The Fulbright Association welcomes its newest chapter in the “Bluegrass” state of Kentucky.
Over 30 individuals attended an initial Fulbright Alumni interest meeting held in July, where the Kentuckian community of Fulbrighters and friends mapped out the potential chapter’s reach and goals, established volunteer committees, and elected the chapter’s board of directors. Ann Riedling, a Fulbrighter to Bahrain and Pakistan, will serve as the Chapter’s new president. Lindy Massey will serve as Vice President, Fred Ruppel as Treasurer, and Collin Smith as Secretary. Additional board members include Jeanette Coufal, Nick Stamatiadis, Srimati Basu, Muriel Harris and Ted Fiedler.
President Ann Riedling has overseen the chapter’s creation from its conception, which was rooted in advocacy. During an Advocacy Day event, several Kentuckian Fulbrighters came together to share their Fulbright stories in the office of their state’s Senator Mitch McConnell in order to emphasize the priceless benefits of the program and make the case for continued funding. Ann, who was honored with two separate Fulbright scholarships, was eager to find a way to give back to the Program in her retirement. After speaking with Executive Director John Bader about the possibility of connecting a Fulbright community in Kentucky, she began to spread the word to local Fulbrighters about the possibility of starting a chapter. She was delighted to receive an enthusiastic response.
“The interest meeting was more than I could have ever expected or imagined,” says Ann. “The attendees all spoke about their Fulbright experiences and everyone generally had a good time eating, drinking and talking with one another. It was very casual and, since the event, I have received numerous emails stating what a great time they had and how happy they are to see a new chapter in Kentucky. The enthusiasm was enormous!”
The Chapter still has work to do: officers will meet in early September to map out a year of events and activities. They plan to work with the University of Kentucky to reach out to prospective Fulbrighters, and in return, will help host visiting Fulbrighters to the University. The community had recently hosted one of four Fulbright Visiting Scholar Enrichment Seminars, selected by the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education, and many members offered their hospitality to visiting scholars in their homes. They plan to host another event in December, where they will attend sessions and again volunteer to provide “home hospitality dinners” to visiting scholars.
“All I want to add is my deepest thanks to so many people who made this all possible,” says Ann. “I certainly did not accomplish this alone and I am truly grateful! I sincerely believe the Kentucky chapter will be a vibrant one. We have members from all avenues of Fulbright.”