Tag Archives: Economic Development

Dumb Phones and Boda Bodas: Proving the World Wrong One Call at a Time

By Ty Van Herweg, 2015-2016, Uganda

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Ty Van Herweg, 2015-2016, Uganda (right), and CEO & Founder of Wakabi, with Jagwe Rogers, COO, and Joseph Onguti, Wakabi’s official trainer

It all started when I was sitting with my mentor, Dr. Thane Kreiner, at Santa Clara University. I was deconstructing my Global Social Benefit Fellowship experience and explaining all of these epiphanies I had about the interconnectedness of last mile distribution in Uganda. Suddenly he remarked, “You are trying to start an Uber for rural Africa.” That’s when everything changed. That’s when my purpose was carved into stone.

I immediately scrounged for all the various opportunities like a mad man. Fulbright became the best option. Sure, it was prestigious and extremely competitive, but it was my only reasonable option to test the business model I had dreamed up. I submitted my application after much rigor and editing, and prayed for the best. I started collaborating with two engineers at Santa Clara University as the waiting game commenced. I was the igniter of a crazy idea, and the energy that came with it was beyond anything I had ever felt before.

In April I received good news; Fulbright gave me a shot and offered me a grant, and I was ready to do just about anything and everything to make Wakabi a reality. I was given the gift of a low-risk, nine-month pilot. There is no better opportunity for a young and broke social entrepreneur.

We Are the “They” That Can Change the World: My Hult Prize Experience

By Tenele Dlamini, 2015-2017, Swaziland

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Tenele Dlamini, 2015-2017, Swaziland (left), attending the 2016 Hult Prize Regionals in San Francisco, California – the only participating all-female team

I have always been passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. Studying economics as an undergrad exposed me to the field’s power and how it can be used as a tool to transform people’s lives. This passion led me to apply to the Fulbright Program. Now, I’m fortunate enough to be a Fulbright Student enrolled in the Graduate Program of Economic Development (GPED) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

This past academic year, I had the honor of representing my university at the 2016 Hult Prize Challenge Regionals, in San Francisco, California. The Hult Prize Challenge is an initiative of The Clinton Foundation. It is an annual case competition open to university students from all over the world that they enter through their universities. Each year presents a new challenge of global concern that students have to solve. The challenge is mostly a way to mobilize social entrepreneurship as a method to solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

Announcing a New Fulbright Opportunity for Public Policy Students and Young Professionals

On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, we are pleased to announce the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship – a new component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and a new opportunity for public policy students and young professionals.

The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship will allow U.S. citizens to contribute to the strengthening of the public sector abroad by serving in professional placements within foreign government ministries or institutions while simultaneously carrying out an academic research/study project.  The fellowship will help advance public policy research agendas, fosters mutual understanding and builds lasting ties between the U.S. and partner countries. 

Selected Fulbright Students will work side-by-side with the citizens of other countries to tackle the toughest public policy problems of the day.  This new exchange is the vanguard of international public diplomacy, as it leverages the excellence of the Fulbright program to achieve global development objectives.

Fulbright Public Policy Fellows will serve in partner country governments, which include:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • The Dominican Republic
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia

The U.S. Department of State and partner country governments will coordinate professional placements for candidates in public policy areas including, but not limited to, public health, education, agriculture, justice, energy, environment, public finance, economic development, housing and communications.

Candidates must be in receipt of a master’s or J.D. degree by the beginning of the Fellowship (Summer 2012) or be currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program.  Applicants must apply At-Large and have at least two years of work experience in public policy-related fields.  Final selection will be made by the Presidentially-appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

More information, including complete eligibility requirements, please contact Theresa Granza, [email protected] or Walter Jackson, [email protected].  For more information on how to apply, please visit https://us.fulbrightonline.org/applynow.html.

Applications for the 2012-13 competition will be accepted from November 4, 2011 through February 1, 2012; Fulbright Public Policy Fellows will begin their assignments in summer/fall 2012.

Learning About Solar Energy with an Economic Lens in Bangladesh, By Holly Battelle, 2010-2011, Bangladesh

My Fulbright research has taken me to all corners of Dhaka and to some of the most remote places in Bangladesh. Solar technology was first used here in rural areas not connected to the national electric grid. Most of these off-grid homes use kerosene hurricanes for light, which can be expensive, low quality and have negative health impacts. As an alternative to kerosene, some organizations in Bangladesh provide small loans to households for solar home systems (SHS). The systems can provide an average of six hours of electricity for a household to power light bulbs, small fans or TVs in some cases.

My most memorable and rewarding days in Bangladesh have been spent in the countryside biking on narrow dirt paths flanked by never-ending rice paddies, hiking through beautiful green scenery, or sharing a water taxi with locals to talk about SHS. The rural villagers I’ve spent time with and the families with SHS are some of the kindest people I’ve met. I am often the first American they have ever seen, and it’s been an amazing experience to talk about solar or local culture over a cup of tea or cha.  For every question I ask locals, I respond to a question about myself, my family, research and country.

When not in the countryside, I’ve spent my time learning about the budding urban solar industry in Dhaka. Solar is becoming more popular in Dhaka due to new policies and because of frequent power outages. When the power goes out, homes and businesses will usually run a diesel generator. Many residences, however, are turning to solar to supplement their generators.

Based on my economics background, the Fulbright Program has allowed me to explore solar – a completely new interest and area of study for me. In addition to learning about the solar industry in Bangladesh, I have been doing both urban and rural solar cost estimates to determine how soon homes and apartment buildings can break even by investing in solar compared to kerosene and generator alternatives. I strongly encourage all applicants and future grantees to take advantage of their academic and professional backgrounds to discover new interests during their Fulbright year.

My general advice for study or research applicants:

  • Spend time thinking about who or which organization you’d like your host affiliation to be and what your expectations will be when you arrive.  Because it often takes many emails and phone calls to get in touch with a potential host, you should start early in thinking about your Fulbright application. Having a host that is excited about your research and who is willing to support you can really make a huge difference, especially in the beginning. For countries like Bangladesh, try getting in touch with previous Fulbrighters. Ask them if they know anything about your potential host or if they can give you suggestions. When communicating with your potential host, try to be as clear as possible about your expectations and whether or not they will be able to meet them.
  • Be flexible and open to modifying, expanding, focusing and perhaps changing your Fulbright project. This is one of the best parts of having a Fulbright grant. Technology, policies and cities constantly change, and a great deal can change from the time when you apply for your Fulbright to the time when you arrive. Roll with the changes and take advantage of having the flexibility to modify your research as needed.
  • Try hard to learn local languages. Since so much of Bangladeshi culture is intertwined with the language, some of the most rewarding moments during my Fulbright grant have been when I’ve been speaking Bangla. Even though I often struggle to explain myself in Bangla, the effort is always appreciated and can never be fully translated by someone else.

Top photo: Holly Battelle, 2010-2011, Bangladesh, sharing a water taxi with locals en route to a village with solar home systems (SHS)

Bottom photo: Holly Battelle, 2010-2011, Bangladesh, on top of her apartment building in Dhaka which has 1 KW of solar panels

An Education: Lessons from Rural China, By Cary Lin, 2010-2011, China

When the Airbus A320 began its descent towards Guiyang Dragon’s Cave Airport, I strained in my aisle seat to look out the window at what would become my home in China for the next ten months. The low-hanging clouds soon betrayed tiers of rice paddies etched into verdant hills, framed by Limestone Mountains cut precisely in the shape of Hershey’s Kisses. Ears popping and eyes closed, I mentally projected myself into the landscape below: I was a young girl sloshing through that field, trailing my mother and grandmother, hands and cheeks muddy.

The jolt of the plane landing on the runway soon brought me back to myself. Guizhou, landlocked and underdeveloped, is home to a number of the 55 state-designated ethnic minorities, such as the Miao, Dong and Buyi. As one of the first China Fulbright student fellows affiliated in Guizhou Province, I studied female educational opportunities in rural ethnic minority areas at Guizhou University in conjunction with my advisor at Beijing Normal University. My research eventually illustrated that the rift in educational quality and opportunity between urban and rural areas is enormous and persistent, and I had the chance to witness it firsthand.

I remember a particularly memorable trip I took into the countryside.  In December, I had the fortune of meeting with a group of school-aged girls enrolled in extracurricular English classes. Being of Asian descent, they at first could not believe I was American; why, I looked just like them! I told them that America was home to lots of different kinds of people and that I was a hua qiao, a Chinese term that essentially means “bridge between two cultures.” They looked amazed. I remember observing their proud gesticulations in class as they chanted: “Hello! I can speak English, so I want to talk with the world. English is beautiful! English is powerful!” They took my hands in theirs and peppered me with questions about America (“What is Disneyland like?” and “What do girls our age do?”). I taught them the Hokey Pokey that we gleefully danced together.

I constantly imagined myself in the shoes of most girls I met. Above all, empathy was the undercurrent upon which I built bridges of mutual understanding with others. When asked why I was in Guizhou studying rural education, I often told people that my mother too was from Guizhou, and that she had left the countryside to become a doctor. They understood. In the course of tracing her footsteps, her story paved the way for my Fulbright journey and its significance became ever clearer during my grant.  I now believe I arrived in Guizhou both blind and deaf until I opened my eyes and ears to the stories told by girls I met and who shared their lives and dreams with me, and I with them. I am thankful for the roads we walked together.

My advice for prospective candidates applying for study or research grants:

  1. Choose an issue or project that you are particularly passionate about. It will come across in your application, and your passion will help you persist when the going gets tough.
  1. Find a mentor or professor at your institution that is knowledgeable in your field of study. She or he will be a great resource for you when developing your application and finding a potential host affiliation.

Photo: Cary Lin, 2010-2011, China, and several young students in a school in Guizhou, China