After returning from her Fulbright Specialist project in Nepal in 2018, Patrice Moulton was eager to continue to engage with the Fulbright network and continue to spread the value of international education and cultural exchange. While she was looking forward to the opportunity to get involved with alumni in her home state of Louisiana, she was disappointed to find out that Louisiana did not have an active chapter. Patrice shared, that she has always believed in the mantra “be the change you want to see.” So she connected with the Fulbright Association national office to ask what it would take to start a chapter, and the rest was history.
Patrice says that her initial challenge to starting the chapter was the tedious application process. She says, “I guess that others took for granted that I knew more than I did. I was so green and needed some hand holding just to understand the forms, process, and procedures.” Despite her challenges, she found it rewarding to connect with other Fulbright alumni and work towards the common goal of starting a chapter. She dove in head first and immersed herself in new media tools, including the Fulbrighter App, which she used to publicize her first official chapter event in April 2020.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Patrice’s story is the fact that she was able to take on all of these new challenges despite the changing and uncertain circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a professor of psychology at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Patrice was already hurled into the new system of distance learning and working from home. Nonetheless, Patrice found beauty in the process. She says that “There are always joys to be found in the most unlikely places, even COVID 19. I think that during this time of uncertainly, people are looking for meaning, for ways to connect, and for interactions not related to work. I think these dynamics are helping us find and connect our Fulbrighters in Louisiana.”
Since the launch of the Louisana Chapter, Patrice and her board members have hosted two events: a virtual Meet and Greet and a “Coping with COVID” virtual coffee hour. One of her favorite moments so far was when a visiting Fulbrighter from Peru shared with their group that she was celebrating her Birthday so far from home. The entire group turned on their microphones in the Zoom room, a fellow alum yelled “wait, wait!” and returned on screen with a guitar, and there was a wonderful sense of community as everyone sang a round of Happy Birthday! For the Louisiana chapter members, that moment of warmth was a bright spot in a time of global uncertainty.
Patrice is eager for the days when the Louisiana Chapter will be able to hold in person events, but for now, the chapter board is focused on setting a firm foundation of members. They want to utilize the Fulbrighter App to gather members virtually and begin to form a supportive community. The chapter will continue to explore ways to connect and make a difference in their community. A few ideas for the near future include a virtual evening of art and continued coffee breaks with short focused discussions. Depending on COVID impact with schools in the fall, they would also like to explore the possibility of participating in Fulbright in the Classroom initiative
Until then, Patrice says, “I look forward to continuing to be involved and exploring how we, as Fulbright, can make a difference in the world by building and sustaining relationships. I feel like the world needs more Fulbright right now.”
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016