Lane Kirkland Scholarship Program Celebrates its 20th anniversary
For 20 years, the Lane Kirkland Scholarship Program has been providing one-year stays at Polish universities for young professionals from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Southern Caucasus. Its primary objective is to share Poland’s experience of systemic transformation with the citizens of other countries.
The Program was established in 2000 by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation (PAFF), and since 2016 has been administered by the Leaders of Change Foundation. It is financed by PAFF, and co-financed by the National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA).
The scholarship is open to individuals who have higher education and have at least two years professional experience. We are looking for people who are ready to use the knowledge and skills they acquire in Poland to benefit economic development and social change in their own countries. The areas of study open to scholarship holders are law, administration, international relations, economics, and management. We always try to adapt our scholarship offer to the needs of the participants and the changing times, so, in the next academic year we will also be offering studies in the fields of environmental protection, crisis management, and security (including digital security).
The geographical scope of the Program is also expanding. The first edition was addressed exclusively to candidates from Ukraine, but now the Program hosts citizens from 11 countries. The current edition (2019/20) will be the first time scholarship holders from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been invited to participate in the Program. Also among the Program’s alumni have been representatives of Slovakia and Lithuania – these two neighbouring countries were covered by the Program until Poland joined the European Union.
The scholarship holders conduct their study according to individual scientific programs, under the supervision of a scientific supervisor, in one of five academic centers – Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań or Lublin. The Program co-operates with a large number of universities in each of these cities. We primarily cooperate with leading universities, but also economic, pedagogical, natural sciences, and technical institutions of higher education. We try to adjust study profiles in a way that best suits the candidates’ needs by also establishing co-operation with highly specialised universities. For example, in the 2018/19 edition a scholarship holder who planned to develop a network of volunteer fire brigades in Ukraine studied at the Central School of Fire Service.
In addition to courses at universities, the scholarship holders carry out internships at central and local government institutions, non-governmental organizations, and research centers. The contacts they make here often result in later joint projects. One of these contacts led to a partnership agreement between the scholarship holder’s home town of Bashtanka, and the Polish town of Solec Kujawski. As part of their co-operation, a development strategy for Bashtanka, based on Polish experience, was developed, with both sides then jointly supporting other Ukrainian municipalities in preparing their development documents.
We are happy that for many of our scholarship holders, their stay in Poland is not only another step in the development of their personal careers, but also becomes the inspiration for changes in their home communities and countries. Based on his scholarship experience, one of our alumni from Ternopil introduced a waste segregation system in his city; while another of our alumni, a civil servant from Vyshneve, near Kyiv, initiated the launch of an e-administration system in his municipality.
During the course of the scholarship we pay attention not only to scholarly achievements, but also encourage our participants to become committed, pro-socially oriented people who know Poland and the Polish language, who act to benefit good neighbourly relations based on mutual understanding, and who will be Poland’s advocates in their countries of origin. [As an example of some of our alumnae demonstrating these qualities, on their initiative a Polish language center was established at the Academy of Agriculture in Poltava.]
Although our alumni return to their own countries we always maintain contact with them. One of the ways we do this is by offering an extensive program of post-study activities, which includes alumni conferences as one of its elements. This year the conference will be part of the Kirkland Program’s 20th anniversary. For this occasion, we have also prepared this section in which selected Kirkland alumni write about their countries and the changes taking place in them. The section opens with an interview with Andrew Nagorski, who is an American journalist and expert on the region, but also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation – the founder of the Lane Kirkland Scholarship Program.
We wish you an interesting reading!
The Lane Kirkland Program Team