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The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS): Perspective from a funder, Jullienne Kay, Program Manager

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Funder Perspective The American Institute for Yemeni Studies Jullienne Kay, Program Manager

Preface: I enjoyed interviewing Jullienne Kay, Program Manager of The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS), to learn more about their Fellowship program.

Could you please introduce yourself and your role at The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS)?

I am Jullienne Kay and I run the US Scholars Fellowship program for AIYS and provide support for our cultural heritage preservation projects and trainings. I also manage our website, social media, and manage the administration of several other AIYS activities.

Tell us about the origins and mission of AIYS?

The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) was founded in 1977 by McGuire Gibson to foster research and collaboration with international scholars and opened its first office in Sana’a in 1978. AIYS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) consortium of scholarly institutions including universities, museums, and research centers and is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC). AIYS promotes research on Yemeni Studies through annual fellowship competitions, for both U.S. and Yemeni scholars. We are the only U.S. organization that funds and supports Yemeni scholars in the Republic of Yemen. We also work with the Aliph Foundation and the J.M. Kaplan Fund in conjunction with CAORC to fund and carry out cultural heritage restoration and preservation projects throughout Yemen.

When did the AIYS fellowship program begin and how has it evolved since then?

The fellowship program began in 1980 and the first AIYS fellowship was awarded in 1981. For over 25 years U.S. scholars were able to travel to Yemen to conduct their research through the AIYS Fellowship Program. Due to the current conflict, U.S. citizens have not been able to travel to Yemen as part of this program in recent years. AIYS has therefore been able to adapt its fellowship program to allow U.S. scholars to travel to a third country (outside the U.S. and Yemen) to conduct research. AIYS Fellows travel to a wide range of countries to access resources and archives in order to conduct their research projects, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ethiopia.

 I see there are two fellowship programs – the annual U.S. Scholars Fellowship for U.S. citizens and the annual Yemeni Fellowship for Yemeni citizens. U.S. applicants can propose research projects to be conducted anywhere globally except the U.S. or Yemen, correct?

Yes, the U.S. Scholars Fellowship is open to U.S. citizens who are either current full-time graduate students or post-graduate professionals and they must conduct their research outside the U.S. Before the conflict in Yemen, U.S. fellows were required to travel to Yemen for their research, but we have redefined the fellowship to allow U.S. scholars of Yemeni Studies to conduct research on Yemen in other countries that have archives, artifacts, or other unique resources. Our Yemeni Scholars Fellowship is available for citizens of the Republic of Yemen who would like to conduct research inside Yemen.

 
Could you briefly summarize the purpose of each fellowship?

The purpose of our fellowship programs and our institution as a whole is to encourage and foster research on Yemen. Our U.S. Scholars Fellowship Program provides opportunities for U.S. scholars to conduct research on Yemen in a third country. Our Yemeni Fellowship Program provides opportunities for Yemeni scholars to conduct research on Yemen within the Republic of Yemen.

 
Are there any other funding opportunities offered by AIYS?

We have a Book Award that is open to Yemeni scholars who are currently in Yemen to fund their publications. 

It’s great to see these fellowships are open to researchers from any discipline. Are you receiving proposals from a wide range of disciplines?

Yes, we do receive proposals from a wide range of disciplines. Most U.S. applicants propose projects in the humanities and social sciences, with some focusing on the diaspora, as well as more media-based research. From Yemeni scholars we often receive applications for STEM-based research projects in addition to humanities and social science-based projects.

 
What makes a strong proposal?

A strong proposal is academically compelling; clearly states the research question, objectives, and methodology; explains how the research will contribute to the field; and articulates the feasibility of conducting the project within the given timeframe. A successful proposal also shows awareness of other research that has already been done on the topic. Applicants should express an understanding of the necessary research permits and confirm their compliance with requirements such as IRB approval, for example.

Tell us about some recent successful applicants?

Gabriel Lavin, a 2019 Fellow traveled to England for the India Office Records and the Recorded Sound Archives at the British Library and authored “Music in Colonial Aden: Globalization, Cultural Politics, and the Record Industry in an Indian Ocean Port City, c. 1930-1960.” From his fellowship he was invited to give a zoom lecture with the British Yemeni Society, where people from all over the world tuned in to hear him speak. He was talk also invited by members of the Yemeni-American community in New York to visit the Diwan café and meet the owner Jab Zanta.

Jason Weimar, a 2018 fellow, used his fellowship to travel to the Leiden University Library in the Netherlands to study stick inscriptions from ancient Yemen in the Special Collections. While handling and photographing the texts, he found that although the Ancient South Arabian Minaic language was thought to have died out in the 1st century BC or AD, the inscriptions appear to be the latest dateable Minaic text and are more recent than previously believed. 

Neama Alamri, a 2016 Fellow, traveled to England on her fellowship to study archives in South Shields, Sheffield, and London, including the British Library, to research histories, labor, and empire in the Yemeni diaspora throughout the 20th century. Her work led her to connect with the Yemeni diaspora in England and gain a greater understanding of the impact of Yemeni immigrants.

How is the funding typically used by the recipients? And how long do they have to use it after it has been granted?

U.S. fellows typically use the funding for travel to other countries to access archives and resources. U.S. fellows must complete their research within approximately 2 years after the fellowship is awarded. Yemeni fellows use their fellowship funding mainly for materials, local transportation, and living expenses while conducting their research in Yemen, and typically complete their projects within one year.

How is AIYS involved after the funding has been granted?

After the funding has been granted, AIYS is involved with the fellows by offering expertise from our network of scholars as well as promoting the finished research projects of fellows through our social media and our network. We also provide support while they are traveling if they have any questions or issues during their fellowship. We work to provide a greater sense of community with our fellows and members, including staying in touch in order to promote their publications, and connecting them with other fellows or members who might be of assistance in their research.

Acknowledgment

We would like to thank Jullienne for sharing this funder’s perspective with us! Best of luck to all the applicants.

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