The Minnesota Chapter of the Fulbright Association was a recipient of the 2017 Committee’s Choice Award, an achievement that highlights how uniquely this chapter fulfills the Fulbright mission through its initiatives. With events including outdoor adventures and social gatherings, the Minnesota Chapter’s programming is a shining example of how chapter activities can engage the area’s members, friends of Fulbright, and visiting Fulbrighters to create lasting relationships and memories.
With a member base from all across the state, the Minnesota Chapter often organizes events that highlight the most exciting activities that the state has to offer. In May 2017, the Minnesota Chapter took alumni and visiting Fulbrighters on a 4-day trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where many participants canoed for the first time, practiced their camping skills, and further built their friendships while basking in Minnesota’s natural beauty. “In terms of bonding between current Fulbrighters and Fulbright alumni, the Boundary Waters canoe trip was likely our most successful event,” mentions chapter President Marynel Ryan Van Zee. “The group spent several days alone in a wilderness area, connecting with one another and disconnecting from technology and everyday life.”
To kick off the 2017-2018 year of chapter activities, the Minnesota Chapter planned another very Minnesotan event, a cruise along the Mississippi River where attendees had the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery and learn more about the history of the area and get to know one another. Continuing the theme of exploring Minnesota’s most distinct experiences, the chapter also organized a trip to the Art Shanty On-Ice outdoor exhibit in early February 2018. Local artists presented their art in shanties atop the frozen surface of Lake Harriet, including creative pieces that sparked great conversations among attendees about their experiences with how art is performed and created in different cultures.
Many of the events that the Minnesota Chapter plans appeal to the desire for new experiences that initially inspired its members to become Fulbrighters, and they also plan events that focus on making sure they establish lasting relationships with visiting Fulbrighters where everyone involved can enjoy and learn from one another’s company. Some events were designed to strengthen the ties between the Minnesotan alumni and the foreign Fulbrighters visiting their state, such as the Host Friend Meet and Greet event that was held in October 2017. This event brought alumni and visiting scholars together to get to know each other before the visiting Fulbrighters were matched with “Host Friends.” This initiative was designed so that visiting scholars could build lasting connections in America while they were away from their families and home countries. In November 2017, the Minnesota Chapter also held an International Thanksgiving dinner, where the 60 attendees, including U.S. alumni, friends of Fulbright, and visiting Fulbrighters all contributed to the feast by bringing dishes from all around the world to share. Everyone in attendance enjoyed the food and the company, which reinforced the close-knit sense of community that the chapter has established.
“The Minnesota Chapter is a long-standing leader among our chapters for hosting innovative programs that provide alumni and visiting Fulbrighters many ways to forge strong connections and friendships,” says Kelsey Poholsky, Fulbright Association Manager of Chapter Relations and Membership. “We were delighted to honor this chapter’s creativity and commitment to the Fulbright mission through the 2017 Committee’s Choice Award, and look forward to seeing their new ideas for this year’s chapter programming.”