Visiting International Scholars (VIS) Program

The Visiting International Scholars (VIS) program was created more than a decade ago for academics and professional journalists and other communicators who wish to spend at least a semester, but usually a year, in the school and the University. Participants learn a great deal not only about their specialty in mass communication but also about U.S. culture by living in Chapel Hill. For a number of participants, the program brings them to the United States for the first time. Other participants have visited many times. Often participants bring their spouses and young children; the children attend public schools.

Dean Emeritus Richard Cole runs the program. About 30-35 participants are in it at any one time. Traditionally, most come from China (often academics) and Korea (often professional journalists), but other countries have been represented as well, including Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. The program is open to people from any country.

Visiting International Scholars (Spring 2016)

Visiting International Scholars (Spring 2016) — China

Visiting International Scholars (Spring 2016) — South Korea

Fee: A fee of $2,500 per semester is required for all participants. After a person has been accepted into the program, the fee must be paid in U.S. dollars by no later than when the person arrives in Chapel Hill. It can be paid beforehand, of course. Checks need to be made out to the UNC-CH School of Media and Journalism in U.S. dollars. (Please note that this is a program fee, not tuition. Indeed, the word tuition cannot be used in a person’s application or in a letter from a sponsor or anywhere else. Tuition is what enrolled students pay to be students and receive academic credit. A Visiting International Scholar is not an enrolled student and receives no academic credit. He or she sits in on classes informally as a guest as long as the professor agrees, and that is usually the case.)

To apply, you must complete the school’s application form, which includes a statement of purpose (why you wish to come to the school and what you would do while here), and submit it along with a resume. To request a VIS appliation form please contact Liana Pinner at mjvis@unc.edu.

Applications are due each year on Dec. 31 for entry in the following fall. Applications are due July 1 for entry the next spring. Late applications will not be reviewed. 

Applicants should know how the program works before submitting the materials:

  • Participants must be able to understand and speak English. Facility with the language is crucial to the program’s success. Every applicant must participate in an English language interview before acceptance to the program, regardless of English test scores.
  • The VIS program offers no academic credit whatsoever. Indeed, participants do not officially enroll in classes (and thus pay no tuition or other such cost) or sign up to audit classes officially. Instead, they sit in on classes in the school informally as long as the professors agree. And the professors nearly always do. Participants do not complete class assignments or receive grades. They sit in just to learn the material. Sometimes a VIS serves as a speaker in classes and works with individual professors on projects, but a professor is not assigned to work with each VIS as his or her adviser. Each VIS receives a University I.D. card and is able to use university facilities such as libraries, including our school’s excellent Park Library. The school cannot provide office space for participants.
  • The program offers no financial support whatsoever. Participants must pay all costs for themselves. Usually, a university, foundation or government provides the necessary financial support including the program fee. The U.S. government requires that a participant show that he or she has the necessary funds. Participants must find their own housing, but they often receive advice in doing so from previous or current participants from their home countries.  (If you wish to contact a current participant, please email mjvis@unc.edu)
  • Basically, the program’s value is up to the individual participant. A colloquium is held each week in the school, usually on Friday mornings for about an hour and a half, in which different professors and journalists speak on their specialties. The sessions are always interesting. Other activities are held as well. Virtually all participants say that they learn enormously while they are here and that they love the program.

Starting and ending times for being in Chapel Hill: It is important that participants arrive in Chapel Hill in time to begin their programs with the opening of a semester.  That is, arriving here in July or the very first days of August to begin a fall semester (which begins about mid-August). OR arriving here in late December to begin a spring semester (which begins in early January).

Arriving after a semester has begun is not wise because we have orientation sessions at the beginning of a semester, and participants usually sit in on classes, which begin at the beginning of a semester, of course.  Moreover getting an apartment or other place to live is much easier for the beginning of a semester.

When you fill out your application, please be as precise as you can about the dates you want to be a VIS in our school.  If you are accepted into the program, do not make your airline reservation more than two weeks before that beginning date.  A great deal of paperwork is required in the VIS process, and most of the rules and regulations are set by Homeland Security and the U.S. State Department, not by our school.  Everything from the initial letter of invitation from our dean to the official DS-2019 form uses the original dates you give us on your application, so it is imperative that you arrive in the U.S. no more than two weeks before the date on your application, and that you depart from the U.S. no more than two weeks after the date on your application.