Opportunity for Undergraduate Students
Announcing Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSIs) for Student Leaders on the following themes of Civic Engagement and Environmental Issues. SUSIs are intensive short-term academic programs whose purpose is to provide groups of undergraduate student leaders (see eligibility section for complete requirements) with a deeper understanding of the United States while simultaneously enhancing their leadership skills. The five-week Institutes will tentatively take place from June 25 to July 31, 2024, pending availability of funds and award approval. Any changes will be shared at the time of selection. Meridian International Center will oversee the Institutes as the prime implementing partner and various university partners will serve as the respective host institutions. Should health, safety, and travel conditions pose significant challenges, the programs will pivot to a modified virtual format.
Each Institute will have up to 20 participants from across Europe, with likely one spot for a Spanish student in each Institute. The Institutes consist of a four-week academic residency with a balanced series of seminar discussions, readings, group presentations, and lectures. Site visits, leadership development, cultural activities, and community service complement the coursework and academic sessions. If conditions allow, the Institute will include a one-week integrated study tour in the United States. Note that if the program must take place virtually, participants will engage in similar activities but online from their home countries. Should conditions allow, the SUSIs for Student Leaders from Europe may begin with an opening forum in Washington, D.C., bringing together participants in various Institutes for networking, foundational leadership skills development, and exploring relevant topics from different perspectives.
The Study of the U.S. Institute on Civic Engagement, hosted by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, will provide participants with an overview of how citizens have shaped U.S. history, government, and society both as individuals and groups. The academic program will define civic engagement; examine its development in the United States; and explore topics such as citizenship, community building, economic development, grassroots activism, political leadership, and volunteerism. To enhance the academic experience, the Institute will focus on specific themes such as civil rights and protections; diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA); citizen journalism, social movements, education, governance, minority communities, leadership, and media. Academic sessions will be complemented with hands-on sessions or workshops designed to build skills in the topics mentioned above. The Institute will encourage participants to develop innovative and practical plans to become engaged citizens in their own communities. Program components may include a tour of the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, meeting with representatives of the Michigan State University Law Clinic, and volunteering with the Refugee Development Center.
The Study of the U.S. Institute on Environmental Issues hosted by Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, will provide participants with an overview of climate change along with its impact on local communities, natural resources, and the local economy. Academic sessions and experiential learning opportunities will explore clean energy, sustainable development, the risks of natural disasters, and the intersection of climate justice and community activism. To enhance the academic experience, the Institute will focus on specific themes and sub-topics such as strategic communication, social justice, emergency response, water rights, agriculture and food systems, biodiversity, and energy efficiency and sustainability. Academic activities will be supplemented by opportunities to engage with the local community, including a weekend homestay and meeting with local environmental non-profits. Program components may include hiking a section of the Appalachian trail, a visit to the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, and a kayak tour with the Susquehanna Riverkeepers, an environmental organization.
Essential Information about the SUSI Program
Participants are expected to be highly motivated first through third year undergraduate students from colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education, who demonstrate leadership through academic work, community involvement, and extracurricular activities. Their fields of study will be varied and may include the sciences, social sciences, humanities, education, business, and other professional fields. Participants from historically underserved groups, including women, minority communities, and individuals with disabilities, and who have little or no international experience, are highly encouraged to apply. U.S. citizens, permanent residents (green card holders), and relatives of U.S. embassy or Fulbright commission employees are not eligible for SUSIs.
Candidates nominated for this program should:
- demonstrate English language proficiency (speaking, reading, writing, listening);
- have an interest in the Institute topic;
- be between 18 and 25 years of age;
- have at least one semester left of their undergraduate studies, and be committed to returning to their home universities following completion of the program;
- demonstrate strong leadership qualities and potential in their university and community activities;
- indicate a serious interest in learning about the United States;
- have sustained high level of academic achievement, as indicated by grades, awards, and teacher recommendations;
- demonstrate commitment to community service and extracurricular university activities;
- have little or no prior study or travel experience in the United States or elsewhere outside of Europe;
- be mature, responsible, independent, confident, open-minded, tolerant, thoughtful, and inquisitive;
- be willing to respectfully engage with fellow participants representing different backgrounds and different points of view;
- be willing and able to fully participate in an intensive academic program, community service, and educational travel; and
- be comfortable with campus life, prepared to share living accommodations, and able to adjust to cultural and social practices different from those of their home country.
OTHER ESSENTIAL PROGRAM INFORMATION
Program Funding: Through an award issued to Meridian International Center (Meridian), the program will cover all participant costs, including program administration; international and visa travel, travel allowances, domestic travel and ground transportation; book, cultural, mailing, and incidental allowances; and housing and subsistence. If the program is conducted virtually, a technology stipend will be provided to all participants.
Program Requirements and Restrictions: Candidates should be made aware that they are applying for an intensive and rigorous academic institute and are expected to fully participate in all aspects of the program. Participants must attend all lectures, participate in all required organized activities, and complete all assignments. Due to the intensive nature of the program, participants should not expect to fulfill professional or academic obligations, including remote work for jobs or internships, classwork, or examinations for their home university, while in the United States. Doing so will count as an unexcused absence from program activities. Family members and/or friends may not accompany or join participants for any part of the program.
English Language Ability: English Language proficiency is required to participate in this program. All candidates must be proficient in English so that they can actively participate in the academic program. Therefore, candidate interviews must be conducted in English. Host institutions will consider the varying levels of participants’ comprehension and speaking ability and will prepare lectures and discussions that meet the highest academic standards while using language appropriate for students where English is their second or third language.
Housing and Meal Arrangements: Housing will be shared or single university dorms on campus or full-service hotels within walking distance of most classroom activities. Male and female participants will be housed in separate quarters. In addition to regular group meals and a university meal plan, participants may have access to a kitchen to cook some meals on their own. It is important that nominees are aware of these arrangements and that they are comfortable with such accommodations. All participants will be expected to respectfully share communal spaces and any necessary responsibilities.
Special Accommodations: Care will be taken to ensure that any special requirements regarding diet, daily worship, housing, and medical care are satisfied. Special accommodations will be made available to the greatest extent possible. Should a participant need to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 test results, accommodations will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and host institution guidelines.
Health Benefits: All participants will receive the Department of State’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefit during the U.S.-based in-person component, which provides coverage of up to $100,000 with a $25 co-pay per medical visit and a $75 co-pay per emergency room visit, for the duration of the program. Pre-existing conditions may be covered up to $100,000, subject to policy exclusions and limitations. Information on the health benefit program may be found online at http://www.sevencorners.com/gov/usdos.
Travel Policy: Participants are not allowed to arrive in the United States prior to the start date of the SUSI or remain in the United States after the end date. To avoid the logistical difficulties of delayed arrivals, participants will be expected to make accommodations with their university and exam schedules to be able to arrive on the scheduled arrival day. Similarly, participants will not be permitted to leave the SUSI to visit relatives or friends while in the United States. If a relative or friend wishes to visit a participant, it will be considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the ECA program officer and the host institution. Participants are required to return to their home countries immediately following the end of the Institute.
Grounds for Program Dismissal: Violations of program rules, host institution rules, or local, state, or federal laws can be grounds for immediate dismissal from the program. It is important that these requirements and restrictions be made clear to all candidates before nominations are submitted.
Virtual Program Contingency: Should health, safety, and travel conditions continue to pose significant challenges, the SUSI will pivot to a virtual format. The virtual program would consist of a minimum of 36 hours of required programming with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Virtual programming may include lectures, small group discussions, videos, readings, panels, leadership development, individual assignments, and group activities. Participants would be required to fully participate in the entire virtual program from their locations.
Connectivity: Should the program need to pivot to a virtual format, participants would need access to a computer and stable internet connection. If a participant does not have access to these two items, Meridian will work with the participant and post to facilitate access. Participants would be expected to actively engage in all program activities, and therefore, they should immediately notify the host institution and post of any issues with their online access during the duration of the program as well as any difficulties affecting their participation.
HOW TO APPLY?
Applicants for either of the Study of the U.S. Institute programs (Civic Engagement or Environmental Issues) must complete the following google form: https://forms.gle/5Sj8LaGvXUKsUrmj6
Any questions relating to the Civic Engagement or Environmental selection process should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following information will be needed to complete applications:
- Academic Transcript
- Up to two reference letters
The deadline for both applications is October 31, 2023. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.