This month, the Fulbright Association’s 41st annual conference themed “Un Mundo, Muchas Voces,” gathered over 350 Fulbright alumni and friends of international education, in Puebla, Mexico.
After several years of hosting the conference in the Washington, DC, the Association hosted an international conference, reigniting a bi-annual tradition of holding conferences outside of the United States. Not only does this give conference participants, who come from Fulbright and other international backgrounds, the opportunity to travel and discover a new country, but network with local alums and universities as well. It also promotes the Fulbright Association’s values of international friendship and cross-cultural connections. The Association was proud to bring the conference to Mexico in recognition for its close friendship with COMEXUS, the Fulbright-García Robles Mexican Fulbright Commission, as well as to cultivate connections in the face of social division between the United States and its close neighbor. This is reflected in the conference’s theme of “Un Mundo, Muchas Voces“, or “One World, Many Voices”, which celebrates a world with rich global diversity.
The conference brought participants to the city of Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and took place in several venues of cultural significance. Panels and meetings took place at the William O. Jenkins Convention Center, a space converted from an ancient textile factory situated in the heart of historic Puebla. Events began on November 1st with an opening reception at the Museo Internacional del Barroco, featuring a special welcome from COMEXUS Executive Director Hazel Blackmore. The Awards Gala was held on Friday evening at the San Pedro Art Museum.
Fulbright conferences are an opportunity for members to showcase their research, work, and skills, as well as engage in thoughtful discussions with other Fulbright alumni and supporters of international education. Over forty participants presented their work in poster presentations, and another fifty highlighted their work through roundtable discussions. Twenty concurrent themed sessions took place on both Friday and Saturday, informing on a wide range of topics. The closing plenary consisted of a series of TEDxFulbright-style presentations. Musical talents were also highlighted, such as an evening performance by Fulbright soprano Stacey Mastrian. A full list of presenters and topics can be found here.
The conference was also an opportunity for the Fulbright Association to celebrate the accomplishments of the community. The winner of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award was Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, in recognition for her work fostering positive relations between Mexico and the United States. The Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Award, which honors dance scholars whose work promotes intercultural and international dialogue, was presented to Jonathan Hollander, CEO of Battery Dance, a nonprofit dance organization that promotes opportunity both within New York and across the globe. The annual Chapter Awards, generously sponsored by Dr. Mary Ellen Schmider, spotlights Chapters for their work in advancing the mission of the Fulbright Association and bringing together local Fulbrighters and friends. The National Capital Area Chapter won the Excellence in Advocacy Award, the Iowa Chapter won for Outstanding Programming, and three Chapters were selected for Committee’s Choice: Mid-Florida, North Florida, and the Western Washington Chapter.
The location of Puebla not only celebrated the Fulbright community, but Mexican culture as well. The dates of November 1-3 were chosen for the conference to correlate with the Day of the Dead, an important Mexican cultural holiday in which tradition tells that the souls of the departed return to visit their loved ones, guided by richly decorated ofrenda altars. Volunteers from the Mexican Fulbright Commission erected an ofrenda in honor of Senator Fulbright himself in the plaza of the conference venue, where local vendors were also invited to display and sell their crafts. Mexican arts and performances were also showcased. In addition to receptions held at local art museums, the conference opened with an extraordinary performance by the Ballet Costumbrista de Puebla dance troupe, and concluded with a mariachi recital at the closing reception.
The Fulbright Association would like to thank COMEXUS, the Mexican-American Fulbright Commission, for their partnership and support. We would additionally like to thank the many volunteers in both Mexico and the United States that worked hard to make this conference a success. Finally, we would like to thank all the Fulbrighters and friends of international education who joined us in Puebla. Thanks to you, our 41st annual conference was engaging, educational, and thought-provoking.
The 2019 conference will take place October 24-26 in Washington, DC.