volunteer agencies, the forerunners to today’s NGOs.

She also has conducted field research in Central America, studying displaced people in El Salvador and refugee issues in Mexico and Belize. Most recently, while teaching at Lawrence’s London Centre, Skran met with asylum seekers and natives of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and other former British colonies in Africa.

“Most of my earlier research has focused on the role of NGOs at the international level, but with this Fulbright grant, I’ll be able to shift my perspective a bit and consider how NGOs help or hinder refugee resettlement and development at the local and national levels,” Skran explained. “The people at the SLOIC and other organizations that I have discussed this project with are all excited it, especially since a lack of funding prevents them from conducting any kind of independent research themselves.”

Skran joined the Lawrence faculty in 1990. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University, where she was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1983. She earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in international relations at Oxford University.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program provides grants for teaching and research positions in more than 140 countries worldwide and is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES). Skran was selected from research proposals submitted in disciplines ranging from the sciences and humanities to the fine arts.

Lawrence University Political Scientist Awarded Fulbright Grant to Study Pension Reforms in China

Lawrence University political scientist Mark Frazier has been awarded a $59,500 grant by the Fulbright Scholar Program to conduct research on pension reform initiatives in China.

Beginning in October, Frazier will spend six months in China investigating different strategies that local government officials are implementing to deal with the financial and political obstacles created by recently enacted pension reforms.

First established in 1951 under Mao Tse-Tung and covering a mere 20,000 retirees who met all the necessary requirements at the time, China’s pension program underwent its first major overhaul in 40 years in the early 1990s. The long-standing practice of retired state workers receiving pensions from their place of employment was reformed into a program where the costs of retirement benefits was shifted from the government to individual employers and workers.

“Chinese officials are finding themselves caught between competing forces,” said Frazier, assistant professor of government and the Luce Assistant Professor of East Asian Political Economy at Lawrence. “They are attempting to establish the country’s first viable social safety net, while at the same time, they face pressure from international organizations like the World Bank to reduce the government’s provision of pension benefits by encouraging people to save for their own retirements.”

Local governments are now facing the financial realities of collecting less in payroll taxes than is necessary to cover the payments to current pension recipients, much less future retirees. In less than 15 years, the number of Chinese retirees eligible for pension benefits has quadrupled, growing from 10 million in 1990 to 40 million today. The problem is further compounded by the fact there are no pension laws in China, only a series of regulations which create considerable latitude among provincial and municipal authorities in how pensions are administered.

Working with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Frazier will focus his research on four provincial capitals, including Beijing. Through interviews with officials from the social insurance and pension departments of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, enterprise managers and individual pensioners, as well as published government documents, Frazier will study the different strategies administrators are using to manage pension regulations and whether pension recipients are in fact receiving their legally entitled benefits.

“When any government makes changes to what it once promised as benefits to retirees, it is a very risky political move. This is why social security reform here is considered the proverbial ‘third rail of American politics,'” said Frazier. “In China, it’s true that the leadership doesn’t have to worry about a voter backlash, but the stakes in pension reform are arguably higher. How the government handles the financial tasks of supporting a rapidly growing elderly population will heavily influence what the Chinese economy looks like in the future, and even what Chinese people demand of their government.

“This is an exceptional and exciting opportunity to conduct research at a crucial stage in China’s economic reforms,” Frazier added. “I owe a great deal of thanks to many colleagues at Lawrence who supported my grant application and who have made it possible for me carry out the research. I’m looking forward to sharing the results with my classes and encouraging students to pursue their own research abroad.”

Frazier, who speaks and reads Mandarin Chinese, joined the Lawrence government department in 2001 in a new faculty position created under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. He is the author of the 2002 book, “The Making of the Chinese Industrial Workplace: State, Revolution and Labor Management,” which traces the origins of the “iron rice bowl” of comprehensive cradle-to-grave benefits and lifetime employment in Chinese factories.

A visitor to China a dozen times in the past 10 years, Frazier serves as a senior advisor for the Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California-Berkeley.