The pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world. Our lives have forever changed. We have gained a new outlook and appreciation for all activities in person. This includes all the things we took for granted – a hug, handshakes and gatherings of welcome – that Fulbrighters are so accustomed too.
This spring over 50 chapters nationwide had to abruptly cancel all their spring activities. As cities, states and countries began shutting down, and government mandated stay at home orders took effect, chapter leadership struggled with managing a viable connection to their members and visiting Fulbrighters in their communities.
From how to utilize chapter web resources to using the Fulbrighter App, we shared best practices and strengthened the tools offered to chapters. Many of our chapters benefited from a special session on virtual presentations which our Walden Chapter hosted. Walden University exclusively teaches online and most of the faculty and students benefit virtually and were able to share their best practices with other chapters.
From signing up for zoom and gotomeeting accounts to exclusively communicating by email with members, chapters were quick to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. As country borders shut down, and travel came to an almost standstill, chapter leadership embarked on a new method of offering virtual programming.
- Greater Los Angeles chapter offered a Fulbright Virtual E-Travels webinar
- Northern California chapter is offering a series of virtual workshops like concerts, African drummers, poetry reading, yoga class and workout classes, cheesemaking and lectures i.e. coffee masterclass by CEO of Borola Cafe in Mexico City.
- San Diego chapter is planning a ninety-minute panel discussion of current issues along the US-Mexico border by leading journalists and researchers. The panel will consist of two journalists, Ramon Blanco Villalon, a founding member of the Tijuana-based Semanario Zeta. They are also planning a San Elijo Conservancy presentation and hike.
- Indiana chapter took the pause in programming to offer a board development session to chapter leadership.
- Iowa chapter is organizing and producing three Chapter-Sponsored Broadcasts with National and International Pandemic Experts.
- Kentucky chapter is planning to participate in the Day at the Downs.
- Maine chapter collaborated with the World Affairs Council of Maine (WACM) with a virtual storytelling soirée event “Celebration of the Legacy of Cultural Exchanges” in June.
- West and Mid Michigan Chapter held online talks “Summer 2020 in Context: Exploring Behind the Headlines” which addressed issues raised by the Black Lives Matter protests.
- Minnesota chapter is organizing a virtual Career Workshop Young Professional
- New Mexico chapter is offering a virtual talk on the Constitution, American History, and Preparation for going aboard.
- Central Ohio chapter is offering a Fulbright Forum and online networking session in July with 3 virtual activities in 3 separate cities.
- Brazos Valley chapter is planning to hold two events that conceivably could still happen by September 30. The first is the Queen Theater event which includes cost of movie plus exclusive use of the theater for the afternoon and a Brazos Bombers baseball game. Of course, these activities are still subject to cancellation due to the ongoing pandemic crisis in the state of Texas.
- Western Washington chapter has organized virtual events like a Summer Solstice Sun and Sundials, Western Washington Artists Virtual Studio Tour, and a special discussion with executives from the 3-Time WNBA Champion Seattle Storm.
- Other chapters like the North Carolina and South Carolina chapters are also planning virtual webinars.
The Fulbright Association chapters are nothing short of inspiring. They are affiliate groups run by an amazing cadre of Fulbright volunteers, all accomplished in their careers, work and scholarship. They are representative of a multigenerational group, diverse in age, gender, and race and I have been privileged to work with them. As we look to 2021, and the fast approaching 75th anniversary year of the program (1946-2021), I look forward to planning celebratory events with them. Our chapters are like the constellation of stars in the universe that light up and flicker with life, activity and brilliance as diverse as the US geographic landscape. Together we will create an exciting, memorable experience for each Fulbright member.
-Shaz Akram, Deputy Director Fulbright Association