Interview with Miss Rita Akhter Executive Director of USEFP
Question: Tell us about the background what was the purpose and aim to facilitate the people worldwide?
Answer: It is named after the US Senato rJ.William Fulbright. Fulbright was started after World War II. The idea was that American can understand more about others culture so that peace can maintain. Pakistan was the first country from where we started. Now Fulbright is one of the largest programs running in the world. It is running is 150 countries, out of those 50 countries are having it through binational commission and in 100 countries it is run by the US embassy.
The Mission of fullbright is to promote the mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchange program. But it is difficult for Americans to come here for study due to the sad situation here so we have few Americans here in Pakistan but them not student they are scholars.
Question: what is the funding source for this huge running program?
US is spending for degree program $19.5 million annually. We will select 150 students for the year 2015. That mean that we are paying air fare, the tution, computer even everything is funded by US through this program. If you see the value of a master degree it is hundred twenty thousand dollar for one master degree and amount for PHD is doubled. It is great gift by American people because program is funded by US congress.
Question: Does America provide non-discriminatory culture to the Pakistani students? How many students are applying for this scholarship?
We receive so many applications but still if I asked question to the students why haven’t you applied? Why students are not applying? Due to the jury test, as students are tremendously worried about GRE exam. My message for them is to get out of it as it is great opportunity, and all the material regarding preparation is available online for free. We have head office here, we have office in Karachi and also in Lahore. We have lots of free workshops and orientations to the GRE. Finally the lucky students who are short listed they call for interview. American universities are providing for sure the best education in the world but students in Pakistan they apply to some other countries just because there is not jury exam. Since 2005 we sent 14000 students for degree program. Students who came back from America they never said that I hadn’t gone there. Noboday say anything negative to me as their point of view is really positive. You can practice your religion. Every campus has a mosque. There are no obstacles in integrating with others.
Question: what is your selection criterion?
We are sending 675 Pakistani to US through 10 different programs. We encourage people from remote areas where people don’t have access to quality education and we don’t believe that they are of good grades but we just focus that they are eligible enough write an application to prove that they are the good ambassador of Pakistan to America.
We know that people from very remote areas face so many obstacles as they don’t have internet access. For example if someone is applying from Balochistan he/she face the problems which applicant from Lahore don’t have, so we read their application and interviewed her/him accordingly.
Question: what is gender representation in Fulbright?
As far as percentage of Gender is concerned since 2005 the people we sent US from them 43% are women and this year we sent 51% women.
Question: are you offering some courses to the journalists?
There is a program (short course) for journalists; they can also apply for Master degree in journalism. So they can apply for three programs, degree program, certification and short course program.
Question: Fulbright an off shoot of cultural and public diplomacy, do the students who came back from America they play their role as an “agent of change” in perception of Pakistani society?
Education always makes you the agent of change. It is important to know what the rest of the world is thinking about you. Over all there are more than 100,000 Chinese and more than 100,000 Indian who are studying in America but from Pakistan they are only 5000.
Question: In which ways America is helping to promote research culture in Pakistan?
Yes, we are sending people to the United States of America for PHD and post Doc degree. When they come back they join the field as academia, yes, and then they do participate in promoting the research culture in Pakistan.
Question: Do you give equally importance to those who want to go America for studying the natural science and those who want to go to America for studying Social Sciences?
We give equal importance to the natural science and social science but we prefer people to work in field of energy, water and agriculture. But we encourage people apply in all the discipline.
Question: What are you planning for next year the year 2015 for the students?
For next year 2015 we are sending 150 students. All programs are on merit based, besides application, everyone is interviewed. In interview penal Pakistani and American both sit in. by merit I mean if you don’t have good grades then we focus on potential, in application every applicant describes his/her circumstances and potential while writing an essay containing some questions like who you are? Why you want to go to America? And what will you do when you’ll come back to Pakistan?