Recap of the 46th Annual Conference in Denver

Recap of the 46th Annual Conference in Denver

The 46th Annual Conference, themed “Our Responsibility for a Better World,” was a resounding success, drawing over 300 dedicated attendees. The event, held in Denver, Colorado, from October 19 to 22, 2023, showcased 130 enlightening presentations that spanned various formats, including roundtable discussions, poster presentations, general sessions, and impactful plenary sessions.

Fueled by the Fulbright spirit and a shared commitment to global betterment, the conference focused on critical issues. Delegates passionately addressed topics such as Climate Change & the Environment, Social Justice & Prejudice, Health & Education, and Food & Water Insecurity. These discussions aimed to contribute to ongoing global efforts to drive positive change in these vital areas.

Throughout the event, Fulbrighters from diverse backgrounds and experiences came together, sharing insights, research findings, and practical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The collective dedication to making the world a better place was evident in every session and presentation.

The 46th Annual Conference not only fostered meaningful dialogue but also ignited a sense of shared responsibility among attendees. It served as a reminder that, as Fulbrighters on a continued mission, they have a crucial role to play in building a brighter and more equitable future for all.

View Photos and Watch all Plenaries


Opening Keynote – Julieanna L. Richardson – Watch on YouTube

Julieanna L. Richardson has a diverse background in theatre, television production, and the cable television industry that created a unique path to founding the largest effort to record the African American experience since the WPA Slave Narratives of the 1930s. Founded in 2000, The HistoryMakers is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution headquartered in Chicago committed to preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized, archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories.

Richardson discussed the importance of preserving Black history and the challenges faced in doing so. She highlighted the erasure of Black history and emphasized the need to tell diverse stories within the community. Richardson also touched on issues like colorism, the impact of critical race theory bans, and the importance of education in understanding the complexities of Black history. Despite the challenges, she remained optimistic about the potential for change. The keynote emphasized the richness of individual and community stories and the urgency of preserving and correcting historical narratives.


Climate Change & the Environment/Food & Water Insecurity Panel – Watch on YouTube

The panel, moderated by Heather Godsmark, discussed critical issues like climate change, food insecurity, and water insecurity. It featured participants – Counselor Clinton White from USAID, Erin Pulling, CEO of the Food Bank of the Rockies, Senator Michael Bennett, and Mike Krueger, President of the Colorado Solar Storage Association. Senator Bennett emphasized Colorado’s challenges due to droughts, wildfires, and climate change. He discussed the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act, a significant climate legislation, highlighting Colorado’s potential to lead in renewable energy. Mike Krueger added insights on the state’s solar industry. The panel expressed hope for a sustainable future.

Firstly, the panel stressed the significance of addressing food insecurity and supporting organizations like food banks. Secondly, they emphasized the importance of inspiring and involving young people in tackling current challenges, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Encouraging them to pursue careers in trades and green industries can have a significant impact on our transition to a more sustainable future. Lastly, they advocated for the promotion of trade education and the inclusion of community colleges in discussions about workforce development. Overall, the panel highlighted the need for empathy, community engagement, and a long-term perspective when addressing complex issues.


Fulbright Stories – Sponsored by Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | University of Arkansas – Watch on YouTube

Visiting the Home Country of a Partner as a Fulbright Scholar
Eric Olson — Metropolitan State University of DenverWe built a secondary school in rural Uganda!
Judy Shepherd — Retired (University of Alaska Fairbanks, San Diego State University)How my Fulbright experience launched a green alternative protein company
Kathleen Hefferon — Cornell University
Humanitarian Disasters and the Power of Community Resilience in West Africa
Karen Barton — University of Northern ColoradoOffering a new perspective in Ireland during the #BlackLivesMatter movement
Kimberly Reyes — University of Nebraska–LincolnOtherness and Identification through the Fulbright Experience
Anne Crylen — DePaul University


2023 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee – Tria Blu Wakpa – Watch on YouTube

The 2023 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture celebrated the Selma Jean Cohen Fund for International Scholarship on Dance, honoring dance historian Selma Jean Cohen’s contributions. The fund, established in 2000, supports international dance endeavors, emphasizing Cohen’s experience in Russia. The lecture featured Tria Blu Wakpa, an assistant professor specializing in decolonizing dance studies at UCLA. Her research centers on indigenous peoples’ engagement with various movement forms. She discussed the significance of indigenous dance as a decolonial practice, its spiritual aspects, resistance, sovereignty, community building, and its role in nurturing relationships between humans and the natural world. The lecture emphasized the diverse and dynamic nature of native dances within the US.

In the second part of the lecture, the focus shifts to a workshop on North American hand talk, highlighting its international and decolonial significance. North American hand talk, often misunderstood as a sign language only used by indigenous people with disabilities, is actually a common language in Native America. It has served intertribal and intratribal communication purposes, bridging language barriers in diplomacy, trade, and more. The workshop emphasizes the inclusivity and cultural importance of hand talk. It also explores the historical context of Native American hand talk, exemplified by the silent film “Buffalo Dance,” where Lakota dancers incorporated hand talk into their performance. The lecture ends with a land acknowledgement in North American hand talk, promoting respect for indigenous lands, culture, and people.


Social Justice & Prejudice/Health & Education Panel – Watch on YouTube

The panel, moderated by Stacey Nickson, discussed social justice, health & education. It featured participants – Senadora Julie Gonzales, Senator for Senate Dist. 34, Lucille A. Echohawk, Advisor & Advocate for Denver’s Native Community, Dr. Kristin Deal, Assistant Vice Chancellor for DEI Partnerships & Operations, DU, and Tom Gonzales, MPH Public Health Director for Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE).

The panel discussed how Fulbrighters, with their diverse experiences, can bridge gaps in social justice, public health, and education. They should leverage their cross-cultural insights to foster global dialogue on equity issues. In public health, their international knowledge can address local disparities and advocate for evidence-based policies. In education, they can promote inclusive practices and cross-cultural understanding. Fulbrighters are catalysts for change, using their unique experiences to bridge divides, promote equity, and drive positive social change in their host communities and beyond.

The panel discussion explored challenges in the digital age, where traditional authority figures have lost influence, and civil society groups must adapt to engage in the information war. Senator Julie Gonzales highlighted the difficulty of open debate due to social media’s impact on politics. She emphasized fostering relationships and facilitating tough conversations. In education, she discussed the need to re-imagine higher education to promote diversity and critical thinking. Speakers advocated for inclusivity in schools and expanding voting rights for incarcerated individuals. The discussion urged attendees to engage in politics, consider policy outcomes, and prioritize justice and equity in policymaking.


Chapter Award Winners

Outstanding​ Chapter Leader​ Award

Julia Totskaya​

South Florida Chapter​


Outstanding Former Chapter Leader Award​

Ruie Pritchard

North Carolina Chapter​


Programming of the Year Award​

Minnesota Chapter​

Virtual Program of the Year Award​

New Hampshire Chapter’s

Genocide Webinar Series​


Excellence in Diversity Award​

Fulbrighters with Disabilities Chapter ​


Excellence in Advocacy Award​

Glen Harrison​

​Arkansas Chapter​


Excellence in Service Award​

Colorado Chapter​


Thank you to our Sponsor & Exhibitors

Harriet Mayor Fulbright

Harriet Mayor Fulbright

Harriet Fulbright at a tree planting ceremony on U.S. Capitol Grounds to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program.

For nearly half a century, Harriet Mayor Fulbright has been the spiritual and human connection to the founding Senator for whom the most sustained and wide-reaching international exchange program in history is named: The Fulbright Program.

She wore the mantel well: graciously joining in Advocacy efforts, making remarks onstage at ceremonial events all over the globe, having appropriate stories of the late Senator always in mind when asked how he thought, listening long and well to grantees thrilled at the chance to meet her in person, and  giving her imprimatur to projects that forwarded his vision of peace and understanding through educational exchange through many venues.

She was so good at her role that she was sometimes asked what it was like to be with him when the Fulbright Program began.  She had to remind people that she was only nine at the time! She was a second wife, one who came into his life from  professional experience, through the singular opportunity to be  the founding Executive Director (ED) of the Fulbright Association in 1977.

The Senator was deeply interested in the project of an alumni association, and he visited the office numerous times to discover how it was developing and to give suggestions of what might be desirable. Things changed suddenly when Harriet was badly injured by a truck running over her legs (twice! It backed up when the driver was alerted to having run over her, cycling to work in Dupont Circle). In the ensuing months, hospitalized while she mended, his visits grew along with his devotion to her well beyond her work as ED.

Shortly after her release from the hospital, he insisted—in no uncertain terms, she revealed–that she come stay with him: she was not strong enough to be by herself! The rest is history.

As Executive Director in 2012, and interim once more in 2016, I came to know Harriet’s power as the embodiment of the Senator’s vision.  For instance, when we visited congressional offices to advocate for the program, her presence inevitably caused congressional leaders to appear in person just to see her, initiating long conversations in which the rest of our team could more fully make the case for funding the Fulbright Program.  She outlasted those who knew her husband well (with 8-term Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont among the last as he retired in 2023).

In 2014, when the King of Spain honored the Fulbright Program with the Prize of Europe, she was escorted by the new ED, Steven Reilly, to grace the grand ceremony in Madrid.

She has now entered history as a woman of stature: charming and effective representing the Fulbright Program and its founder, but a woman of achievement in her own right in the era of US engagement with the globe after the end of WWII: she was the founding Executive Director of the Fulbright Association and its advocate for nearly half a century. We are grateful for her life of dedication and service.

Mary Ellen Heian Schmider
Former Board President & Executive Director, Fulbright Association

Tribute to Harriet Mayor Fulbright

Tribute to Harriet Mayor Fulbright

Senator Fulbright and Harriet Mayor Fulbright visit Korea to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Korea. (Sept. 20, 1990)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Harriet Mayor Fulbright, Senator Fulbright’s widow and the first Executive Director of the Fulbright Association, has died. With her passing, we mark the end of an era, and the loss of a singular leader in our community. Apart from the Senator, Harriet was the Program’s greatest ambassador and advocate because she spoke about its impact with such force, passion, and commitment. You knew you were among Fulbright royalty in her presence, as she carried herself with such dignity and charisma—but in ways that were so approachable and friendly.

She had and was loved by many friends around the world. Some of them have shared their memories with me. Ann Lewis recalls how “smart, lively, and dedicated” Harriet was and how Harriet was “reborn” after the Senator’s death with a new job in the Clinton Administration. She remembers Harriet’s stories of traveling to Cyprus with Fulbrighter artist Dale Chihuly. Judy Dollenmayer wrote that Harriet was “a woman of great intelligence, humor, and a talent for leadership that meant so much to so many…She never last hope in humankind… (and was) a model of a life well lived and savored.” Jody Olson said, “Harriet was a mentor, friend, and wonderful professional colleague to me for decades.”

I invite you to read Sherry Mueller’s full tribute here, but allow me to quote from that blog on the Public Diplomacy Council of American website:

For some years Harriet was my neighbor. Whether I asked her to provide a homestay for a visiting Dutch scholar, or to loan a large cooking pot for a buffet dinner she would be attending, the answer was always an enthusiastic yes. Her generosity, her vivaciousness, and her encouraging ways are remembered with gratitude. She was a remarkable ambassador for the Fulbright Program and a force for good in our turbulent world. 

It is difficult to measure the full impact of Harriet’s leadership as the first Executive Director of the Association. Among many challenges she met was moving the new organization from Bryn Mawr College to Washington. Then board member Mary Jane Roberts, who recruited and interviewed Harriet for the position, recalls that she “was perfect… with the skills to define the mission and make it happen—and she certainly did!”  Mary Jane asks, “Who could have foreseen all she would accomplish? We are all her beneficiaries and mourn her passing.”

Harriet Fulbright & John Bader

Many Association board chairs echo Mary Jane’s words. Cynthia Ackron Baldwin, our current chair, wrote Harriet “was a gracious woman and will be missed.” DeDe Long said Harriet had “a remarkable life indeed.” And Mary Ellen Heian Schmider concluded that Harriet, “… has now entered history as a woman of stature: charming and effective representing the Fulbright Program and its founder, but a woman of achievement in her own right in the era of US engagement with the globe…” Mary Ellen’s full blog post can be found here.

I consider it a great honor to have known Harriet Fulbright. She was always engaging and supportive, wishing the best for the Association, and giving counsel to me and many of her successors as Executive Director. I will cherish the many times I spent with her, particularly the last time, several years ago while she still lived in Washington. She invited me to tea, and we spent a long afternoon chatting about the Senator, her work, the Fulbright Association, and our shared hopes for a brighter future. My phone occasionally features the picture taken of us two at that tea, and it always makes me smile.

I invite you to share memories and stories of Harriet, commenting on Association posts found on our Facebook and LinkedIn channels. We have all lost a great lady, a role model, and a dear friend.

John Bader
Executive Director, Fulbright Association

Appreciation: Joe McDonough

Appreciation: Joe McDonough

I share with you the profound loss to our community with the passing of Joe McDonough, a longtime president of the Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Joe was a giant in our community. Passionate, determined, resilient, and ambitious, he helped build the chapter into a flagship. The Massachusetts chapter has offered its members exceptional programming for years thanks to Joe’s leadership and hard work.

Many of the chapter’s current leaders shared their condolences with me. Kim Caverly wrote that Joe was “a truly remarkable man; such a great loss for everyone.” Kathryn Portle said that “Joe was patient and warm, and a listener”—in keeping with our Fulbrighter mission to learn from others and build respect and empathy.

Left to Right – Joe McDonough (MASS Chapter President), John Bader, Ann Ackerman (NH Chapter President), and Michael Evans (VPAA SNHU and alum)

Joe’s successor as president of the chapter, Michael Miner, wrote these passages with eloquence. I quote them in full:

Joe McDonough was a visionary leader who made a lasting impact on the lives of countless Fulbright students and scholars all over the world. From his time as a Fulbright Scholar in Oman and teaching in the Middle East to becoming President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Fulbright Association, Joe touched the lives of many through kindness, enthusiasm, and an unwavering commitment to make the world a better place. With a small team of committed citizens, Joe reenergized the Fulbright community across Massachusetts and New England. Concerts, outdoor events, museum trips, lectures, civic engagement, late night potlucks, or early morning coffees, he was a pioneer for innovative programming across the Commonwealth.

Through mentoring like-minded individuals to forge networks of colleagues working toward the same goal, Joe helped shape an active and engaged Fulbright presence all over the state. His steadfast commitment to engaging Fulbrighters from near and far never wavered, nor did his efforts to help national leaders understand why the Fulbright Program is central to a strong American foreign policy that starts at home.

I’ll miss my dear friend Joe, as will Massachusetts and the country. Nevertheless, Joe’s legacy of supporting students and scholars turned lifelong friends is one that will last for generations to come. We shall carry the torch forward and continue Joe’s good work to leave the world a little better than where we started.

I will miss Joe, too. He was a passionate advocate for his chapter and the Program, building effective and lasting relationships with members of Congress and other leaders in Massachusetts to ensure that Fulbright remained strong and well-funded. He spoke his mind, sharing strategies and ideas shaped by years of political experience and determination to build a great chapter and community.

Joe’s passing is not just a moment of remembrance for his life and contributions, but also a time to recognize so many chapter and volunteer leaders in the Fulbright community whose commitment, vision, and hard work keep us united and strong. We can best honor Joe’s life and service to the Fulbright community by remaining true to that calling, as Michael put it, by “carrying the torch forward.”

John Bader
Executive Director
Fulbright Association

Salute to David Levin

Salute to David Levin

The Fulbright Association greets the news of David Levin’s retirement from the State Department and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) after more than 40 years of exceptional service with mixed emotions. We are happy for him at this moment of celebration for his decades of service to our country and the world, including his tenacious and outward-facing work to make the Fulbright Program more inclusive and diverse. David worked closely with HBCUs and other MSIs across the country, for example, to raise the Program’s profile and help it be more fully representative of us all. He deserves the recognition and hearty congratulations of a noble and successful tenure.

But we are also sad to lose such a friend and champion, though we know he will continue to lend his wisdom to us and root for our continuing successes. David served as the Association’s liaison to the State Department for decades, making sure our chapters across the country had the finances, support, and best practices to thrive as they are. If you wonder where resources come from to help chapters deliver great programs nationwide for so many years, the answer is ECA, with David serving as shepherd/advisor. He made sure these funds were used strategically, to grow and engage our community, and ensured they were used prudently, as a good public servant should. He was always there to help the Association succeed, and to support me, my predecessors, and the FA team, especially my colleagues, like Christine Oswald, who work with chapters.

John Bader (left) & David Levin (right) at Levin’s retirement party after 40+ years of service at the State Department

On a personal note, allow me to note that David is among the last folks at the State Department to work directly with my late father, former Assistant Secretary William Bader. Dad and David had great travel adventures together, including a memorable trip to the University of Wisconsin, and a lasting friendship built on mutual respect and a deep, lifetime devotion to the Fulbright Program and legacy.

We will miss David as a great colleague and booster, but we look forward to staying in touch—and staying on mission—with him for years to come. Congratulations, David, and many thanks!

John Bader
Executive Director
Fulbright Association

2023 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Tria Blu Wakpa

2023 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Tria Blu Wakpa

Tria Blu Wakpa is an Assistant Professor of Dance Studies in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received a Ph.D. and M.A. from the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley; an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Diego State University; and a B.A. in English with an option in Film summa cum laude from Oklahoma State University. Her research and teaching center on community-engaged, decolonizing, and dance studies methodologies to examine the politics and practices of dance and other movement forms—such as theatrical productions, athletics, and yoga—for Indigenous peoples in and beyond structures and institutions of confinement. She is a scholar, poet, and practitioner of Indigenous dance, North American Hand Talk (Indigenous sign language), martial arts, and yoga.


Photo by Kristine T Pham

Her first book project, Bodies as Battlegrounds, Institutions as War: Native American Choreographies in Confinement, historically and politically contextualizes dance, theatrical productions, basketball, and/or yoga at four sites on Lakota lands: a former Indian boarding school, men and women’s prisons, and a tribal juvenile hall.

Photo by Yöeme Hömari

Her published writings appear in scholarly journals and books, including: The American Indian Culture and Research Journal, American Quarterly, Critical Stages/Scènes, Dance Research Journal, The International Journal of Screendance, Performance Matters, Urdimento, Carceral Liberalism: Feminist Voices Against State Violence, Dance in US Popular Culture, Indigenous Motherhood in the Academy, Milestones in Dance History, Practicing Yoga as Resistance: Voices of Color in Search of Freedom, and Scholar & Feminist Online. She has received major fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Hellman Fellows Fund, and the UC President’s Postdoctoral Program. At UCLA, several entities have supported her research: the Academic Senate, the Center for the Study of Women, the Institute of American Cultures, the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and the School of the Arts and Architecture.


Photo by Dr. Mique’l Dangeli

In addition to her appointment with the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, Professor Blu Wakpa is affiliated with UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center and Center for Community Engagement. She has taught a wide range of interdisciplinary and community-engaged classes at public, private, tribal, and carceral institutions. For her pedagogical commitments that bridge the academy and off-campus communities, she has received support from the Center for Advancement of Teaching and the Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Scholars, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and the Radical Teacher Fellowship Grant. She is also a co-founder and the Editor-in-Chief of Race and Yoga, the first peer-reviewed and open-access journal in the emerging field of critical yoga studies.

Sharing Joy and Culture: Fulbright in the Classroom

Sharing Joy and Culture: Fulbright in the Classroom

Now in its fifth year, the Fulbright Association’s Fulbright in the Classroom (FIC) program provides opportunities for alumni to share their Fulbright experiences with kindergarten-through-college students in the United States. This program supports Fulbright Association’s members who want to inspire future generations of Fulbrighters and internationally minded citizens.

During the 2022-23 school year, 18 Fulbright Association members visited 1,760 students in 42 schools and universities. As classroom guests, the Fulbrighters led activities, answered questions, and connected with students all over the United States.

After completing his Fulbright fellowship at the University of Montana in Missoula, Gaurav Misra (Fulbright to the United States, 2015) led an interactive online FIC presentation with students at Paxson Elementary.

Photo 1. Paxton Elementary students participate during Gaurav’s presentation

Gaurav reported that he led a “presentation based on India and Indian culture. The presentation consisted of fun facts about Indian culture, basics of Hindi language, common phrases and greetings in Hindi, numbers in Hindi and Hindi fun tongue twisters. We also played a quick, fun quiz followed by virtual presents to all the winners. They enjoyed the presentation and asked me quite insightful questions in the end.”

Gaurav also shared video clips of his hometown and of Indian dance forms to help students understand his culture. Gaurav considered his participation in FIC as a way to further the Fulbright mission and give back to the American community.

Paula Faulkner (Fulbright to Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, 2010), a board member of the FA’s North Carolina Chapter, engaged 26 students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and 70 Alderman Elementary students in Greensboro virtually and in person. She shared about current events such as the human rights violations concerning the World Cup in Qatar.

Photo 2. During Paula’s presentation, Alderman Elementary students show their passport booklets, which share where they would like to visit

“I discussed each of the three countries I visited in the Middle East and … I told them how great the experience was, and that the Fulbright was my first time using a passport. I asked for a show of hands for how many had passports and then had traveled abroad.” As few students said they had passports and most had not yet traveled outside of the United States, Paula encouraged students to keep studying about the world and working towards opportunities to travel inside and outside the United States.

In Iowa, Ruth Taylor (Fulbrights to Peru, 2006, 2008 and 2012) encouraged 336 students from Lenox Community School District and the Bedford Community School District to earn their baccalaureate degrees and strive to apply to become Fulbright students or professional scholars in the future.

Ruth’s first-hand knowledge of Peruvian values and culture proved to be both very interesting and inspirational to the middle school students. She was even asked to return and expand her audience because, as school staff members expressed, “You have too important of a message to limit just to middle school students.” She was called back by Bedford Community School District to speak to an auditorium of high school students and called back by Lenox Community School District to speak to additional classes of junior high students, some of which were special education students.

Photo 3. Bedford Community Middle School students listen to Ruth’s experiences as a Fulbright alumna

Gaurav, Paula, and Ruth’s efforts to share about the richness of global cultures positively impacted the students they addressed.

As Ruth put it, “I could not have predicted the ‘joy’ I felt and the ‘closeness’ I felt to the middle/junior high and senior high school students … that came with my feeling that I was of help to them.”

Thank you to all alumni who participated in the Fulbright in the Classroom program over the past five years. We encourage all alumni to share their Fulbright experiences with students to prepare and inspire the next generation of Fulbrighters.






Fulbright alumni who participated in FIC 2022-2023

Nadira Branch, Fulbright to Haiti and Cote D’Ivoire, 2013 and 2019-21

Dom Caristi, Fulbright to Slovenia and Greece, 1995 and 2009

Leslie Cordie, Fulbright to Saint Kitts and Nevis, 2021-22

Richard Elaver, Fulbright to the Netherlands, 2005

Paula Faulkner, Fulbright to Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates, 2010

Nicole Jefferson, Fulbright to Mexico, 2009

Kelly La Venture, Fulbright to Mauritius and Cambodia, 2018-21 and 2022

Leland Lazarus, Fulbright to Panama, 2013

Gaurav Misra, Fulbright to the United States, 2015

Grace Mukupa, Fulbright to Tajikistan, 2012

Itto Outini, Fulbright to the United States, 2017-19

Anita Pasmantier, Fulbright to Italy, 2017-18

Ruth Taylor, Fulbright to Peru, 2006, 2008 and 2012

Mainhia Thao, Fulbright to Laos, 2019-20

Kevin Thompson, Fulbright to Indonesia and Singapore, 2014

Brendan Thomson, Fulbright to Nepal 2013 and Vietnam 2014

Shun-Yung Kevin Wang, Fulbright to Taiwan, 2021

Herma Williams, Fulbright to South Africa, 1996


FIC locations in 2022-2023


Phenix City, LaFayette, Valley




New Haven 




Gainesville, Miami, Sarasota






Lenox, Bedford 




Saint Paul, Minneapolis, Bemidji, Mahnomen



New Jersey

Bloomfield, Jersey

New Mexico


New York

New York

North Carolina

Durham, Greensboro, Boone, Winston Salem




Arlington, Petersburg

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.


Superior, Milwaukee

Fulbright Prize Honors Drs. Kizzmekia & Fauci

Fulbright Prize Honors Drs. Kizzmekia & Fauci

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, April 19th the Fulbright Association was proud to present the 2022 Fulbright Prize for International Understanding to Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Doctors Corbett and Fauci were at the head of the development and distribution of the life-saving COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and assisted in allowing the world to return to normalized activity.

Watch the program here.

The ceremony opened with words from Fulbright alumnus Dr. John Bader who said of the recipients:

“Thanks to vaccines and your support, students across America have been inspired to explore the world. Through our Fulbright in the classroom program, Fulbrighters are making the world more inviting to explore and its diverse peoples more understandable by sharing their experiences with students, including those in small towns, at community colleges, and HBCUs. Our volunteers are inspiring a more diverse generation to be global citizens and future Fulbrighters.”


The Honorable Cynthia Ackron Baldwin, Chair of the National Board of the Fulbright Association, remarked:

This evening as we honor our Laureates we reflect on the vision and values of the Fulbright Association for a peaceful and interconnected world in which all peoples and cultures are respected, diversity is valued and we are committed to mutual understanding.”

In her acceptance of the Prize, Dr. Corbett remarked on the immense progress the world had made since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020.

“This award is given at a time when the pandemic looks different than it did three years ago. We are finally at a place where there is hope. We can all see a little bit of light. Being a part of shining that light is not only an honor, but a responsibility moving forward.”

Dr. Corbett finally offered her reflections on the meaning of the Fulbright Prize of International Understanding to her. She stated:

“This prize for international understanding is coming to me, a person who prior to the pandemic could not even quite grasp how my science on a day to day basis could positively change the world. In the beginning, I had no international understanding at all. All I had was a little motivation. What I have learned from this vaccine development moment is that one’s purpose is not always clear cut and defined. I started this pandemic as merely a scientist and by way of the universe, now I am so much more than that.”

While accepting the Fulbright Prize, Dr. Fauci spoke on the shared experiences that the world has faced as a result of the global pandemic and the collective nature of hardship, but also strength that COVID-19 has brought forth in our world:

“Now the theme of the Fulbright prize is ‘Global Understanding’ and so in the context of the global pandemic of COVID, our global understanding has been inexorably linked to experiences that we shared with the rest of the world there for there are few experiences more global than the universal nature of a historic global pandemic.”

Dr. Fauci’s closing statements provided a call for the future of international understanding and the spirit of the Fulbright mission in improving our world.

“Finally, looking ahead to my own future goals, I am committed to continuing to contribute however and wherever I can be most effective to support activities that in the spirit of William Fulbright enhance the health and wellbeing of all people in the United States and around the globe.”

The Fulbright Prize was made possible by the generous gifts of Pfizer, ADP Foundation, Rice Global, Highmark, Georgia-Pacific, Leo Berwick, EY, Venable, UPMC Health Plans, and The Pennsylvania State University.

About the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding

The Fulbright Prize honors one of the world’s most prestigious international exchange programs, as well as the vision of its sponsor, the late Senator J. William Fulbright. Awarded by the Fulbright Association since 1993, the Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to promoting peace through greater understanding among peoples, cultures, and nations. The Prize has a distinguished history of laureates, among them Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Doctors without Borders, Bill and Melinda Gates, Angela Merkel, and Bono. More on the Prize, with a complete list of laureates, at

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year, marking its creation in 1946 through Congressional legislation proposed by Senator J. William Fulbright. The Program embodies the visionary concept of promoting mutual understanding between countries through academic and bicultural exchange. The Program provides exchanges between the United States and more than 160 countries worldwide, funded by the U.S. Government with bipartisan support and contributions from 52 foreign countries whose permanent commissions execute the Fulbright Program on a binational level. Annually, about 8,000 grantees, American and foreign, participate in the Fulbright exchange as students, scholars, researchers, English teachers, and professional specialists. Since its inception, the Program has sponsored approximately 390,000 grantees. Read more at

About the Fulbright Association

The Fulbright Association is the alumni organization of the Fulbright Program in the United States, representing over 140,000 American grantees. Founded in 1977, it is an independent non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, with 55 chapters in 38 states. Its mission is to continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy, and service through local, national and international programs. The Fulbright Association works with partners in more than 160 countries and 70 sister alumni associations around the world. Read more at

Advocacy Update – April 2023

Advocacy Update – April 2023

On April 20, 2023, 92 Fulbright Advocates from nearly 30 states and foreign nations made their way to Washington, D.C., for Fulbright Advocacy Day!

In meetings with 75 Congressional Offices, advocates urged for support of the Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international exchange program. Through global collaboration with 49 binational Fulbright Commissions and 110+ U.S. embassies, Fulbright’s has developed a diverse network of scholars, alumni, and global partners that foster mutual understanding, shared knowledge, and national security. This event and continued Chapter-led advocacy marked an unprecedented act of commitment and engagement by our community in support of the Fulbright Program.

The Fulbright Program is supported through Congressional appropriations made to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program continues to be leveraged with an additional average total of $100 million from partner countries, nearly all of it from the 49 countries with Fulbright Commissions. Funding for the Fulbright Program currently sits at $287.5 million (FY23). Since 2010, the Fulbright Program has lost 28.5%, even after a $12.5m increase for FY23. Our advocacy is crucial in sharing the impact of the Fulbright Program and encouraging increased appropriations; an ask of $369.5 million for FY 2024.

John Bader, executive director of the Association, was inspired by the passion of advocacy volunteers. “I am so grateful to the many Fulbrighters and friends who came to Washington for advocacy. Their dedication to the Fulbright mission is unshakeable, and so evident to every congressional office. Their stories and conviction were crucial to ensuring the future of the Fulbright Program.”

Following the day’s meetings on Capitol Hill, advocates reconvened at the Embassy of Uruguay for a debrief and reception. The embassy boasts strong ties with the Fulbright program; Ambassador Andrés Durán and his wife, Isabel, were both Fulbright recipients! We are extremely grateful for the embassy’s hospitality in hosting this reception.

During the debrief session, John Bader discussed the importance of our continued advocacy efforts and gratitude to our participants. Advocates then had the opportunity to discuss takeaways from their Congressional meetings and experience navigating Capitol Hill.

Our Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill has been bolstered through national level advocacy, led by Fulbright Chapters. This year, Chapter Advocacy Directors have organized 60 Fulbright advocates in meetings with 30 congressional offices in their home states. In these meetings, Fulbright advocates shared their stories of the impact that the Fulbright Program has had both at home and abroad. To join in on these continued local efforts, please contact your chapter’s leaders:

Advocacy Day and Fulbright Chapter advocacy is only the beginning! Many thanks to all who joined us on April 20, 2023 and those who have been advocating at home – we have certainly shared the importance of the Fulbright Program!

For information shared with Congressional offices check out our Virtual Leave Behind. Use the hashtag #StandForFulbright to share your Fulbright story on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter)!

—Samantha Lore

Fulbright to Italy, 2019-2020

Bruce A. Fowler Advocacy Fellow


Advocacy Day in Washington, DC

Chapter Advocacy

The Art of Cultural Exchange

The Art of Cultural Exchange

A project by Don Fels during his 2004-05 Fulbright to Kochi, India: employing out-of-work billboard painters to paint big the ‘legacy’ of Vasco da Gama’s arrival there 500 years ago

The Art of Cultural Exchange

By Donald Fels

Every country is proud of its artistic heritage and excited to celebrate and share it with visitors. But young people in many places don’t feel supported in their desire to become artists. I believe that the Fulbright Program could and should help change that by better promoting Fulbright Fellowship opportunities for independent artists. 

When, in my 70s, as a Fulbrighter in Uzbekistan, I was asked often how I had managed to sustain a life as a working artist. As part of the Soviet Union, Uzbek artists were systematically sent to Siberia, censored, or killed. Even today as an independent country, there is rampant fear and trepidation in choosing such a path. I was told over and over how exciting it was for these young people to meet a ‘real’ artist. Just being there, artists inspire.

Many countries offering Fulbright Fellowships omit art as one of the ‘disciplines’ or ‘professions’ for which individuals can apply. Perhaps this is an oversight or an unintended consequence. Yet having strong arts communities enrichens everyone, helping to build a robust sense of place, which in turn makes being there more attractive, productive, sustainable, and insightful. Numerous studies have shown that art and art events deliver considerable economic benefits. And certainly, a life spent working as an artist brings untold personal (and familial) rewards to those fortunate and stubborn enough to stay the course.

Everywhere, but especially in developing countries, those driven to become artists often struggle to find mentors and role models. Encouraging Fulbright artist applications would provide countries with an opportunity to bolster their own burgeoning artists.

However, few independent artists feel encouraged to apply for Fulbright opportunities. I’ve spoken with many American artists who are convinced that Fulbright grants are intended only for academics. When I served on the peer-selection panel for Indian Fulbright Scholars (the only artist and the only non-academic on the panel of eight), I noted that, in fact, nearly every artist who applied to India (one of the countries which encourages applicants from artists) taught at a university.

The lack of independent artist applications is an unfortunate reality because, as a group, working artists possess characteristics that could well contribute to making a Fulbright experience successful. By nature, curious, open-minded, quick on their feet, and adaptable, they know how to change course. As we Fulbright alumni know, the proposal one makes as a Fulbright applicant is rarely exactly what one can or even should carry out on the ground. Most importantly, in their host country, Fulbrighters are expected to be cultural ambassadors; worldwide, art is a bedrock of culture.

By better attracting arts practitioners and finding new ways to include them in the Fulbright Program, we can better work towards the highly worthy goal of cultural exchange. For example, artists should be encouraged to apply for the Specialist program, from which they are presently excluded. This would allow them to carry out short-term projects, perhaps in collaboration with others in-country.

When I received my first Fulbright Grant, I was several years out of college and had been exhibiting in galleries for over a decade. Deciding to apply for a Fulbright, I had to shoehorn my application into a slot intended for recent undergraduates. Targeting working artists would produce a better fit for them and for the Fulbright Program. Getting the word out to regional, state, and city arts commissions that applications are welcome from practicing artists would greatly broaden the pool for practitioners.

America is not just a country of those who can design a water system, teach economics, or research geomorphology. It is also where artists, delivering beauty and hope, dream, think grandly, look closely, and present the world in challenging new ways. With artists on deck, the Fulbright Program will sail off better equipped for our global journey ahead.

Visual artist Don Fels has been a Fulbright Fellow in Italy (1985-6), a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in India (2004-5) and a Fulbright Scholar in Uzbekistan (2019). His work as an artist can be viewed at and

Ready to Do: A Reflection on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s High School Experience

Ready to Do: A Reflection on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s High School Experience

Dr. Anthony Fauci and his basketball team at Regis High School.

Ready to Do: A Reflection on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s High School Experience

By Brendan D. Thomson, MD and William Gallaher, PhD                                                      

To understand the Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD, of today, it is useful to learn of Dr. Fauci’s formative years at Regis High School in New York. As fellow graduates of Regis High School, we would like to share about Dr. Fauci’s high school experience and how his early education impacted his future leadership.

Regis was then – and is now – the leading Catholic high school in the United States. It is highly selective and is the only tuition-free private preparatory school in the United States.

On the first Tuesday of September 1954, Dr. Fauci left his home above his family’s pharmacy in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, entered the local subway station to later emerge at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. He walked the two short blocks to 85th Street and Park Avenue and entered Regis High School through the historic “Regis Tunnel.”

The academic program at Regis was rigorous. A third of students who entered with Dr. Fauci in 1954 would not graduate. In addition to four years of Latin and two years of a modern language, each student was required to study three years of classic Greek.

At Regis, Dr. Fauci was exposed to beloved educator Father Stephen V. Duffy, S.J., Homer’s The Odyssey and its hero, Odysseus, the “role model” for the ancient Greeks. The single word used to describe Odysseus in the first line of the Odyssey was polutropos; its connotation is multi-turning and resourceful.

Dr. Fauci also loved basketball and in his senior year was captain of the varsity team. Before each game, and on many other occasions, he would sing the words of the Regis fight song:

May ours be the noble heart,
Strong to endure,
Daring ‘tho’ skies be dark and roadways unsure,
May ours be the heroes part
Ready to do                       

The Dr. Fauci of today was forged by his spirited leadership in high school and his early classical education. This was exemplified during these times of significant public health threats when Dr. Fauci maintained solid dedication to truth and accuracy. Like Odysseus, he was polutropos as he guided his coworkers at the National Institutes Health, Congress, United States presidents, the medical community, and the at-risk public.

As individuals and as a society, we need role models, leaders, mentors as other dark skies and unsure roadways shall occur. Dr. Anthony Fauci, with “noble heart…and ready to do,” is such a role model.

Drs. Thomson and Gallaher graduated from Regis High School in 1962, four years after Dr. Fauci graduated. Drs. Thomson, Gallaher and Fauci’s professional paths crossed in the 1980’s during their work combatting the AIDS epidemic.

Brendan D. Thomson, MD, MBA, is a Fulbright alumnus to Nepal (2013) and Vietnam (2015). He is a 1946 Society member.

William Gallaher, PhD, is Professor Emeritus Virology at Louisiana State University.

Fulbright Program Receives First Funding Increase in 12 Years

Fulbright Program Receives First Funding Increase in 12 Years

By Melanie Horton-Dirschberger, former Fulbright Association board member and Chair of Advocacy Advisory Committee 

Left to right: John Bader, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Melanie Horton

Last May, we reported that the Fulbright Program may finally get a spending increase, thanks in part to the Fulbright Association’s advocacy efforts.  The House Appropriations Committee had endorsed a $10 million increase to the fiscal year 2022 funding level of $275 million, thanks to the strong leadership of Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). The Senate Appropriations Committee followed their lead and went further, proposing a $15 million increase. We are grateful for the support of former Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) who has always been a strong champion of the Fulbright Program, right through his last year in the Senate. 

After several nail-biting months waiting for news, through the passage of continuing resolutions to fund the government at then-current levels while lawmakers worked toward a compromise, Congress passed the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, signed by President Biden into law on December 29. The bill includes a $12.5 million increase for the Fulbright Program – bringing our fiscal year 2023 funding to $287.5 million – our first increase in 12 years! This achievement is the result of years of hard work and dedication of Fulbright Association staff, board members, commission directors, and volunteers, and gives us all a reason to celebrate. It is also just a starting point; after a dozen years of flat funding, we have a long way to go before we’re where we need to be.

As I reflect on six years as a board member for the Fulbright Association, the last two also spent as Chair of the Advocacy Committee, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way that I hope can inspire other members of the Fulbright community to become advocates. 

If you’re new to advocacy, it can seem a bit daunting at first. What could our Congressional representatives possibly learn from us? The truth is, a lot! Members of Congress cannot be experts in each and every federally funded program, and meetings with passionate advocates are helpful to them for many reasons. First, we share important historical context and key stats they may be unaware of, helping them to become better versed in the details. Second, by sharing our Fulbright stories, we bring a human element to the program and demonstrate just why it’s so important to our country’s national security and to achieving international understanding. When building a budget lawmakers are tasked with weighing many competing priorities, so information and context provided by program experts (us!) is helpful to their decision-making process. 

After going virtual for the last few years, the Fulbright Association is bringing back its in-person day of advocacy on Capitol Hill to continue our fight for increased funding. The event is scheduled for Thursday, April 20, the day after the Fulbright Prize ceremony, and is open to all members of the Association. If you can’t make it to D.C., there are other opportunities. Advocating at the local level in your Congressperson’s home office is equally important and effective. The Association will be coordinating with chapters to organize these meetings throughout February and March, so make sure you’re a member of your local chapter and reach out to chapter leadership for additional information and to let them know you’d like to be involved. 

If you’ve ever thought about advocacy, this is your chance to share your story and make your voice heard. Remember – you are the expert, and we need your support! No prior experience is necessary, and volunteers will participate in a training session in preparation for their meetings with their advocacy teams. 

Being an advocate for something we’re passionate about is exciting, but it’s also hard work and can be frustrating. Each year, hundreds of organizations compete for limited federal funding, and not all of them will get what they’re asking for. That’s why we continually review and refine our messaging and strategy. If we’re not rewarded with an increase, it doesn’t mean we give up; it means we regroup, pivot, and try again. This past year, the Association met with Fulbright champions in both the House and Senate to better understand the challenges as well as seek advice on what we should focus on and emphasize in our advocacy to best make our case for increased funding. We engaged Members of Congress not only in meetings but also by inviting them to our events so they could experience firsthand the impact of the Fulbright Program. 

We all know what makes the Fulbright Program great. For over 75 years, the Fulbright Program has advanced mutual understanding between the U.S. and 160 countries around the world, and those of us who have served as grantees can think back to numerous examples of how we worked to help achieve just that. At this time of international conflict, our world needs more opportunities for international exchange.  Let’s take a moment to celebrate this long-awaited and much-deserved win. And then get right back to work to make the Fulbright Program stronger than ever. There has never been a more exciting and crucial time to be involved. 

The Fulbright Community Honors the Life of Mark Bookman, Vice President of the Fulbrighters with Disabilities Chapter

The Fulbright Community Honors the Life of Mark Bookman, Vice President of the Fulbrighters with Disabilities Chapter

We are saddened to share that Mark Bookman, PhD, passed away unexpectedly on December 16, 2022. Mark completed a Fulbright U.S. Fellowship to Japan and this past year, became the Vice President of the Fulbrighters with Disabilities Chapter at the Fulbright Association.

Please take a moment to read his website, where he shares his work as a “historian of disability policy and connected social movements in Japanese and transnational contexts.”

On December 30th, the Fulbrighters with Disabilities Chapter gathered virtually to honor Mark’s life and contributions to the disability community (flyer shared above). The chapter “will be honoring Mark’s mission for the chapter going forward into the New Year with [their] new advocacy position, future events, and more.” In a post honoring Mark, Itto Outini, founder of the chapter, shared that even though he died young, he managed to contribute a great deal of scholarship to the world before he died.”

We remember Mark for his contributions to the Fulbright community, the disability community, and for touching the lives of many.

Mark’s Obituary:

Small Loans, Big Dreams: A Fulbright Story

By Alex Counts (Bangladesh, 1988-9)


The following is an excerpt from the 2022 edition of my book about Grameen Bank and the microfinance revolution: Small Loans, Big Dreams: Grameen Bank and the Microfinance Revolution in Bangladesh, America and Beyond (Rivertowns Books). Founded in 1976 by Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Fulbright Scholar from Bangladesh in 1965 who would later receive 2006  Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, Grameen Bank would go on to help millions of Bangladeshis-particularly rural women-to rise out of extreme poverty or at least make their conditions more tolerable.  After I graduated from Cornell in 1988, I began my own Fulbright fellowship in Bangladesh, working with Grameen for ten months and seeing firsthand the impact of the microcredit movement.  I returned for 5 more years, and later went on to establish the US-based Grameen Foundation, one of the many organizations carrying on Yunus’s vision across the world.  The focus of the book was augmenting an in-depth profile of Yunus with detailed descriptions of the journeys of two groups of women borrowers; one was in Bangladesh and the other was in Chicago, where an early effort to adapt Grameen to the U.S. was underway at the time. This updated edition covers the major developments in microfinance and with Grameen Bank since the previous edition in 2008, including the breakthrough in applying Grameen’s methodology to addressing urban poverty in the United States represented by Grameen America.  It has been well-received by reviewers, earning the designation of “editor’s pick” by Publishers Weekly BookLife.—Alex Counts  


It began as one stubborn man’s desperate attempt to make sense of his life in a country racked by famine. In 1974, Bangladeshis were dying by the thousands for lack of even the meager nourishment to which they had grown accustomed. The skies blackened with vultures in search of another corpse to devour.

Three years removed from the glorious war of liberation, the country’s dreams of freedom had been cruelly broken, transformed into a nightmare of hunger, wanton violence, and despair. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously called Bangladesh “the world’s basket case.”

For one Bangladeshi, a soft-spoken economist named Muhammad Yunus, this was intolerable. He had to do something, even if it could only begin as a small gesture. Exactly what, he didn’t have the faintest idea. Still, there was one thing he understood: The economic theories he had mastered at American universities while earning his Ph.D. would be of little use. Professor Muhammad Yunus would have to mix with the poor and see what he could think up after immersing himself in their reality. He hardly had grand illusions about what one man could do, working alone. But he had to act.

That is how it began.

Bangladesh’s Poverty and the Birth of the Grameen Bank

By 1983, despite nearly 10 years of an “assault on poverty” declared in the wake of the 1974 famine, real wages were 2.3 percent lower than in the last year of Pakistani rule, and a day’s work in the fields bought a laborer three kilograms of rice instead of the four it had fetched in 1970. At the same time, the nation had three million new mouths to feed every 12 months. By the mid-1980s, per capita consumption reached an all-time low of 1,943 calories and 48.9 grams of protein. (According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the minimum daily requirement to sustain sedentary life is 2,150 calories and 65 grams of protein.)

During the 1980s, the plight of women in rural Bangladesh became increasingly severe. Even in good times, women prepare the feasts but are only permitted to eat the leftovers after the men are finished, to wash their husband’s new clothes while wearing tattered saris, and to hope, often in vain, that the money their guardians earn is being saved or productively invested rather than being frittered away. In bad times, women go the hungriest, work the hardest, and have to stand by helplessly while their children cry out for food. All year round, in good times and bad, women suffer many other humiliations. They cannot travel outside their immediate home after puberty without becoming the subject of lurid rumors. They are the victims of frequent beatings and verbal abuse by husbands and in-laws, and against all reason are blamed for floods, droughts, and disappointing harvests.

Life for a Bangladeshi woman is, more than anything else, one of isolation. In certain parts of the country, it is common to find women who have not strayed from an area smaller than a few hundred square yards for decades at a time; who have never held currency in their hand or seen a market; who have no friends; who have never played any meaningful role in the politics of their family, their village, or their country.

With an annual per capita income of around $200 in the early 1990s, and a population of roughly 115 million people packed into 68,000 villages in a country the size of the state of Wisconsin, the fundamental problems in the political and economic management of Bangladesh are manifest. Blame can be liberally spread among the government, the private sector, and the foreign aid agencies. But to understand the depth of the sorrow this nation has suffered, one need not open a single history book or read a fancy economic printout. One need only stand in a village for a few hours and look around at all the frail women with sunken, toothless faces hunching over earthen stoves or carrying water on one hip and a child in their arms as they walk barefoot down muddy village paths strewn with animal and human feces.

Yunus became intrigued when he saw many of the women in the poorest families making mora (finely woven bamboo stools). Because they lacked money, the women were forced to deal with paikars (middlemen) who sold them raw materials on credit and bought the stools for a pittance. The women’s effective daily wage was 8 anna, or half a taka ($0.02). Yunus had several of his students find out how many people in the village were working under this type of arrangement. It turned out that there were 42 people who worked for roughly 2 pennies a day because they collectively lacked capital amounting to 856 taka ($27). Some needed only 10 or 20 taka, and the greatest amount any one person needed was 65 taka.

Yunus was flabbergasted. Years later, he would say that he “felt ashamed to be part of a society which could not make $27 available to 42 hard working, skilled human beings so that they could make a decent living.” This lack of investment capital, he came to believe, was one of the root causes of the poverty that blighted rural Bangladesh.  He set out to find a way to address the hardship that came from the inability of his country’s poor to access the tiny amounts of money needed to improve their lives.  His efforts ended up spawning a global movement that would ultimately reach the shores of the United States.

The Secret the Grameen’s Success: Forming Solidarity Groups

Rukia Begum, a member of the seventh group-in-formation of Grameen center number two, stuck her head out of her tiny, rotting thatch hut, squinted, and looked at the sun. From its position in the sky, she figured it was time to leave for her group recognition test, an oral exam given to prospective Grameen Bank members after their training period. Fixing her sari, she contemplated the nausea she felt and the volume of material she and the other members of her group had memorized. For a moment, she thought she was going to vomit.

The oral exam that she was gearing up for requires all prospective members to demonstrate that they understand the rules of the bank, making it difficult for an unscrupulous bank employee to take advantage of them. It also makes it easier for them to recruit new members once they begin borrowing, should they want to do so. The idea is that this is their bank and they must assume their roles as clients and owners with eyes wide open, understanding each and every rule.

An integral part of the training is learning Grameen’s social constitution known as the Sixteen Decisions, which was drawn up by a meeting of center chiefs in 1984. Requiring new borrowers to memorize it was part of the bank’s attempt to respond to the social dimensions of poverty; it was a series of principles and goals to ease the workings of the bank and help borrowers focus on getting themselves out of poverty. They included limiting the size of one’s family, educating children, not accepting or giving dowry (since doing so devalues girls and women), planting vegetable gardens and fruit-bearing trees, and building sanitary latrines. Other decisions were more philosophical; for instance, members pledged to help one another and not let anyone do injustice to them. Borrowers were required to memorize these commitments as part of their group training.  Furthermore, the staff was urged to motivate members to implement them, and a special programs division that received funding from UNICEF for many years organized workshops and delivered supplies (such as iodized salt and packets of vegetable seeds) in hopes of speeding their realization.

When a new group becomes eligible for loans, two women, normally the poorest in the group, submit loan proposals, which will in most cases receive formal approval by the bank in a few days. The first line of defense against bad business decisions is not the bank or its employees, but rather the other women in the group. If the first two borrowers to receive loans have any difficulty repaying, the remaining three will have their proposals delayed, reduced in amount, or, in extreme cases, denied altogether. Each member therefore has strong incentives to scrutinize her fellow borrowers’ loan proposals and to apply a delicate combination of pressure and support to ensure that the money is invested properly and that their income-generating activity succeeds. In practice, this means that poor families that would normally have no contact, or perhaps have an antagonistic relationship born of religious or caste differences or a generations-old feud, are almost forced to help one another. A group member might tip off a fellow borrower to the fact that she is about to buy a cow that is suffering from a disease likely to kill it—even if the seller is a relative of the one giving the tip. Another might help steer business, including her own, to a woman in her group. The impersonal forces of supply and demand are thus softened by a network of friends who want you to succeed for a combination of financial incentives and human empathy.

For a woman to get into such a network, husbands and village elders may need to be defied, and rules and regulations will need to be memorized, trust built up, and finally, the group recognition test passed. For women isolated from their society by illiteracy, poverty, and custom, these are considerable obstacles. A weeding-out process inevitably occurs. Sometimes, when dropouts occur, village elders complain about Grameen’s policy of not forming men’s centers. But by the mid-1990s, Grameen’s senior management had concluded that women repaid their loans—and attended meetings—more regularly than men did; furthermore, there was growing evidence to suggest that lending to a family’s husband helped the husband, whereas lending to the wife helped the entire family. As a result, the percentage of women borrowers in Grameen had been steadily increasing, from less than 50 percent in the early 1980s to more than 90 percent a decade later.

Like millions of other Bangladeshi women, Rukia was ultimately accepted as a member of Grameen, even though her group failed its first recognition test.  The road to self-advancement that Grameen offers is frequently a bumpy one.  In many cases, it is not until the next generation that poverty is eliminated entirely, usually the result a borrower’s investment of her additional income into the education of her children.  In doing the research for this book, I bore witness to this often slow but inexorable process in rural Bangladesh and also in urban Chicago.

Overcoming Opponents and Skeptics in Rural Bangladesh

For the last several decades in Bangladesh, every weekday (except national holidays) witnesses a unique ritual: thousands of Grameen Bank employees set off by foot, bicycle, or boat to take part in meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of poor women living in tiny hamlets scattered across Bangladesh. By noon, the bank workers travel a combined distance exceeding several times the circumference of the globe and collect, count, and deposit millions of taka in small bills—all without turning on a single car, motorcycle, or computer.

The women and men they meet with in cramped bamboo houses are taking part in one of the world’s most daring experiments in rural development; they are both the borrowers and the owners of Grameen Bank. Loans they receive are invested in more than 500 income-generating enterprises as diverse as cow-fattening, rice-husking, trading, tailoring, light manufacturing, and handloom weaving.

One of the enduring mysteries of Grameen and the wider microfinance movement is why unarmed loan officers who, for many years, carried significant amounts of cash every day on predictable routes were so rarely mugged. After spending many months living in rural Bangladesh and talking with people who were steeped in the local culture, I have come up with a hypothesis as to why the staff were almost always unmolested.

While there is often initial opposition to microfinance groups like Grameen when they enter a community, owing to the fact that they exclude the well-off, prioritize women clients, and run afoul of various cultural norms and vested interests, most critics develop some grudging admiration for them over time. People see that the staff members deliver affordable and reliable financial services to clients (and increasingly, attractive savings products to the public), are almost always incorruptible, provide both loans and jobs without favoritism, nepotism, or bribes, and perform their jobs conscientiously year-in and year-out.

I believe people’s respect for these qualities is the main reason why Grameen Bank loan officers were so rarely attacked, even during the eras when they handled large amounts of cash. I also have come to sense that their manner of doing business is gradually raising societal expectations of how all institutions, private and public, should behave.

Grameen Comes to America to Battle A Different Kind of Poverty

Starting in 1976, the Ford Foundation’s office in Bangladesh supported Yunus’s work with small grants, first to Chittagong University’s Rural Economics Program and later to the Grameen Bank Project in Tangail. After Grameen became an independent bank in 1983, Yunus approached Ford with a request for funding to expand in the Dhaka, Patuakhali, Chittagong, and Rangpur districts. He worked out how much money he would need on his calculator, wrote a proposal in longhand, and presented it to Ford program officer Steve Biggs, who wanted to have some people with experience in banking take a look at Grameen before he approved the grant.

Pleased with how Yunus used the foundation’s grants, officials there invited Yunus to Chicago in 1985, and a series of meetings was arranged with the staff of local banks and nonprofit organizations. People were skeptical about the idea of the Grameen model working in inner-city Chicago, but Yunus won over several of his critics. One University of Chicago scholar, for example, had some disillusioning experiences working in India and was convinced Houghton had been bamboozled by Yunus. He felt certain that no program of any size on the Indian subcontinent could be free from corruption. But when he met Yunus in person, the sociologist became a convert.

Much of their discussion centered on Yunus’s description of Grameen Bank’s target group—“the poorest of the poor.” In the United States, he was told, the poorest people need social services, not investment capital. But Yunus held firm, saying that his program was designed to work with the poorest and that he had little interest in working with people if they didn’t share his commitment. He recounted similar arguments that Bengali academics had confronted him with when he was getting started in Jobra, and reiterated his philosophy that every human being had the capacity to use credit to get out of poverty. Recalling those conversations, Houghton said, “While for most of us it was a leap of faith to believe what Yunus was saying, we wanted to believe it was true.” So they kept listening.

At one meeting, Yunus asked a participant what he thought a poor person would need to start or expand a small business in the United States. He was shocked by the answer—$50,000. Yunus went on to say that if there weren’t people who were willing to take loans under $5,000, and capable of making a go of it with that amount, then there were no poor people in Chicago that a Grameen-style program could help.

On his second Ford-sponsored trip to the United States in February 1986, Yunus met Bill and Hillary Clinton in a restaurant in Washington, and both expressed enthusiasm about starting a Grameen spin-off in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was governor at the time. Hillary Clinton, Yunus remembers, was especially gung ho. “She wanted to start right away!” he recalls. Yunus had just returned from his first visit to Arkansas, where he had been driven through rural areas to meet with “the poor” so he could judge the feasibility of adapting the Grameen approach there. Based on his observations, he told the Clintons that he thought the program had a good chance of success in Arkansas.

That trip, however, had got off on the wrong foot. His hosts—senior officials of the state government, South Shore Bank, and the Rockefeller Foundation—thought Yunus appeared less and less interested in meeting with the local people at each successive stop. Yunus would later complain that he didn’t think that any of the small business owners he was supposed to meet were poor. Didn’t they understand that Grameen was for truly poor people? Yunus remembers thinking that his time was being wasted. On the second day, Yunus persuaded the man from the foundation to bring him to meet some unemployed people and welfare recipients. It was at this point that Yunus began showing interest in the discussions.

Years later, Yunus recalled:

I asked the welfare recipients and unemployed people, “Suppose that your bank lends you money to do something—what kind of thing would you decide to do?” Almost everybody said that a bank would not give them money, so why bother to talk about it. I said, “Suppose they would lend you money.” I got more blank stares. “Look, I run a bank in Bangladesh that lends money to the poor people there. I just had a meeting with Governor Clinton and he asked me to bring my bank to your community. I am thinking of starting a bank right here. Now I am trying to find out if somebody is interested in borrowing money from me. Because if there is no business, why should I come here?” I mentioned that my bank does not need any collateral, nothing.

A woman who had listened very carefully said, “Oh, I would like to borrow some money from your bank!” I said, “Okay, now we are in business. How much money would you like?”

She said, “I would like three hundred seventy-five dollars.” I was surprised, because normally, people don’t say “Three hundred seventy-five dollars”; they make it a round figure, so I asked her what she wants to do with this sum. She said that she was a beautician, and that her business was limited because she did not have all the right supplies. If she could get a box of supplies costing three hundred seventy-five dollars, she was sure she could pay me back with the extra income. She also said she did not want to take a penny more than what the box actually costs.

Another woman, unemployed after the textile factory she’d been working at closed and moved its business to Taiwan, needed a few hundred dollars for a sewing machine. Still another woman wanted $600 to buy a pushcart from which to sell her hot tamales, which she informed the Bangladeshi professor were “famous” in her neighborhood. These interviews tickled Yunus, and he regretted that the trip was nearing its end.

These early explorations into how Grameen’s model could be applied in the United States led to excitement and experimentation during the late 1980s and 1990s, but the initial results were disappointing.  Finally, in 2008 Yunus sent in a small team of Bangladeshis to knock on doors in Queens, a borough of New York City, to see what could be done.  Fifteen years later, Grameen America was on the cusp of lending its three billionth dollar in amounts averaging around $2,000, with a 99% repayment rate and growing evidence from independent researchers that its women clients were benefitting significantly.

In this way, the benefits of the Fulbright scholarship offered to Yunus came full circle, as they so often do.


Fulbright Alumni Inspire DC 5th Graders to Keep Studying Mandarin

Fulbright Alumni Inspire DC 5th Graders to Keep Studying Mandarin

“What’s your favorite Chinese food?” Leland Lazarus (Panama 2013-2014) asked. 

“We love to eat DUMPLINGS!” the students yelled.

“I’m from a big city in Washington state. Which city is that?” Mycal Ford (Taiwan 2012-2013) asked.

“SEATTLE!” the students responded in unison.

Such conversations are quite normal in a 5th grade class. But what made this different was that it was all in Mandarin!

On Tuesday, November 29th, Leland, Mycal, and Obi Eneh gave a presentation in fluent Mandarin to over 30 5th grade students at Washington Yu Ying elementary school. 

It was part of the Fulbright Association’s Fulbright in the Classroom (FIC) initiative, where alumni across the nation encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider studying abroad, learning languages, and applying for Fulbright later on in their academic journey. 

FA was honored to host a FIC at Yu Ying, a top-tier school in Washington, DC, that provides Chinese language immersion in a structured inquiry-based environment. Yu Ying’s mission is to “inspire and prepare young people to create a better world by challenging them to reach their full potential in a nurturing Chinese/English educational environment.” It is also ranked as one of the most diverse schools in the United States.

“We strive to give them real world experiences, and as a Chinese immersion school, we value experiences where they can practice using their Mandarin skills,” said Sarah Perkins, Project Development and Grants Coordinator at Yu Ying. “We were fortunate to have Leland, Mycal and Obi, three professionals, who, like them, are not native speakers, but who are successfully using the language in their lives.”

Leland shared how he loved watching Chinese movies when he was little, but that he didn’t have the chance to start learning Mandarin until he got to college. He talked about working and living in China, and his time serving as a U.S. diplomat in that country. Mycal told stories about being a teacher in both mainland China and Taiwan, and taught the 5th graders how to pronounce his hometown of Seattle in Mandarin (西雅图 xīyǎtú). Obi, who attended virtually, kept the students in rapt attention as he described his own experience living in Harbin in northeast China. 

Each speaker represented at least one of three organizations: Fulbright, the Black China Caucus and the National Association for Black Engagement in Asia

“We were so incredibly impressed by these students,” Leland said. “To see so many diverse students being able to communicate in Mandarin makes me extremely confident about the future of our country. I hope that, when the students see Obi, Mycal, and myself speaking to them in Mandarin, it’ll motivate them to keep studying throughout their entire academic and professional journey.”

“Learning Mandarin Chinese and studying abroad in China has had a huge impact on my life,” Obi said. “So it was an honor and a privilege for me to share my experience with young Chinese language learners. I felt energized by their enthusiasm and curiosity.”

“The excitement the students displayed towards language learning was inspiring!” Mycal said. My hope is that moments and opportunities like these further normalize the study of foreign languages for the students.”


“A Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step”: Four Fulbrighters Visit DC International School

“A Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step”: Four Fulbrighters Visit DC International School

“When people hear Fulbright, doors open for you.” That’s what Wen-kuni Ceant, Fulbright alumna to Senegal (2017-2018), told 19 bright students from DC International School (DCI). Wen-kuni, along with fellow Fulbright alumni Ashley Morefield (Côte d’Ivoire 2018-2019), Mycal Ford (Taiwan 2012-2013), and Leland Lazarus (Panama 2013-2014), shared their Fulbright stories with these 9th and 10th graders. 

It was part of the Fulbright Association’s Fulbright in the Classroom (FIC) initiative, where alumni across the nation encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider studying abroad, learning languages, and applying for Fulbright later on in their academic journey.  

DCI was the perfect host, given its mission to create global citizens through advanced language learning, student agency, and the International Baccalaureate curriculum. DCI is the only IB-for-all, advanced language public school in Washington, DC, and serves a diverse student body of middle and high school students. The goal is that, by the time the students graduate, they will be fluent in Mandarin, Spanish, or French.

“Because international mindedness is the cornerstone of our academic programming, Fulbright in the Classroom was an amazing opportunity for DCI students to learn about the benefits of studying abroad, learning languages and traveling internationally,” said Ezra Miller, DCI’s IB Diploma Program Coordinator. “Many of our students want to pursue careers in global politics and international relations, but prior to the Fulbright in the Classroom event, they were unaware of the many awards and fellowships available through the Fulbright Program. We are so grateful to the Fulbright alumni who visited our school and shared their stories with the DCI community!”

Wen-kuni shared her own journey, coming from Miami, graduating from Howard and Drexel universities, before applying for her Fulbright to Senegal, where she researched that country’s public health infrastructure. She remembered how a specific faculty member provided constant mentorship for her throughout the long application process. “Make sure you seek out mentors who will pour into you and really help you succeed,” she advised. Wen-kuni is also the Co-Founder of Politicking, an organization that encourages young people to get out the vote. “Voting is one of the greatest things you can do as a citizen of this country,” she stressed.

Mycal Ford shared stories of cross-cultural misunderstandings during his time living in Asia. “When I first traveled to Japan, my host family served me tea, but I thought it was too hot and not sweet enough, so I asked for ice cubes and sugar”, he explained. At that time, my sense of cultural awareness was quite limited. When he lived in China, many of his Chinese friends just assumed that he was good at basketball, just because he’s Black. “For me, it was always an opportunity to change local people’s idea about what an American can look like,” he added. Mycal, who leads an organization called the Black China Caucus, also encouraged students to consider other exchange programs, including the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), Critical Language Scholarship, and the Boren Fellowship.

Ashley Morefield discussed her academic journey from Dickinson College, spending a year studying in France, and traveling all across Europe, all covered by her university. “Make sure that you do a study abroad program that is covered by your student aid,” she advised. Ashley did her Fulbright in Côte’d’Ivoire teaching English, and she is now a graduate student at Georgetown University and a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow, which means she will become a U.S. Foreign Service Officer upon graduation. Ashley is also one of the chairs of the executive leadership of Fulbright Noir, an Affinity group established to support Black Fulbrighters.

Leland Lazarus began his presentation to the rapt audience with a Chinese proverb: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. He went on to share each step in his own journey: teaching English in Panama on his Fulbright, receiving the Pickering Fellowship and serving as a U.S. diplomat in China and the Caribbean, working in the Department of Defense, and now leading a team as an Associate Director at Florida International University. Along the way he visited remote areas in China, encouraged young people in both China and the Caribbean to study in the U.S., and met stars like Jackie Chan and Rihanna. “You hear all of our backgrounds and stories of traveling around the world,” he said, “but remember that we all started just like each of you. It all begins with a single step; with what you’re all doing right now at DCI, you’ve already made that first step.”

Reflections on the Fulbright Reunion – 45th Annual Conference

Reflections on the Fulbright Reunion – 45th Annual Conference

The Fulbright Association’s 45th Annual Conference drew more than 300 attendees for a dynamic event celebrating the international community. It was the first opportunity to gather in-person for the annual conference since October 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world. The conference took place October 6-9 at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda in Bethesda, Maryland.

Our programming for the 45th Annual Conference has been made possible by the support and partnership of our sponsors listed to the right.

There were more than 100 presentations and break-out sessions on topics that focused on Global Cultural Diplomacy, Diversity & Transparency, Art & Culture, Resilience, and so much more! Thirty General Sessions were offered on Friday and Saturday of the conference. These interactive presentations allowed the Fulbright community to showcase the incredible work they are doing throughout the world.

Download the Digital Conference Program


Opening Keynote – Ambassador Oksana Markarova of Ukraine

We welcomed Ambassador Oksana Markarova of Ukraine to give an extraordinary, thoughtful, and inspiring keynote address. The ambassador reflected on the extreme challenges facing her country and its supporters worldwide in countering Russian violence, lawlessness, and alleged war crimes. She gave us hope that Ukrainian resolve and resilience will remain steadfast until this war ends—and well beyond.

The ambassador was introduced by Association board member Réka Szemerkényi, a former ambassador from Hungary, who moderated a high-level discussion that include Markarova, as well as scholar and commentator Debra Cagan, and Arturas Vasbys, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Lithuanian Embassy. The panel took wide-ranging questions from our conference attendees, covering such topics as mental health, human rights, the role of China, military strategy, and more. The evening was a highlight of the Conference.

Watch the full Opening Keynote and Panel Discussion.

The Welcome Reception on Thursday night and the Fulbright Party on Friday night provided the fun and excitement attendees were longing for. Music, hors d’oeuvres, photo stations, were available, along with numerous opportunities to network and reconnect.


Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture – Dr. Janaki Nair

Every year the conference attendees get to look inside the world of dance. Dr. Nair gave an inspiring lecture on her unique position as one of the rare female Kathakali artists who is trained to perform male characters. Dr. Nair brought this traditional Indian dance to life through videos, lecture, and a live performance. One of the outstanding disciples of Shri Nelliyodu Vasudevan Nampoothiri, Dr. Nair has followed a rigid training regime in Kathakali for fifteen years. She was aptly awarded with India government’s talent scholarship for her flair and passion in Kathakali and has performed widely in India and UK. In her research, she continues to explore the concept of embodying and aligning psychophysical practices, concepts and methodologies. Watch the full lecture.


Virtual Art Exhibit

The Fulbright community is full of talented visual artist in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography. Throughout the conference attendees were able to experience a beautifully curated art exhibit through the conference app and online. The images were displayed Friday evening during the #FulbrightParty. View the Virtual Exhibit Online.


General Sessions

With 30 general sessions, attendees had their choice of many concurrent presentations. The styles of sessions varied and Fulbrighters engaged in workshops, conversations, and research presentations. Panels offered time for detailed Q&A and networking with the speakers.



Over 30 Fulbrighters and friends presented roundtables at the Conference, leading vibrant conversations around topics in their areas of expertise. As these sessions literally took place at round tables, they gave participants the opportunity to participate in intimate and provocative conversations with co-attendees. Roundtable participants leaned in, listened well, and contributed to Fulbright alumni growth as a community of learners.



We continued our wonderful tradition of hosting a poster fair on Saturday. These presentations were both highly informative and wonderfully interactive. As you walked down the colorful aisles of beautiful posters, an investigation of educational institutions in the Philippines stood side by side with research on artificial intelligence and a new era of biotechnology. Over the course of two hours, Fulbrighters exchanged ideas, shared research, and asked provocative questions of one another. These conversations persisted throughout the rest of the conference, and will certainly continue to enhance our understanding of the world and current research as we return to our local communities.

Something that is always especially important about our poster sessions is that it gives young Fulbright alums the opportunity to present and advance their research through conversation and open them to networking and future collaboration. These presentations covered every continent and so many interests, there was certainly something for everyone, not only to learn but also to engage and relate.


Fulbright Talks

This 10-minute format was a success in 2019, so we brought it back for the Reunion themed conference. The presentations featured a total of 10 speakers over two days. The topics ranged from art, fashion, architecture, music, service projects, and so many more. The engaging format was used to tell stories of experiences both professionally and personally.


FA Programs Plenary

On Saturday afternoon, the Association added a new feature to our conferences, sharing the many programming opportunities for members. Staff members John Bader, Claire Jagla, Fiona Breslin, and Christine Oswald were joined by former board president Mary Ellen Schmider to discuss advocacy, Fulbright in the Classroom, the 1946 Society and fundraising, a pilot mentor program, chapter activities, and the Travel Program. This was followed by a Programs Fair, where attendees could ask questions and sign up to participate in these programs.


Chapter Awards Dinner

The Fulbright Association Chapters, led by dedicated alumni who serve the Fulbright community, played a special part in this year’s conference. On Saturday evening, seven chapters and leaders were honored with awards for the hard work in various categories. Each winner spoke about what Fulbright means to them and shared unique details about their chapter’s activities. On Sunday morning, over thirty chapter leaders gathered for the Chapter Leader Workshop, led by FA’s Christine Oswald. The workshop gave chapters space to share best practices, review policies, and foster connections between groups across the country.

Fulbrighters always have the ability to inspire and connect cultures through research, art, and presentation. This conference displayed an amazing variety of Fulbrighters who are expanding horizons in every field of study.


Wellbeing was an important factor of the conference. Yoga sessions were offered Friday and Saturday morning, providing a gentle and invigorating start to the day. Conference breaks with healthy options were also offered twice a day, fueling our attendees in between sessions.


We look forward to the 46th Annual Conference which will be in Denver, CO in October 19-22, 2023.


How the Fulbright Gave Me Access to the World

How the Fulbright Gave Me Access to the World

In more ways than I can count, the Fulbright made me who I am today.

Before becoming a Fulbright scholar, I spent six years homeless in my country of origin, Morocco. Since becoming a Fulbright scholar, I’ve been recruited to work for the UN and courted by industry-leading companies, including my current employer, AudioEye.

Before becoming a Fulbright scholar, my blindness reduced me to, at best, a charity case, and at worst a contemptible burden. Since becoming a Fulbright scholar, my work ethic, education, fluency in seven languages and many modes of Braille, and years of experience and passion for journalism, debate, and storytelling have all taken on new significance.

Before becoming a Fulbright scholar, I was accustomed to being slurred as an orphan, a bastard, and worse because my family had abandoned me. Since becoming a Fulbright scholar, my story of resilience, survival, and unlikely thriving has taken on a power of its own.

The Fulbright recognized my worth before any other organization, invested in my dream of pursuing an MA in journalism, and connected me with influential, talented people the world over. Most important of all, they never required that I compromise on any essential element of who I am. Instead, they’ve enabled me to become the Itto I’ve always aspired to be.

Recently, thanks in large part to the Fulbright, I’ve joined another organization that treats me in much the same way. AudioEye is a well-respected digital accessibility company whose mission is to eradicate every barrier to digital access for people with disabilities like myself—and they recruited me. As their new Accessibility Outreach Manager, I’ve enjoyed respect from my colleagues, a flexible work schedule, and trust that I’ll fulfill my duties if given the time and tools I need. Since I work from home, I don’t rely on others to get me to and from the office or waste my time and energy navigating fickle transportation services. I just wake up every morning, have my coffee, and get straight to work without delay.

Since October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’ll pause here to point out that these are more than privileges for me and many other people with disabilities. For those of us with blindness and chronic pain—or, for that matter, dyslexia, depression, para- or quadriplegia, anxiety, Deafness, ADHD, chronic illness, or any other disability you can name—remote work, flexible schedules, and faith in our commitment and abilities can mean the difference between success and failure, retention and dismissal, opportunity and dependency. In the absence of family and community support, the stakes are even higher: life and death.

That’s why I’m using my platform to urge more companies to not just hire people with disabilities, but also take the necessary steps to empower us to succeed, embracing remote work and flexible scheduling, promoting positive workplace cultures, and readily providing accommodations. This will benefit employers, too, unlocking the full range of employees’ insights and expertise in service of the company’s mission.

At the same time, I hope the Fulbright will continue to invest in students and scholars with disabilities and expand its outreach efforts to vulnerable communities whose members, no matter

how talented, may never have imagined that such opportunities lie within their reach. Making its commitment to students and scholars with disabilities more explicit and vocal will help the Fulbright pave the way for others like myself.

Like all gifts, those that these organizations have granted me—trust, flexibility, respect, and connections—come with responsibilities. I now find myself in a position to give back to the communities that have empowered me while chipping away at the barriers to access that prevent so many passionate, creative, hardworking, and talented people from advancing on their journeys. I do not take this opportunity lightly. Neither should you.

If you’re reading this, you likely have connections with the Fulbright and hence enjoy a higher-than-average degree of influence within your community. This means you’re well positioned to make these changes happen, too. I ask for your collaboration in service of my life’s work, and AudioEye’s mission, of removing barriers, expanding opportunities, dismantling stigma, and making the world a more accessible place for all.

Itto Outini

Fulbright Alumna | Accessibility Outreach Manager at AudioEye | Founder & Representative of Fulbrighters with Disabilities | MA in Journalism & Strategic Media from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

1946 Society Member Spotlight: Leland Lazarus

1946 Society Member Spotlight: Leland Lazarus

Leland Lazarus is a Fulbright to Panama alum, current member of the Fulbright Association Board of Directors, and a current 1946 Society member.

To learn more about the 1946 Society, please visit the 1946 Society webpage. 

Q: Leland, can you share some background information about yourself?
A: I’m originally from New York, although my parents are both from Panama. Growing up, my mom spoke a little bit of Spanish in the household, but I didn’t really have a strong understanding or affinity to the country of my heritage. So, I always yearned to go back, spend time there, and meet family members – but I never had the opportunity to do so in my youth. Then college rolled around, and I was able to finally go to Panama for a few summers to teach English in a rural area and to do some research. After college, I got a Fulbright Award to spend the full year in Panama and to teach English at the University of Panama. That was an amazing experience, because I finally got to spend a large amount of time in the country of my heritage. I got to meet some family members who were still there, and I was finally able to really connect with that side of my culture.

Q: Could you tell me more about your Fulbright to Panama in 2013? What was that experience like?
A: The first thing that stood out to me was that Latin America and the Caribbean are just as diverse as the United States. Being an Afro-Latino or Afro-Panamanian, there are so many people of Afro origin, of Chinese origin, etc. I think that a lot of Americans feel that the U.S. is the only truly diverse country in the world, which is not true. So, it was great to be in a country where the people walking around looked like me. Another thing that I’ll never forget is my students. I was teaching them English, but they were also teaching me parts of Panamanian culture that I didn’t know about: local slang, specific regional cuisines, things like that. On weekends, I would hang out with some of the students. They would host me to hang out with their families. Today, I still keep in touch with some of them. In fact, I still talk to one of them almost every Sunday.

2013 Fulbright to Panama

Q: You expressed that during your time in Panama, you bore witness to a system where disadvantaged college students were not afforded the chance to develop their English skills. Can you describe how the Fulbright Program educates international students about their opportunities?
A: While I was in Panama, I found that if you were of a lower socioeconomic status, you didn’t really have the opportunities to learn English. In a country where the Panama Canal is such an important waterway for international trade, English is really a necessity. In such a service-oriented economy, that means a student who does not have a good command of English is unfortunately at a gross disadvantage. I think that, for me and the other Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, having the opportunity to, in our own small way, reduce that gaps between the socioeconomic classes was an amazing opportunity. That’s happening every year for hundreds of students all around the world right, as Fulbrighters go abroad and teach English or do a research project in developing countries all around the world.

Q: Following your time in Panama, you joined the Fulbright Association, and, separately, you established the Dream Scholarship. Can you tell me about how the scholarship came about?
A: Once I had identified this gap between the socioeconomic classes, I would even see it within classes. Students of the same year might both be English majors, but one student had a much better control of the language — even close to an American accent — and the other could not even speak a word. It made me think: “How could it be that these two students were from the same class?” It made no sense. Additionally, many students just didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad. I understood from my own language-learning experiences with Spanish and Mandarin that the only way to really improve a foreign language is to go to a country where that language is spoken and really immerse yourself one hundred percent in that culture. What I wanted to do was to create a scholarship or non-profit to allow students from these lower socioeconomic and marginalized areas to have the opportunity to study abroad in the United States.

Leland with his Fulbright mentor, Herma Williams, at the 2021 Fulbright Prize Ceremony (March 2022)

Q: I was also hoping we could also touch on the 1946 Society, which was initially established as a collective of Fulbright Association supports in 2015, and is now a full community of almost a hundred members. What is it about the 1946 Society, and the Fulbright Association in general, that keeps members fiscally and emotionally invested in its further development year after year?
A: I think over the years, meeting more Fulbright alumni, you hear the same story that Fulbright helped change their lives. I mean, it absolutely changed mine. It put me on the path to a career in international affairs. It was through my Fulbright experience that I ended up learning about the State Department and a career in diplomacy. Being a citizen diplomat encouraged me to then apply for the Foreign Service, which led to my current position at the Department of Defense. This is the story not just for me, but for so many Fulbright alumni. They also agree that fostering mutual cultural understanding is critical, especially nowadays when in so many countries around the world, and even in some areas in the United States, we see the rapid spread of populism and nationalism. I think organizations like the Fulbright Association are so important to keep those connections between the U.S. and countries around the world.

Q: I understand you’re closely involved with the Fulbright in the Classroom. Could you share your experiences with the program and why it is so important?
A: Fulbright in the Classroom is one of our flagship volunteer programs, where Fulbright alumni around the country are able to go to local high schools and middle schools and even colleges to share their Fulbright story in front of student audiences. The goal of course is to encourage more students to consider applying for the Fulbright once they attend college or are about to graduate from college. For me, one of my main goals is to increase diversity and inclusion in the ranks of our Fulbright alumni network, and I will never forget that when I was doing my Fulbright, I was the only person of color. There needs to be more Fulbright scholars who look like America because by doing so they are sharing the richness of our U.S. diversity. [Fulbright grantees are] breaking down barriers and stereotypes that other people and other countries around the world might unfortunately have about people of other backgrounds. So, that’s why I do Fulbright in the Classroom. I’ve done maybe five or six presentations so far for high schools in D.C. and in New York. A couple weeks ago, I did one for high school and middle school students in Cleveland, with the idea that hopefully these young people may be seeing themselves in me. They could say, hey, if this Afro-Latino guy from New York can live in Latin America and live in China and speak these languages, then I can do it too.

Leland sharing his story, virtual Fulbright in the Classroom session.

2022 Fulbright Prize to Drs. Kizzmekia Corbett and Anthony Fauci

2022 Fulbright Prize to Drs. Kizzmekia Corbett and Anthony Fauci

For Immediate Release  

September 21, 2022 

Drs. Kizzmekia Corbett and Anthony Fauci to be jointly awarded the 2022 Fulbright Prize 

Public health leaders to be honored for their success in combatting the COVID pandemic 

Award ceremony to take place in Washington, DC on April 19, 2023 

Washington, DC – The Fulbright Association will award the 2022 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding jointly to Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and Dr. Anthony Fauci , whose leadership and scientific discoveries have been critical to the abatement of the COVID-19 pandemic, saving millions of lives worldwide and helping to restore a fuller and safer life for billions. Their success has allowed the peoples of the world to reconnect, and they have reminded us all that strong public health is critical to international exchange, cooperation, and travel. 

“The Association is awarding the Prize to these Laureates for their respective contributions and accomplishments in public health globally, but we are also recognizing the importance of teamwork and collaboration to success,” says Association board chair, the Honorable Cynthia Baldwin. “That is why we are so happy to present this Prize jointly to Drs. Fauci and Corbett.” 

“This Prize, by extension, honors all researchers, scientists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who have contributed to the global fight against the coronavirus,” adds Association executive director, Dr. John Bader. “Fulbrighters worldwide are grateful to these heroes for their courage, sacrifice, hard work, and commitment to science.” 

The award ceremony to take place in Washington, DC on April 19, 2023. For more information about the event, sponsorship, and Fulbright Prize, visit

About Dr. Anthony Fauci 

Dr. Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, where he oversees an extensive research portfolio focused on infectious and immune-mediated diseases. As the long-time chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, Dr. Fauci has made many seminal contributions in basic and clinical research and is one of the world’s most-cited biomedical scientists. He was one of the principal architects of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program that has saved millions of lives throughout the developing world. 

About Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett 

Dr. Corbett was a senior fellow and scientific lead at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. A leading COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, was co-designed by Dr. Corbett’s NIH team from viral sequence and rapidly deployed to industry partner, Moderna, Inc., for Phase 1 clinical trial, which unprecedentedly began only 66 days from viral sequence release. mRNA-1273 is a now used around the world to prevent COVID-19 disease. Alongside mRNA-1273, Dr. Corbett boasts a patent portfolio which also includes universal coronavirus and influenza vaccine concepts and novel therapeutic antibodies. She is now an assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

About the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding 

The Fulbright Prize honors one of the world’s most prestigious international exchange programs, as well as the vision of its sponsor, the late Senator J. William Fulbright. Awarded by the Fulbright Association since 1993, the Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to promoting peace and a better life through greater understanding and cooperation among peoples, cultures, and nations. The Prize has a distinguished history of laureates, among them Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Doctors without Borders, Bill and Melinda Gates, Angela Merkel, and most recently Bono. More on the Prize, with a complete list of laureates, at 

About the Fulbright Program 

The Fulbright Program celebrated its 75th Anniversary last year, marking its creation in 1946 through Congressional legislation proposed by Senator J. William Fulbright. The Program embodies the visionary concept of promoting mutual understanding between countries through academic and bicultural exchange. The Program provides exchanges between the United States and more than 160 countries worldwide, funded by the U.S. Government with bipartisan support and contributions from 49 foreign countries whose permanent commissions execute the Fulbright Program on a binational level. Annually, about 8,000 grantees, American and foreign, participate in the Fulbright exchange as students, scholars, researchers, English and other language teachers, and professional specialists. Since its inception, the Program has sponsored over 400,000 grantees. Read more at 

About the Fulbright Association 

The Fulbright Association is the alumni organization of the Fulbright Program in the United States, representing over 140,000 American grantees. Founded in 1977, it is an independent non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, with 56 chapters in 39 states. Its mission is to continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy, and service through local, national, and international programs. Read more at 

Press Contact 

Seth Nelson  


Learn more and purchase tickets