Chartered in December 2017, the Indiana Chapter is one of the Fulbright Association’s newest, and has quickly established itself by hosting introductory programming for Indiana Fulbrighters, facilitating connections with area universities, and engaging in advocacy activities. Innovating on the statewide chapter model, the Indiana Chapter has chapter leaders in two main cities: Indianapolis and West Lafayette. The chapter is better able to serve members throughout the state with events rotating between these two cities.
The chapter grew out of the volunteerism of two Indiana Fulbrighters, President Kate Dobson and Vice President Melissa Sparks, who each independently contacted the Fulbright Association office to discuss establishing a chapter in their state. They worked with Chapter Relations and Membership Manager Kelsey Poholsky to move through the charter process, host information sessions in their respective cities, and create a balanced calendar of events. “The Indiana Chapter’s success shows how important our volunteer chapter leaders are to creating and supporting an active alumni chapter. Kate and Melissa live in two different cities and had not previously met before expressing interest in creating a chapter. Over the past year, they’ve effectively collaborated, innovated on existing structures, and grown their board – and their unique model enables them to reach and engage a strong, enthusiastic group of Indiana Fulbright alumni. We look forward to seeing this chapter continue to make strides,” applauds Kelsey Poholsky.
Shortly after their charter, the chapter organized a kickoff mixer to build excitement around the new chapter. The officers shared introductory remarks about the Association and encouraged discussion with the group about the types of programming and activities they would like to see the chapter pursue. During the event, each attendee was asked to pin their Fulbright location on a map using a piece of yarn that originated from Indiana to show the expansive reach of the Fulbright Program and facilitate connections and conversation.
In April, the West Lafayette-based portion of the chapter collaborated with a student group at Purdue University on an annual event the group organizes to celebrate graduating foreign Fulbright students. Purdue is one of Indiana’s top-producing Fulbright institutions, as well as an institutional member of the Fulbright Association. This event gave the chapter the opportunity to build connections with Purdue students and administrators and join in the recognition of the university’s vibrant Fulbright community, while helping to expand local awareness of the new chapter.
The chapter also embraces its role in leading grassroots advocacy efforts for the Fulbright Program. In response to Fulbright advocacy alerts this spring, members visited the local offices of Senator Joe Donnelly, Representative Andre Carson, and Representative Todd Young; and many Hoosiers also participated in the Fulbright Association’s Stand for Fulbright campaign by emailing and calling their members of Congress.
“When Chapter Vice President Melissa Sparks and I first talked a year ago, we had a lot of passion but weren’t sure where to start in creating the inaugural Indiana chapter. I don’t think we would have imagined where we are now: working with a dedicated, creative, hardworking board, planning diverse events across the state, and leveraging connections with clusters of Fulbrighters at our state’s top-notch universities. As a native born Hoosier, I couldn’t be more proud and look forward to much more progress to come,” shares Chapter President Kate Dobson.
If you reside in Indiana and are interested in joining the Indiana Chapter, please visit fulbright.org/membership. If you are interested in learning more about the process of chartering a new chapter in your area, please contact the Fulbright Association national office for more information.