Chapter Spotlight: Greater Pittsburgh Area Chapter

Chapter Spotlight: Greater Pittsburgh Area Chapter

The Fulbright Association welcomes its newest chapter to its nationwide network: the Greater Pittsburgh Area Chapter.

On September 20, 2018, Fulbrighters and friends of international education residing around the Pittsburgh region came together at the University of Pittsburgh for the chapter’s inauguration. Over 40 individuals, including both present and former Fulbrighters, were in attendance to support the chapter’s launch, where attendees brought with them the energy for engagement, the enthusiasm to connect, and most of all, the passion for the vision of Senator Fulbright necessary to activate their new local community.

The chapter was not the product of a single night, but rather, the work of several individuals who crafted its foundation and worked to pull together Fulbrighters in the region. Justice Cynthia Baldwin, the current Secretary on the National Board of Directors and a Pittsburgh native, first proposed the creation of the new chapter that would serve Fulbrighters in central and southwestern Pennsylvania including the Philadelphia region. She reached out to Dr. Timothy Austin, whom she had worked with previously, to figure out the logistics.

Dr. Austin, who was set to retire as provost of Duquesne University in the fall, was excited about the idea of launching a local Fulbright group, and used his professional expertise and connections to take the next steps in setting the groundwork for its creation. He contacted the Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education for assistance, and set to work getting in touch with colleagues and other professional contacts through his own role as provost. He worked with the national Fulbright Association office in order to identify local Fulbrighters and other supporters of international exchange programs around the region who might be interested in networking.

“Contacting our Fulbright alumni and alumnae and a wide array of additional friends of the Fulbright organization was not complicated,” explains Dr. Austin, who has taken the role of the chapter’s first president. “My colleagues – former colleagues, following my retirement – were willing to spread the word and staff in the Fulbright Association’s National Office were helpful in using their membership database to widen the net. Over 40 individuals attended our first formal meeting in September, at which we were able to solicit volunteers to serve as officers and on the board of the chapter. Now we are in the process of planning our first couple of events, the really exciting part of the job.”

The Fulbright Association is always seeking to expand its chapter network in order to better reach and engage Fulbright alumni. While the 53 extant chapters cover most of the United States, some alumni may find themselves too far from their nearest Association to regularly engage. To find your nearest local chapter, be sure to visit www.fulbright.org/chapters. If you do not have a local chapter, but you know several Fulbrighters or Friends of Fulbright who are interested in starting a chapter, please contact chapters@fulbright.org for information on what steps to take next.

“Local chapters are an exciting channel for volunteering, such as through shelters or by serving holiday meals to homeless individuals. They are a great way to recruit visiting Fulbrighters to be engaged in serving their local host communities, networking and learning about different cultures,” says the Fulbright Association’s Deputy Director Shaz Akram, who oversees the establishment of new chapters. “The service at home continues the Fulbright effect during post-grant years, building a stronger network on shared experiences.”

The Greater Pittsburgh Area Chapter may be young, but the officers hope to transfer the initial excitement into real momentum. It is already planning its first activities and events as a chapter, using ideas and energy gleaned from its 40+ attendees. Those interested in getting involved can contact President Timothy Austin at gpittsburgh@fulbright.org.

–Alison Aadland

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