The Utah Chapter was recognized with an Outstanding Programming Award at the 2016 Fulbright Association Conference — and with a full annual calendar of appealing events, it’s not hard to see why! Led by a dedicated board of twelve individuals, the Utah Chapter has thrived by forming strong ties with alumni and visiting Fulbrighters within the Utah and Salt Lake City communities, maintaining and innovating popular annual events, and taking advantage of unique-to-Utah experiences and opportunities.
When visiting Fulbrighters arrive in Utah at the start of each academic year, the Utah Chapter reaches out to them with an invitation to a welcome event, usually a potluck supper hosted at a member’s or supporter’s home. About 40-50 people attend the potluck, which kicks off the chapter’s programming cycle. Throughout the year, the Utah Chapter includes visiting Fulbrighters in their activities and shares elements of Utah culture with them. In the fall, the chapter attends the annual Navajo Rug Show in Salt Lake City, an event organized by the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program to help support traditional elders by creating a market for their crafts and raising awareness about their needs. Chapter volunteers open their homes to visiting Fulbrighters at Thanksgiving, giving them the opportunity to experience a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. During basketball season, members attend an NBA game together to cheer on the Utah Jazz.
January in Utah features the Sundance Film Festival, and one of the highlights of the year for the Utah Chapter is the chance to see an as-yet unreleased documentary film at the festival. For the past eleven years, the board has received a block of complimentary tickets to a film as an in-kind donation, and has organized a supper reception beforehand for attendees at a board member’s home. In the past three years, attendees have enjoyed films on the subjects of hip-hop, authorial identity, and climate change, which have all led to fruitful discussion that continue long after the screening. By inviting Fulbright alumni to this event, the chapter creates or re-ignites connections between Utahns, international visitors, and the countries they lived in.
Utah is also known for its natural beauty and its varied state and national parks. The chapter takes advantage of its location by organizing a fall mountain hike and picnic lunch, as well as an annual expedition to a national park in the spring. The photo above was taken during an outing the Utah Chapter organized to Arches National Park in April 2016. A chapter grant from the Fulbright Association allowed for the group to stay overnight.
The chapter also benefits from strong ties to local universities, including Westminster College, the University of Utah, and Utah State University. These partnerships provide campus space and funding sources for board meetings and chapter events, and can increase visibility and attract local Fulbrighters. Khalid Ahmad, a visiting Fulbrighter from Jordan who serves as the board’s Social Outreach Director, registered a Fulbright student group at the University of Utah this past year. The club has over 20 members who are affiliated with the university, and is now eligible to receive funding through the student government for events. The chapter has also successfully collaborated with the international studies and global programs offices at local colleges to help fund and promote events, and invites university presidents, Fulbright coordinators, and other key staff to attend some of its larger functions.
These university connections help the Utah Chapter maintain an Outreach Lecture Series, through which they invite a visiting Fulbright scholar in another state to come to Utah to speak on his or her research. Last year’s speaker was Indian scholar Seema Sharma, who spoke on “Mark Twain in India” to groups at the University of Utah and Westminster College. Professor Sharma note that noted that her Salt Lake City experience was one of the highlights of her Fulbright year at Stanford University. This past January, Marianne Boee, a Norwegian scholar on Shari’a law who is spending her Fulbright year at Northeastern University, delivered lectures as part of the series. Utah Chapter President Bob Shaw enjoys taking visiting speakers to the nearby mountains for lunch, and other board members meet the visitor at dinners.
The dedication of chapter board members, who share their time and talents generously with the Utah Fulbright community, has been essential to the chapter’s success. “The Utah board is an enthusiastic group whose Fulbright experiences range from 1957 to 2012. They enjoy getting to know the Fulbright visitors and helping to acquaint them with the wonders of our state,” shares Chapter President Bob Shaw, who was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Chile in 1999.
Kelsey Poholsky, Manager of Chapter Relations and Membership at the Fulbright Association, adds: “The Utah Chapter stands out for its creative programming. The dedication of chapter members to the reciprocal nature of their own exchange experiences shines through in their efforts to welcome and involve visiting Fulbrighters in their community.”
If you currently live in Utah and would like to join the chapter as a member of the Fulbright Association, visit: fulbright.org/membership.