The objective of this program, launched in 2000, is to share the Polish experiences in transformation and European integration with representatives of Eastern European countries, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia by offering two-semester complementary courses at Polish universities.
The program is currently addressed to candidates from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
In the course of their individual programs, the scholarship holders study selected aspects of economics and management, public administration and business, law, social and political sciences, journalism, NGO management, or culture management.
The scholarship begins with a preparatory course which aims to present and systematize knowledge about Poland’s history and the current socio-political situation. Scholarship holders then go on to attend their individual programs at universities in Warsaw, Cracow, Poznań, Wrocław, and Lublin, where they write semester and diploma papers under the tutelage of their academic supervisors. Integration and knowledge-sharing meetings are organized for the scholarship holders, as well as internships in public, non-governmental, and private institutions (e.g. the Supreme Court, the National Bank of Poland, or regional marshal offices). Participants are also welcome to take part in classes concerning the preparation and execution of civic projects and teamwork.
In 2016 a new path within the program was launched – the Kirkland Research Project. This is a one-semester offer of research and scientific internships for academics holding an established position in participating countries. Interns following this path write a scientific article under the supervision of their academic supervisor.
Each year, the program is attended by c. 45 individuals. Between 2000 and 2022, the program was completed by 986 people who came from 13 countries, including 540 from Ukraine, 175 from Belarus, 62 from Georgia, 69 from Russia, 36 from Armenia, 24 from Moldova, 24 from Kazakhstan, 11 from Kyrgyzstan, 12 from Lithuania, 11 from Azerbaijan, 10 from Slovakia, 4 from Tajikistan and 4 from Uzbekistan.
The most popular faculties are economics and management, and law. Also popular are social sciences, journalism, political sciences, and international relations. Academic staff, public institutions’ representatives and experts have accounted for the largest number of professionals coming to Poland.
After the program’s completion the graduates keep in regular touch among themselves and with their Polish hosts through the bulletin, alumni reunions, and the www.kirkland.edu.pl website. The alumni conferences, held every 4–5 years, help maintain alumni ties with Poland and with each other, as well as establishing new contacts. They also offer an opportunity to broaden alumni knowledge about Poland and the European Union, and to discuss possible directions of changes in countries of the region. Former scholarship holders are supported by the Coordinator of Post-Scholarship Projects whose task is to maintain graduates’ contacts with Poland and encourage them to undertake joint initiatives such as developing national alumni associations.
From the very outbreak of the war in Ukraine, which was initiated by Russia’s aggression in February 2022, the program provides all Kirkland scholars currently staying in Poland with informational and organizational support. Kirkland scholars have also been offered assistance in bringing their families to Poland. The Program Team strove to meet all individual and collective needs reported by Ukraine-based alumni. Among others, the program sent medication, medical equipment, and food. To this end, in just a few weeks nearly PLN 100,000 from the Kirkland Program budget was redirected towards humanitarian aid for civilians and coordinating aid efforts in Ukraine.
The Leaders of Change Foundation worked together with Kirkland alumni to raise funds and in-kind donations. These efforts enabled equipping three ambulances which were delivered to Ukraine by Kirkland alumni currently residing in Poland.
Many former Kirkland scholars play a pivotal role in Ukrainian public administration, local government units, academia, institutions of culture, NGOs, business, and media. To give one example, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk studied at the National School of Public Administration in Warsaw from 2015 to 2016.
Between 2001 and 2013, the Kirkland Program was managed by the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission. In the following period leading up to 2016, the Education for Democracy Foundation took over the task of managing the program.
Since 2017 some of the Kirkland scholarships have been financed from funding provided by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange.
The Foundation has disbursed $16,823,490, including $503,882 for the current edition.