Before embarking on her Fulbright Program to Germany in 2008, Kathleen Bakarich did not know anyone else studying international accounting. It was a relatively new field that had yet to achieve much popularity, and accounting was not often associated with international research. But when you find your passion and expertise, Katie contends, the Fulbright Program is there to help you pursue it. Now, ten years after her grant ended, her Fulbright experience continues: she is the president of the Greater New York Fulbright Association, one of the largest and most active chapters across the country.
Originally from New Jersey, it was after receiving her BS in Business Administration from Fairfield University that she was selected for a Fulbright grant to study German and international accounting at the Goethe Universitaet Frankfurt am Main, where she researched the impact of the European Union on the German accounting environment. It was her first time spending a significant time abroad beyond a family vacation and a short several-week study abroad seminar in Italy. Fortunately, the Fulbright Commission in Germany was welcoming and had robust programming for incoming Fulbrighters. Katie was able to take language courses, participate in seminars and conferences, and meet friends from a diverse range of backgrounds.
She went on to earn her PhD and her MBA from Baruch College, and now holds a position as Assistant Professor of Accounting, Taxation, and Legal Studies in Business at Hofstra University. She keeps her ties to Germany strong by teaching annual summer seminars at Hochschule Bremen, or the City University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, Germany, where she teaches accounting courses to international students.
“To me, Fulbright means friendship with people all over the world,” says Katie. “When I think of my Fulbright year, it’s true and I gained a lot of knowledge in my profession. But the people that I met have become such an important part of my life, both during my Fulbright year and every year I’ve returned to Germany since.”
As the current president of the Greater New York Chapter, one of the Fulbright Association’s largest and most active chapters, Katie has the opportunity to give back to the Fulbright community. She first became involved by attending Fulbright alumni events in New York after returning from her Fulbright grant. Excited to meet such a dynamic and diverse group of people, and she was drawn to becoming more involved in volunteering with alumni event planning, and eventually, she joined the chapter’s Board of Directors.
Upon being elected president, Katie has had the chance to organize a number of networking and outreach events for a large community. One of her proudest achievements is implementing the Annual Diplomatic Welcome Reception in conjunction with the US Mission to the United Nations. Hosted at the State Department, the reception welcomes hundreds of Fulbrighters who have either come to New York on their grant or who have returned home after their experience abroad.
Of her experience as chapter president, Katie is most passionate about creating events that bring Fulbrighters together in ways that expand and extend the Fulbright experience. “It’s so fun and inspiring to meet people pursuing their dreams,” says Katie. The passion and energy of the Fulbright community in turn inspired Katie to pursue one of her dreams: thanks to the people she met, she made the decision to go on to get her PhD.
In addition to spearheading community outreach through her chapter, she works to enable and promote international exchanges on campus. She researches opportunities for her students to have their own study abroad experiences, and serves on Hofstra’s Fulbright campus committee by reviewing student applications for the grant. She additionally volunteers as Treasurer of the Board for MindLeaps, a non-profit organization founded by Fulbrighter and Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee Rebecca Davis that serves at-risk youth in post-conflict areas of Africa by using dance to engage youth in the development of cognitive and social-emotional skills that position them for success.