The Brazos Valley Chapter of the Fulbright Association sets itself apart through creative and engaging programming. Covering the area around the cities of Bryan and College Station, Texas, the Brazos Valley Chapter aims to engage with U.S. Fulbright alumni of all ages, supporters of the Fulbright vision, and visiting Fulbrighters. The events that the chapter organizes entail a lively mix of traditional elements and original flair, which serves to both celebrate Texan culture and reflect members’ excitement about trying new experiences.
The chapter has held a number of successful events in an effort to encourage the participation of alumni and friends of Fulbright alike, all of which aim to help the chapter spread the Fulbright message of international understanding. In collaboration with Texas A&M University, the chapter hosted a Fulbright Alumni Reception event at the TAMU University Club in November 2017, their largest event of the year. During this event, members shared the chapter’s mission with attendees and described the activities scheduled to be held in 2018 in an effort to inspire those in attendance to join or actively participate in the chapter. The Dean of Faculties of Texas A&M spoke about the importance of international experiences in relation to teachers’ abilities and illustrated the benefits of the Fulbright mission on college campuses.
The Brazos Valley Chapter enjoys infusing a sense of fun into their activities, and has also held a number of events that aim to nurture the friendships that have grown within the chapter. In December 2017, Chapter President Bob Harmel hosted a holiday party for both members and visiting Fulbrighters to share food, drink, and good conversation. Harmel even introduced his guests to his collection of circus memorabilia, which especially delighted the party-goers from abroad. This event’s success led to the conception of another, in which Fulbrighters attended a tented-circus performance. This inventive activity introduced a playful element to the chapter’s programming, bringing members, their families, and visiting Fulbrighters together, and educating all in attendance about the tradition of the American circus.
With the Fulbright message of promoting intercultural understanding in mind, the Brazos Valley Chapter has organized events in which they can show visiting Fulbrighters the beauty that Texan culture has to offer. One such event was a day trip to San Antonio, Texas, in December 2017. Highlights of the trip included a tour of the Alamo, a visit to the San Antonio Riverwalk, and a tour of the Institute of Texan Cultures, which holds an exhibit that illustrates the ways in which a blend of 26 different nationalities have contributed to the Texas’ diverse cultural landscape.
Following the success of the San Antonio trip, the Brazos Valley Chapter has planned similar upcoming events to further highlight the multi-faceted richness that Texas has to offer. One event entails inviting Fulbright alumni, visitors, and their families to a picnic at the historic Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park, known as the site where the Texas Declaration of Independence was written and signed. Attendees will also visit a living history farm housed on the park grounds. Another event is a Brazos Valley Chapter tradition, in which members and visiting Fulbrighters visit a local rodeo, where attendees enjoy experiencing this exciting cultural staple of the American south.
“The Brazos Valley Chapter blends local history, culture, and entertainment through their chapter events, which has proven to be an effective approach for bringing together large groups of Fulbright alumni and visiting students and scholars,” says Kelsey Poholsky, Fulbright Association Chapter Relations and Membership Manager. “The chapter hosts well-organized and creative programming year-round, and this contributes to a sense of community among chapter members and visiting Fulbrighters.”