By Erica Starr
Blaine Johnson, a recent BYU graduate, received one of the national Fulbright scholarships, which will fund his research in Thailand for nine months.
“The purpose of the Fulbright Scholarship is to get students out of their comfort zone and working with people in different countries to solve problems,” said Mark Peterson, chair of the BYU Fulbright committee.
The scholarship, a government-sponsored program, is available to graduating seniors and graduate students who submit a valid research proposal to a national committee. Johnson submitted his proposal last year to the BYU Fulbright committee first, then to the national committee and finally to the Thailand committee. The BYU committee polishes the proposal before it is sent to the national, 12-member board at the United Nations Plaza in New York. If the national board members approve the proposal, they send it to the overseas committee where it is rejected or accepted. All three committees approved Johnson”s proposal.
Johnson said that since the economic crash in Thailand in 1997, the Thai king publicly urged his people to become more self-reliant and introduced the idea of “efficiency economy.”
“My research is how to implement this economy in Thailand,” Johnson said. “I”m trying to create a micro-credit manual that will support the king”s ideas and train Thais in using micro-credit and to help people start small businesses that will help alleviate their poverty.”
Johnson”s determination to solve these problems began after his mission in Madagascar, where he saw the problems of a third-world country. His interest in poverty alleviation led him to get a degree in international relations with a development emphasis. His knowledge and interest in micro-credit began when he went to Bangladesh in 1998. There he did an internship with the Grameen Bank. After that, he went to India four times with a study group to research Buddhist approaches to economics.
“In between my visits to India, I went to Thailand and started learning of things going on there,” Johnson said. “Thailand”s economy is heavily based on Buddhist objectives. I met scholars that did this research and was introduced to the “efficiency economy” idea. I wanted to do more serious research, and so I decided to apply for Fulbright.”
Students choose which country they want to do their research. Peterson said each country allows a certain amount of applicants. Germany may accept 80 applicants while other countries may not accept any applicants one year, and then they will accept two the next year.
After the scholars” time is up in each country, they do various things with their lives, Peterson said.
“Some people work for an organization in that country, but most people will come back to this country and develop their careers even more by going to law school or graduate school,” Peterson said. “But when they come home their lives are more enriched from seeing how another country lives.”