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Learning More About the FLTA Program

By Jaime Bue


For many years now at Indiana University, the Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) has welcomed Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) from around the region into CEUS classrooms. The FLTA Program is one part of the larger Fulbright Program, sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which brings over 1,800 Foreign Fulbright Fellows to academic programs around the United States each year by providing merit based grants. This year CEUS welcomes five FLTAs from Finland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan.

The Fulbright FLTA Program works to deepen U.S. citizens’ knowledge of foreign languages and cultures, while providing international teachers of English an opportunity to enhance their language instruction skills on U.S. campuses. FLTAs are placed in language teaching assistantships at various universities with over 30 languages represented across the entire FLTA Program. While responsible for foreign language instruction, FLTAs also attend a minimum of two academic courses each semester. The ECA provides FLTAs with enrichment activities and a health plan, while the host institution provides tuition waivers as well as a food and living stipend.


Although the Fulbright Program is now one of the most well-known programs in the world, its origins are often overlooked in favor of the awe-inspiring scope of the program’s successes. Indeed, these numbers demand appreciation. In the past sixty years over 325,000 U.S. and 200,000 international scholars have participated in the Fulbright Program, which boasts over thirteen various exchange programs. The Fulbright Program now operates in 155 countries with an impressive alumni base that includes 53 Nobel Prize and 78 Pulitzer Prize winners. In 2013 Congress allotted $242.8 million to the program, while foreign governments in 2012 contributed around $80 million. With such international success and so much to look forward to, many forget to look back at the program’s origins over seventy years ago.


The program is named after its visionary and proponent, Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), a Southern Democrat senator who represented Arkansas from 1945-1974. Senator Fulbright led a notable life prior to his Congressional career which began as an Arkansas House Representative in 1943. Fulbright began a life of record-breaking at age 18 as the youngest railroad vice president in the U.S.; he had dropped out of university to help his mother run the family business following his father’s death. At age 20 Fulbright became a Rhodes Scholar which enabled him to study at Oxford and would later be a motivation for him to create the Fulbright Program. In his lifetime Fulbright earned degrees from the University of Arkansas (1925), Oxford University (1928), and George Washington University (1934). By the time he was 34 Fulbright had practiced law in D.C. as well as taught in the law departments at both George Washington University and the University of Arkansas, before becoming the youngest college president at the University of Arkansas. In 1944 he replaced Senator Hattie Caraway, a trailblazer herself, who was the first woman to run and serve a full term in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Fulbright

In his freshman year at the Senate, Fulbright sponsored the Fulbright Scholars Act as an amendment to the 1944 Surplus Property Act. Prior to this hallmark legislation, Fulbright had introduced a bill to repeal an act barring credit to those states which had defaulted on WWI debt. His repeal failed, and now Fulbright’s proposed amendments would be contending for the fate of U.S. wartime assets along with special interest groups including farmers and veterans. Following World War II, the United States had a surplus of wartime property located within countries devastated by war, in need of the supplies, but lacking the economic means to pay. Assets ranged from planes and tanks to clothing and hospital supplies. 


He introduced the legislation within two amendments of the Wartime Surplus Act, the first in September and the second in November of 1945. The first amendment allowed profits from the sale of wartime property to fund international student exchange, while the second amendment designated the State Department as “the sole disposal agency for surplus property located outside the United States and its possessions.” (Jeffrey 1987) The legislation was signed into law by President Truman on August 1st, 1946. Although the legislation was an unarguable success, the Fulbright Act faced financial constraints with the surplus property and foreign currency. The sales from the surplus property could fund American scholars abroad, but there was a gap in the budget to pay for international scholars to study within the U.S. “Dollars had to be found to pay costs incurred in the United States. American universities responded by offering fellowships, assistantships, and visiting lectureships to selected foreign applicants, with Fulbright funds providing the international travel.” (Vogel 1987)


Part of what made Fulbright’s legislation feasible in its early days was its self-sufficiency due to the surplus sales. Senator Fulbright best sums up the early events that led to the Fulbright Program formation in his Foreign Affairs article:

“I did not at that time emphasize what I believed then, and still believe, to be the real value of the Fulbright scholarships- which is their contribution to the advancement of world peace and international community- because I was fairly sure that argument would not sell.  I stressed instead the modest costs of the program and the availability to the United States after World War II of foreign assets which could not otherwise be redeemed. The bill was allowed to pass because influential senators who might otherwise have opposed it deemed it insignificant. I was content to have them believe that, and I have no regrets today." (Fulbright 1979)


You can read more about the five FLTAs at the link below!

Elina from Finland:

Saulet from Kazakhstan:

Aitbubu from Kyrgyzstan:

Gerelmaa from Mongolia:

Dilnoza from Uzbekistan:




Article References:

2013. Fulbright Fact Sheet. Washington D.C. : Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

n.d. "Fulbright FLTA." Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Accessed 09 04, 2015.

Fulbright, J. William. 1979. "The Legislator as Educator." Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations) 57 (4): 719-732.

n.d. "Fulbright, James William." Biographical Directory of the United States Senate. Accessed 09 04, 2015.

Jeffrey, Harry P. 1987. "Legislative Origins of the Fulbright Program ." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 36-47.

Vogel, Ralph H. 1987. "The Making of the Fulbright Program ." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 11-21.