Women scholarship programs from countries with Muslim-majority populations
08.09.2014
(U) STEM education for women from countries with Muslim-majority populations

1. (U) Summary: This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 5-7.  Now at the start of its 3rd year, the NeXXt Scholars Program is recruiting young women for the Fall of 2015 from countries/regions with Muslim-majority populations to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at U.S. women’s colleges. Coordinated by the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (E/STAS), the Program partners undergraduates with professional mentors, American peers, and provides career development support. To ensure that students who receive scholarships from their countries to study abroad are able to take advantage of this STEM careers boosting program, we are requesting that Posts meet with the Ministries of Science and Ministries of Education and request to add program-participating U.S. women’s colleges to their network/lists of scholarship-eligible schools. In addition, we request that Posts advertise the Program to recruit the 4th cohort of NeXXt Scholars who will begin their undergraduate STEM degrees in the Fall of 2015. Suggested language for Posts to use when approaching the Ministries regarding modifying the list of scholarship-eligible schools is in paragraph 8. Posts or country partners interested in advertising the Program or able to provide students with partial or full tuition scholarships for the 4-year STEM degrees are encouraged to contact the Program at nexxtscholars@state.gov. End of Summary.

Background

2. (U) The NeXXt Scholars Program offers the opportunity for career advancement via professional development, leadership, and mentoring support to young women from the 47 countries/regions with Muslim-majority populations (listed in paragraph 9). To be eligible for the Program, students must plan to pursue STEM undergraduate degrees at one of the 38 U.S. women’s colleges (listed in paragraph 10). International students apply directly to any of the participating U.S. women’s colleges and should request a nomination letter via their countries’ EducationUSA Advisers (http://www.educationusa.info/centers.php). Students also complete an online application that is available at http://www.nyas.org/WhatWeDo/ScienceEd/NeXXtScholars.aspx or by contacting nexxtscholars@state.gov. Upon matriculation at the colleges, the young women become International NeXXt Scholars. Students secure their own funding for these studies through scholarships from the colleges or from other sources. Each International NeXXt Scholar is matched with a college-selected American NeXXt Scholar, typically a first-year student from a disadvantaged background (e.g., ethnic minority, first of her family to attend college, recipient of large need-based scholarship, etc.), and the pair explores the Program together for 4 years of undergraduate studies. In the Fall of 2012, the inaugural class of 12 International NeXXt Scholars and 12 American NeXXt Scholars enrolled at the women’s colleges (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/10/199153.htm); these students will be starting their junior year this year. The second class of NeXXt Scholars enrolled in the Fall of 2013 and featured a total of 52 additional Scholars (http://www.state.gov/e/stas/202507.htm). A third class of NeXXt Scholars will be starting in the Fall of 2014.

3. (U) Through this Program, all NeXXt Scholars receive access to the broader STEM community through 5-year memberships to the New York Academy of Sciences. Scholars are also individually matched with a mentor, who is a successful female professional in a STEM-related field, in order to provide one-on-one support regarding career paths and other professional development advice. Additionally, Scholars gain access to leadership, internship, and research opportunities to build the networks, skills, and confidence needed to become the next generation of leaders, problem-solvers, and innovators in the U.S. and abroad. In a knowledge-based economy, the jobs of the future will be in the STEM fields or at least require the critical thinking skills learned via a STEM education. For women to achieve economic empowerment, they need to be educated and prepared to enter these high-skilled jobs. Educating women in STEM promotes the values of science—meritocracy, transparency, and data-driven decision-making. STEM degrees also promote the next generation of STEM professionals who, as a cohort, can provide the institutional leadership and management skills necessary in promoting sustainable STEM policies, programs, and activities. It is critical for success in the STEM fields to have hands-on, inquiry-based learning, and to have laboratory and research experiences that are available in the U.S. Ensuring that women have the necessary skills and education to play a role in addressing global challenges and developing these emerging market economies represents a win-win for all.

4. (U) U.S. women’s colleges offer the trifecta of focusing on the development of women leaders, an all-female living environment, and hands-on laboratory training in STEM. The NeXXt Scholars Program was launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December of 2011 (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/01/180291.htm). By partnering with a consortium of U.S. women’s colleges, the NeXXt Scholars Program is preparing the next generation of female global leaders to discover the next great idea or solve the next big challenge.

Opportunities for Promoting the Program and Benefitting Even More Young Women

5. (U) Action Request 1: Posts in countries with Muslim-majority populations are asked to approach Ministries of Science and Education in-country to request that U.S. women’s colleges participating in the NeXXt Scholars Program be added to the list of scholarship-eligible schools for their country. Presently, highly qualified female students desiring to study abroad are frequently not able to pursue their education at U.S. women’s colleges since these schools, which offer females-only living arrangements, are not included in the lists of scholarship-eligible schools. For suggested talking points, refer to paragraph 8.

6. (U) Action Request 2: The Department wishes to identify additional scholarship opportunities for eligible female students—especially those from underrepresented communities—without the financial means to cover tuition, English language training, and other fees at the U.S. universities participating in the NeXXt Scholars Program. Existing examples of such funding opportunities include the Hope Fund for students from the Palestinian Territories and, for Afghan women, the Foundation for Afghanistan and the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund. Posts with information on degree-funding opportunities through local organizations, national or international companies, and USAID or Embassy programs available to citizens of participating countries should contact nexxtscholars@state.gov. New or existing opportunities offering partial or full annual scholarship funding for the 4-year tuition costs of undergraduate STEM studies is desired.

7. (U) Suggested Action: Posts are encouraged to advertise this opportunity to young women—of any religious group or economic status—interested in applying for matriculation at U.S. women’s colleges in the Fall of 2015. Promotional materials and additional information on individual colleges can be downloaded at www.state.gov/e/stas/nexxt/ or obtained by contacting nexxtscholars@state.gov. Posts are encouraged to identify individuals or a cohort of women so they can together train in STEM, advance their leadership and managerial skills, and return to their home countries with the knowledge and inspiration to make an impact in the STEM professions. Please note that, at this time, the NeXXt Scholars Program itself does not offer a financial/scholarship component, although partial to full tuition assistance may be available from the colleges on merit- or need-basis.

Talking Points

8. (U) Suggested talking points for Action Request 1:

(a) The NeXXt Scholars Program is an opportunity for young women from countries with Muslim-majority populations and their American counterparts to receive professional development, career support, and mentoring while studying STEM at U.S. women’s colleges. In addition to being paired with a professional mentor, each International NeXXt Scholar is also matched with a college-selected American NeXXt Scholar so the students can explore the Program together.

(b) The Program was inspired by the experience of a young woman from a conservative Muslim family who planned to attend Smith College in the United States to get her master’s degree in the sciences. Since living alone abroad was not culturally acceptable, the woman’s father expected to live with her throughout these studies. Smith College could not support a visa for her father and also did not support the idea. What gave this father the confidence to let his daughter pursue the degree alone in the U.S. was his high regard for science and the fact that this was a women’s college with single-sex housing. Since then, this young woman has been able to pursue a doctoral degree at a co-educational institution as her family’s support increased.

(c) The NeXXt Scholars Program allows young women to receive career development support but does not currently provide scholarships. Thus, students have to apply to the schools for merit- or need-based financial support or rely on other sources such as government-sponsored scholarships to afford attending the colleges and participating in the NeXXt Scholars Program.

(d) Since women’s colleges are academically outstanding, single sex-matriculating institutions with women’s only housing, these schools could be a great fit for many young women from your country.

(e) Please consider adding the NeXXt Scholars Program-participating women’s colleges to your network of government scholarship-eligible schools.


Additional Background

9. (U) The 47 countries/regions eligible for the NeXXt Scholars Program are Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories (West Bank & Gaza), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

10. (U) The 38 women’s colleges are Agnes Scott College, Barnard College, Bay Path College, Bennett College for Women, Bryn Mawr College, Carlow University, Cedar Crest College, Chatham University, College of Saint Benedict, College of Saint Elizabeth, College of Saint Mary, Colorado Women’s College at the University of Denver, Columbia College, Converse College, Cottey College, Douglass Residential College of Rutgers University, Hollins University, Mary Baldwin College, Meredith College, Mills College, Mount Holyoke College, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Saint Mary's College, Salem College, Scripps College, Simmons College, Smith College, Spelman College, St. Catherine University, Stephens College, Sweet Briar College, University of Saint Joseph, Ursuline College, Wellesley College, Wesleyan College, Wilson College, and the Women’s College at Brenau University. (Wilson College became a co-educational institution in 2013 yet continues to support its matriculated NeXXt Scholars from 2012.)