I ask myself: “Was it really 40 years ago that I was a Fulbright Scholar in Malawi?” The answer is “Yes.” For the academic year 1983-84, I taught Home Economics at Chancellor College in Zomba, and conducted research on women’s role in village agriculture. The Fulbright year was pivotal in my career in higher education, and the foundation for my engagement in the Fulbright Association (FA). In subsequent positions as Director of the School of Human Resources and Family Studies at the University of Illinois and Dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia, I had the opportunity to host international scholars, support faculty in their pursuit of international experiences, facilitate the development of study abroad programs, and critique and coach students who were applying for Fulbright-sponsored grants and programs.
It is important to me to be a part of the Fulbright alumni community because the Fulbright Association promotes the development of human potential and international understanding. These ideals are part of my values system. My service on the FA Travel Program Advisory Subcommittee (TPAS) has been rewarded by the enthusiastic participation of FA alumni and friends in the trips, as well as the collegiality among the TPAS committee members.
There are more personal benefits from these opportunities for service. My husband Sam and I have enjoyed many of the trips sponsored by the Fulbright Association, including Albania (2015), Peru (2016), Slovenia (2017), and Iceland (2019). I returned to Malawi with the FA travel program in 2017. Traveling with other “Fulbright-ers” adds insights and comradery. Furthermore, remarkable things are accomplished on service trips, such as our FA participants working with local women in Malawi to plant 2,000 tree seedlings (in one morning!) as part of a reforestation project.
I joined the 1946 Society because I believe in the purpose of the Fulbright programs. It’s the same reason why I give back to the colleges from which I graduated. Institutions of education and agencies that promote learning, service, and well-being are critical to a hopeful future.
The Dallas chapter of the FA (serving North Texas) has been revitalized in recent years largely through the efforts of younger FA alumni and international Fulbright scholars. It was a pleasure to serve as Secretary for this group, and now in an advisory role on the Board of Directors.
My hope for the future is that “Fulbright-ers” share their experiences and international understanding with others in their communities so that a greater appreciation for human dignity, well-being, and cultural diversity continue to enrich our personal and community lives.
by Sharon Y. Nickols