The United Nations has included higher education as relevant to its new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this Items essay, Joan Dassin considers the role that scholarships for underrepresented citizens of developing countries can play in deepening the ways in which universities contribute to the public good. Drawing on the example of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Program (IFP), Dassin argues for both rigorous modes of evaluating the impact of scholarship programs and for an expansive notion of impact that extends beyond technical training and narrow economic goals and addresses inequalities within and across countries.
Joan Dassin has held the position of professor of international education and development and director of the MA Program in Sustainable International Development at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University since July 2014. During the 2013–2014 academic year, Dassin was a a visiting researcher at the Centre for Latin American Studies and St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She was the founding executive director of the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program (IFP), a global scholarship program that enabled more than 4,300 social justice leaders in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia to pursue graduate-level studies at the world’s top universities. Previously, she served as the Ford Foundation’s regional director for Latin America and country representative, Brazil Office, and as the staff associate for the Joint Committee on Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the Social Science Research Council. She earned a PhD from Stanford University in modern thought and literature and has received three Fulbright Scholar Awards for teaching and research in Brazil. In 2017, Dassin received the Heller School’s Teaching Award, and in 2011, she was recognized with the NAFSA: Association of International Educators’ Marita Houlihan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Education. Dassin has written extensively on culture, politics, and education in Brazil and on the role of international scholarships in expanding access to global higher education.