Banks to examine German higher-education transition through Fulbright

When people graduate from college in the United States, they “almost expect to get a call or a card from the alumni office asking for their support,” said Michelle Banks, director of annual giving. But in many countries in Europe and the United Kingdom, where state-supported education has long been the tradition, such a request would be unheard of.

Michelle Banks

All that is changing now as more countries move to a tuition-based system similar to that in the United States. Banks will get a “true insider look at higher education in Germany” when she visits next month through the 2007 Fulbright Seminar for U.S. Administrators in International Education.

“Universities there are looking at their fund-raising models differently now. They have to create a culture of giving where one did not exist before,” Banks said, adding, “It’s exciting to be able to see the very early stages of this.

“I feel very fortunate to have been one of 25 people across the U.S. who were chosen, and I’m delighted to be going,” she said. “I really believe in higher education and the possibilities it creates for students.”

Leaving Oct. 27, Banks and her fellow Fulbrighters will spend about three weeks in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Dresden meeting with counterparts at several universities to see how the process is unfolding.

European universities are looking at American models, she said, but “what works here may not work there. They have a much steeper hill both from an organizational and a communication perspective.”

The relatively new Fulbright program for administrators comprises three elements: alumni and development, career services, and international education. BGSU’s Dr. Jeffrey Grilliot, director of global initiatives and co-director of the Global Village learning community, received an award in the international education division last year and also went to Germany.

Grilliot was very helpful in guiding her through the application process, Banks said. Marcia Sloan Latta, senior associate vice president for University advancement and director of alumni and development, was “incredibly supportive” as well, she added.

The Fulbright experience dovetails with her own studies, said Banks, who is also a part-time doctoral student in communication studies with a research interest in applied communications related to higher education. She hopes to be able to apply what she learns by observing firsthand “the challenges European universities have experienced as they have implemented their fund-raising activities.”

She also hopes to bring ideas back to BGSU for staying connected with its international alumni.

“We are so excited about Michelle’s opportunity and what this means for Bowling Green State University,” said Latta. “International philanthropy, and particularly philanthropy in higher education abroad, is a fascinating area of study. The U.S. has been a strong leader in this field, but we can certainly learn a great deal from what other countries are doing to enlist the support of their alumni and friends as well.

“In recent years we have hosted individuals from Russia and Uzbekistan who have studied in our office to learn more about setting up programs at their own institutions. They have learned from us and we have learned from them, and I’m sure Michelle’s experience will be no different.”

October 1, 2007