Session 5. SYLFF Fellows Mobility Program (FMP): The Experiences of the first two years, looking ahead to the next three years
January 17 (Wednesday) 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm
The convenor, Alexander Fedotoff called on the audience to actively participate in the session, and then introduced the six presenters. He then asked the presenters to address how SYLFF institutions can improve the sending and receiving of fellows under the FMP, and noted that the FMP can be linked to the SNP. The convenor also called everyone's attention to articles in The SYLFF Newsletter by SYLFF/FMP fellows.
: (see Appendix 5-1) Isamu Maruyama reported on the first year of the FMP, which covered the period April 2005〜March 2006. During this period 48 institutions participated in FMP, including 6 receiving-only institutions. Twenty-nine (29) fellows received SYLFF/FMP awards including 8 fellows who participated in the first SYLFF Chamber Music Seminar, January 2006, at The Juilliard School. Twelve (12) of the 29 fellows were master's students and 17 doctoral students; 16 males and 13 females. The majority of fellows stayed for up to one month at the receiving institution. He also reported that the movement of fellows was diverse; there is no apparent pattern, in the small sample. Most SYLFF/FMP fellows used their time at host institutions to collect data and materials related to their degree work at their home institutions.
Isamu observed that overall FMP-related activities proved fruitful, and fellows were warmly welcomed by host institutions. In many cases, tuition and other fees were waived. He also shared the experience of one fellow who made a presentation of his research and on the basis of this was offered a Ph.D. scholarship by a U.S. university.
On the other hand, he noted that some fellows' pre-departure preparation was insufficient, their expectations were not met, and faculty members whom they wished to meet were not available. This could have been avoided by adequate preparation beforehand. Everyone was urged to make sure that fellows are well prepared prior to departure.
Regarding the FMP guidelines, the guidelines are being updated and will be made available to program administrators and fellows on the foundation's website. Flyers are being prepared and will be disseminated to all SYLFF fellows.
With regards to the roles and responsibilities of SYLFF/FMP contact persons, Isamu asked that contacts between institutions be made through the contact persons, or at least advise the contact persons of any communication. He also requested that receiving institutions inform their SYLFF fellows about the visit by incoming SYLFF/FMP grantees to encourage networking.
: Yesterday I was asked during dinner if these meetings are important. Yes, I think they are, that we pay attention to each other and interact so that we may solve problems when students are exchanged.
There are more than 130 University of Sao Paulo fellows − 35% in law, 35% business, 25% in economics, 5% in other subjects. Fellows interact, mainly using the Internet, since most are no longer living in Sao Paolo; 6 are abroad − 2 at GIIS in Geneva, 2 at Howard, 1 at Sussex. We have and will receive fellows from a number of countries, 6 of a potential 7. The experience is fantastic. The space of learning today is the world. Ideally, I would like to send all my students abroad. Unfortunately, this is not possible, but the FMP helps in that direction. I am not going to preach to the converted about good and bad experiences gained by young people going abroad.
How does this work? Two Chinese students came to us through contact from the Chinese SYLFF administrator; their request was considered by our university, and they were accepted. We force our students to go abroad, at least for one month. Once a student is involved, you have to go through the visa formalities, etc. but these matters can be solved and sorted out. It is not a big job. If you consider the contribution of fellows to the SYLFF community, it is not a big deal at all. If the person dealing with the SYLFF is a low-ranking academic you may have problems. If, however, it is a top-ranking person dealing with SYLFF, you may find other problems, i.e. that he does not know when the fellows arrive, etc.
As for the Program Development Award (PDA), mentioned this morning, it is important in facilitating exchanges. We take care of SYLFF/FMP fellows during the day, the local association takes care of them in the evening.
Our students going abroad, even for a month, have had wonderful experiences. They return full of experience, of customs, eating, etc. − it is a wonderful program. Please help by either accepting my students at your institutions, or send your students to my institution so that my students may learn from them.
: It is a pleasure to be here again and to realize that our community is much more than a virtual community. My institution welcomes the creation of the FMP. We were so eager to participate actively. This is related to our own history as an institution, created in 1938 to serve as an academic haven for Spanish intellectuals forced abroad by the war. We have ever since been proud of our cosmopolitan image. This allows a small-sized institution such as ours to survive and maintain a good academic reputation.
The purpose of the SYLFF Program is, among other things, to provide young people with the means to go across borders, to give them the opportunity to live in other participating countries. This is a compliment to the scholarship programs and activities of The Tokyo Foundation.
Our local fellows' association is vigorous and very active. They have also participated in various SYLFF activities, and so most are aware of the importance of international experience. We always stress the importance of realizing comparative studies. They have the chance of learning a language, and to do field work in the country they are visiting. Last year two fellows went abroad, one to Sao Paulo, and another, a student in Chinese studies, went to Peking University to conduct research on a translator who translated Aristotle into Chinese. Both of these experiences have been described in The SYLFF Newsletter. This year, another two fellows will go abroad, and we have one student coming from abroad, and we hope to receive another, from Jordan, if she can get her formalities arranged.
I have three suggestions. I think we should all encourage people to take part in the FMP; it is a natural compliment to the SYLFF fellowship program. My second suggestion has already been addressed by my friend, Carlos. It would be good to improve the communication between contact persons and the fellows. Quite often the person operating the program in the receiving institution does not know much about it. It can be difficult to get in touch with them.
The third, and perhaps the strongest suggestion has to do with one of my responsibilities at my institution and that is to sign documents regarding exchanges. So I know institutions well, and how they operate, sometimes there are many organizing bodies, etc., sometimes the international committee cannot get through the web. But being part of the same community should force us to make an effort to reduce difficulties regarding student mobility. It is hard for me sometimes to understand why institutions would ask for tuition fees for a whole term for a student going for a shorter stay. Sometimes this amount is in excess of the whole sum that is given to a student for the entire stay's expenses.
: (refer to Appendix 5-2) At my university, we all feel the importance of international experience of learners, and for them to return to share their experiences with others. The uniqueness of the FMP is that any fellow has a chance to obtain a SYLFF/FMP grant to do field research.
Let me share the successful experience of one of our students who wanted to do field research in Japan. All staff and faculty members at Waseda University, where she was affiliated, assisted her wonderfully. The Tokyo Foundation played a very important role between the two institutions, smoothing out all difficulties.
Last year we received queries from El Colegio de Mexico and Nanjing University. When the request came from Nanjing, I wrote to the fellow that it was time to apply for a visa, but she replied that she had not received the SYLFF/FMP grant. This example shows that contact persons need to be involved. This year we are trying to send two fellows abroad, one to the University of Sussex, and the other to the Australian Graduate School of Management. It really is useful to be able to discuss detailed matters during this meeting.
Based on my experience I have learned about the importance of (a) the sending institution's time plan, (b) efficiency of the designated contact person, (c) interest of the host mentor and time commitment, (d) a separate policy other than bi-lateral agreements, (e) visit to be at least two months long, and (e) pre-departure orientation.
The merits of the FMP are the opportunities for research inputs, gathering of materials, cultural understanding, learning the realities of a different system (political and economic), and experiencing best practices (the student who returned shared with me her experiences of best practices abroad and she could see what were good practices at our institution). Above all, having a good work plan helps the student to get the best out of the whole experience.
What lessons have I learned? (a) The importance of timing the FMP experience vis-à-vis the fellow's proposal submission and defense, (b) the key roles of the SSC and key contact person, and (c) finding synergies between the various SYLFF follow-up programs, e.g., FMP with PDA, FMP with SNP and FMP with JIP.
: Uppsala received its endowment in 1988 so we will celebrate our 20th
anniversary of SYLFF next year. Fortunately, we are able to support three post-doctoral scholars every year; we are the only SYLFF institution supporting post-docs. We have been part of FMP since 2006, so far only in receiving scholars. We received 10〜15 requests from SYLFF institutions worldwide; thus far we have received two fellows in the spring of 2006. One fellow came from the Academy of Management in Mongolia who was placed with a scholar involved in international work, and a project manager, now vice-principal of our university.
The second was a student of organizational psychology. She was placed in the Silk Road Studies Program, a joint program between Johns Hopkins University and Uppsala, for six weeks. This affiliation led to one of the program directors submitting an application to the Swedish government for a research grant to investigate politicians in cooperation and other techniques. The application was approved, so we now have a very good spin-off project.
What are our criteria in considering affiliations by SYLFF fellows? We consider the duration (1-3 months) of the proposed visit; this is crucial because it is difficult to get faculty involved in active participation for more than three months. Also securing accommodation is quite difficult, and expensive; finding a suitable milieu, preferably with a SYLFF fellow, so that there may be reciprocal benefits is important. We only accept Ph.D. students.
What are primary practical matters? Lodging and costs. Sweden is expensive. If we were allowed to use the money in a more creative way, we might be able to support fellows who would otherwise not be able to come. We have quite a considerable sum to support the travel by our scholars. I would say, fellows are the future leaders of the world, not children, and often swift communication will solve problems.
: The SYLFF/FMP experience is a short-term experience, not necessarily for credit, but basically a research stay. Obviously there are spin-offs for young people, but it is for young people who want to go to a specific place to gain specific knowledge or obtain material.
About sending institutions, there should be some form of control. My staff says they are overwhelmed with requests that are not relevant − applications are incomplete, changing dates often, etc. − this is not acceptable.
About faculty, a student wanting to come to our institution to study something in particular should look at our website and contact the appropriate professor. If they write to a professor with a quite different subject, then we must reject their application. The basics of a research project should be right. The receiving institution should not have to go chasing after all those things.
Why is the person coming? What should the person do? Whether the person should participate in seminars, what should be the length of their stay? On the part of the student, he/she should certainly introduce themselves to the contact person. We need to have "wiggle" room so that administrative matters do not become nuisances that take away the joy we have in the program.
Q: (Orlando Taylor) Would anyone discuss the problems deriving from different academic calendars?
A: (Daniel Warner) This depends on what the student wants to do. If a student wants to use the library, it might be best to come between terms; if he/she wants to work with the faculty, it would of course be necessary for him/her to come when the appropriate persons are available.
A: (Joyashree Roy) In India, it might be good for someone to come April-June as regards faculty time, but weather-wise, this is the worst season possible.
A: (Carlos Azzonil) We work with short-term visits; the idea is not attending a full-time course; so differences in academic calendars per se are not a problem.
Q: (Wolfgang Klos) Thank you for your reports. I am from a music school in Vienna. I agree that we deal with future leaders, and most problems could be solved in advance by such outstanding personalities. Many of these problems should be solved at the end of the stay. I would suggest that for all students, it should be a rule to obtain basic information before acting.
Q: (Ellen Mashiko) Thank you for sharing your views and experiences. The FMP Handbook says that communication between prospective sending institutions should not be undertaken by the fellow him/herself but by the contact persons. The Scholarship Division has received numerous complaints that when a contact person communicates another contact person, there is no response, and in some eases a sending SYLFF contact person is shuttled from one person to another at the host institution. I would like to ask Jean-François Prud'homme how communication could be improved.
A: (JeaneFrançois Prud'homme) At some institutions, which I will not name, it was very difficult to find out who the contact person was; in one case this lasted for two or three months, and last year this caused the fellow who had been selected to go abroad to almost not go. Finally we got in touch with the contact person at another institution, and the problem was solved. It would be good to have in the handbook a list of appropriate contact persons. Perhaps you could take note of institutions where there are problems.
A: (Ellen Mashiko) We are in the process of updating the handbook. Please let us know during the year if there are changes, changes which affect many persons.
Convenor: It would be very easy to put the name of a contact person on the website. I think that our session was successful, thanks to my colleagues, and thank you to the Scholarship Division for putting FMP on the agenda. It would be good if we have even more countries where our fellows could go.