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 www.fulbright.org/prize.

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 fulbright.org/prize 

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 eca.state.gov/fulbright 

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 fulbright.org 

Press Contact 

Seth Nelson 

seth@frontwoodstrategies.com  

 

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Chapter Spotlight: Dr. Jim Fatzinger, President, Kentucky Chapter of the Fulbright Association

Chapter Spotlight: Dr. Jim Fatzinger, President, Kentucky Chapter of the Fulbright Association

 

Stephen Gardner, Interviewer

Dr. Jim Fatzinger, Director of Fulbright Kentucky Chapter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Dr. Fatzinger. We’re happy to highlight  the Kentucky Chapter. Before we touch on that, could you tell me a little bit about your background?                                   Sure, Stephen. I’m proud to represent the Fulbright Association’s Kentucky Chapter. I’m currently a faculty member and in my second term as the chapter president of the Kentucky Chapter. Working with a fantastic board and group of officers, I started as vice- president and worked my way up. I love education and was a member of the Fulbright specialist roster. I have two doctorate degrees, one from Vanderbilt University and the other from the University of Florida. I completed post-master’s work at Oxford and my postgraduate work at Harvard University, as well as a higher education leadership development program. I really relate to the Fulbright mission. Service is so important, just as education is important, and building relationships across borders is imperative, so it is a pleasure to lead the members of the Kentucky Chapter.

You described the Kentucky Chapter as a fairly new chapter, established in the summer of 2019. Could you describe your experience taking the helm of such a new chapter?

It’s really been fun. I have to give credit to our founding members: Ann Riedling, Fred Ruppel, and Wanda Dodson, who, really sowed the seeds of a solid foundation for the chapter. When I took over, we had the opportunity to consider the Fulbright vision in developing a foundational mission and the strategic priorities for the chapter. We set out to align our projects with (1) the Fulbright mission, (2) our strategic priorities, and (3) getting our feet underneath us. The annual picnic was the was the first official project of our chapter, and that’s still the project that’s best attended. Now, post-COVID, we are continuing to welcome new members, while also recognizing that Fulbrighters are really busy people. Fulbrighters are always on the move and they’re making an impact around the globe, so we have a membership approach that recognizes that members are always on the move. Sometimes we’re online, sometimes we meet face-to-face, but we meet our membership where they’re at.

The Fulbright Association, Kentucky Chapter Annual Picnic


As the chapter continues to meet that mission and expand, what kind of culture are you looking to build for Fulbrighters in Kentucky?

So happy you asked! We want to focus on the Fulbright mission, and we want to build a culture that is in alignment with relationships, networks, and opportunities — similar to what the 400,000 alumni of the Fulbright Program have experienced [through the Program]. We want members to be able to share their best and most treasured memories from during their Fulbright experience and come together to learn from others as those relationships continue to develop right here in Kentucky. Some of that will be through service, some of that will be through advocacy, and some of it will be in raising awareness and nurture future Fulbrighters to have the experiences we’ve had both locally and abroad.

Locally, your chapter launched the Kentucky Summer of Service Challenge in during the summer of 2022. Can you tell me more about this project?

Absolutely! We want to recognize that Fulbrighters are involved [in their communities] every day. A Fulbrighter isn’t a Fulbrighter for the week, the semester, or the year that they’re pursuing an opportunity. They had habits that they formed before they went on their Fulbright experience, and then they’ve had things that they continue to do based off the networks that they’ve built through their experiences.

We want to recognize the impact that Fulbrighters have — not only locally but around the globe. Through our service projects, one member is involved with a world library association providing books for young students. Another member has a family in Sierra Leone whom she helped by installing toiletry systems and certain types of systems that helped with irrigation; that was her service. We also have service here in Kentucky. It might be helping with the Eastern Kentucky floods, or it might be participating with other service organizations that we partner with on a monthly or weekly basis. We want to recognize through the Kentucky Summer of Service Challenge that Fulbrighters are not just serving when they’re on their Fulbright, but they’re making an impact for years afterwards, in the state of Kentucky, in the United States, and even while abroad. 

Kentucky Chapter members can post a picture of what they’re doing in service on our Fulbright Association Chapter Page, so that we can continue to share in this fellowship. We’d also like to invite all members of Fulbright chapters from around the United States to join us and post those pictures so that the service continues. While the Summer of Service concludes in late September, our service doesn’t. Our service and our fellowship will continue. Perhaps this will become an annual project, and perhaps a bordering state will pick up the Summer of Service Challenge, or maybe another Fulbright Association chapter will pick up a “Fall of Service.” 

Dr. Fatzinger, is there anything else you would like to say about the Kentucky Chapter?

We want to say thank you: thank you to every member who serves in this project, thank you to every Fulbrighter who is serving around the United States domestically.

Thanks to all those Fulbrighters who built relationships, are still leading domestically, and are continuing to serve even in the midst of some of these challenging times that we’ve had. Who would have thought that we would have had a pandemic on our watch? Who would have thought we would have had so much technological influence that eliminated borders and brought people closer together?

I encourage all members of the Fulbright Association’s 55 chapters, the 400,000 Fulbright Program alumni, those still hoping to become Fulbrighters, and friends of Fulbright to participate in service.

Thank you to the members of the Kentucky Chapter for participating in this Summer of Service Challenge.

 

– Stephen Gardner, Public Engagement Summer Intern

45th Annual Conference Preview – Interview with Alicia Montague, Director for National Events

45th Annual Conference Preview – Interview with Alicia Montague, Director for National Events

Stephen Gardner, Interviewer

Alicia Montague, Director for National Events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alicia, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s great to finally meet you. Can you tell me more about yourself, and how you got involved with the Fulbright Association? 

My first real job was at the University of Maryland University College, which is now called the University of Maryland Global Campus. Afterwards, I went to Johns Hopkins University and then I ended up at the University of Maryland Career Center. There, I organized events – 90% of my job involved events in that role. Afterward, I decided to go into events, larger events. I got a job at NASPA, the largest association for student affairs professionals, and I was there for about five years before [I joined the team at] the Fulbright Association, and here I am. I’ve been here for almost a year. I chose [to work at the] Fulbright Association because I wanted to move back into a smaller office and apply what I learned to the Fulbright Association. It’s a prestigious name, Fulbright, and it is involved with higher education, which is my passion.

As the Director for National Events, can you reflect on a time when the Fulbright Association, or the program itself left a lasting impact on your cultural understanding?

Working here, I have developed a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Fulbrighter and how Fulbrighters give back. It’s not just a program for the rich; the Association is trying to make it more accessible and get the word out that this program exists for everyone regardless of background. In learning that, I saw how important the Program is. Also, when I first started, I got to sit in on the 2021 Annual Conference, and I got to meet people that had Fulbright experiences. The passion that they had was ridiculous. They were truly passionate about the work they did, the countries they went to, the people they met, the foods they ate — and they were always willing and excited to share that experiences. So, I think that opened my eyes more to the passion that people who experience the Fulbright Program have.

The upcoming 45th Annual Conference is the first in-person conference since the start of COVID-19. What are you hoping to accomplish with this year’s conference?

I want it to be a fun conference. It’s been a little over two years since Fulbright Association members have come together in person, and I want this to be a reunion at which they come together, have fun, and network. There will be a lot of educational sessions and professional development, but we’re trying to do a lot of fun things as well. There will be a party on Friday night during which there will be time for people to meet each other and talk to each other outside of that learning environment. I really wanted the conference to embody coming together again and making connections — hopefully, [attendees will] leave with more knowledge and more connections. I’ve noticed that people do want to be together again, and we’re taking the proper precautions…so they can have fun but in a safe way.

Can we expect any social distancing, or will guests be required to wear masks for entry?

Attendees are welcome to wear masks if they choose; however, everyone in attendance will be required to be vaccinated. We will have enough room for people to social distance as well. Recommended guidelines may change by October…so we will continues to follow those closely.

You have already touched on the theme of this year’s conference being a reunion. Are there any other highlights of this year’s conference that you are particularly excited about?

I mentioned the Fulbright party on Friday — that will be a new one! Also, the Fulbright Talks! The theme for this year’s Fulbright Talks is Resilience. It’s sort of like a like a TedTalk, just 10 minutes: say a few words about what it is that you’ve been through and how you overcame it.

I am also really excited about the keynote! Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova will deliver the keynote. Ambassador Markarova will speak on the war in Ukraine, then join a panel of distinguished scholars and diplomats, moderated by Association board member and Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi.

We’ll have a mobile app this year, which is new for a Fulbright Conference, and we’ll be able to send out push notifications if anything changes. If sessions get cancelled, people will know as soon as the app updates. I’m looking forward to implementing that this year.

Overall, I’m just excited that it’s my first Conference at the Fulbright Association.

Will Fulbrighters be able to communicate with each other via the app, much like social media?

Attendees will be able to see who else is in attendance and connect with each other. If we [as attendees] are near each other, we can shake our phones at the same time, and we will automatically connect that way. We can also chat with each other. There is a Facebook-like wall where people can post pictures, and the app can also be used as a schedule.

We will also have the program book, but as soon as the program is printed, it is already out of date. The app automatically updates, and it will still have the schedule.

Attendees will be able to add certain sessions and events to their own schedule, so they can create a personalized set schedule based on what they personally want to attend. The app will also have daily welcome videos, so now it’s just spreading the word and getting the attendees to download the app.

I’m sure they’ll know to download it now! Is there anything else Fulbrighters should know or anticipate ahead of attending the conference?

Expect lots of opportunities to network, to have a good time, and to reconnect!

Lastly, I’m curious to know, are there any plans in store for next year’s annual conference, or the conferences to follow?

Moving forward, we plan to regularly hold the Conference in a different location, rotating on a three-year cycle. Next year, we plan to have a conference in the U.S. but in a different state. The year after that, we plan to have an international conference, and then we’ll be back in D.C. again. It’s a purposeful rotation because we want to start meeting our Fulbrighters where they are. We have the Fulbright Prize which will always take place in D.C. For the Conference, we want to go to where our members are and also host an international experience, so we hope that future Conferences will reflect this idea. We don’t have the dates or locations nailed down yet, but the hope is that we’ll know where we are going by the time the 2022 Annual Conference begins, so folks will know we will be in 2023.

Thank you again for joining me today, Alicia! 

Of course. I hope to see you at the conference in October!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

– Stephen Gardner, Public Engagement Summer Intern

FORWARD: Fulbrighters with Disabilities Breaks New Ground, Leaves No One Behind

FORWARD: Fulbrighters with Disabilities Breaks New Ground, Leaves No One Behind

The seed that would grow into Fulbrighters with Disabilities (FWD), the first global, virtual, disability-centered chapter of the Fulbright Association, was planted in March 2020.

“We’d all gone abroad expecting to immerse ourselves in our host cultures,” said Itto Outini, then a Fulbright scholar studying journalism and strategic media at the University of Arkansas, “and then COVID came along and trapped us all indoors.”

Though Arkansas never implemented a full lockdown, Itto had recently undergone a major surgery. Now immunocompromised, she had no choice but to quarantine herself in her host family’s home, where she whiled away the early months of the pandemic reading, researching, and engaging in hours-long discussions with friends.

“Lots of people were lonely, or even just bored,” she recalled. “A Fulbrighter would post something on social media, and since we were all there, we all started liking and sharing each other’s posts, and then we started realizing that we were all having similar experiences as international scholars in the time of COVID and thinking about what kinds of resources might make things easier.”

At the same time, virtual conversations were emerging around the shared experiences of people with disabilities. Itto, who’s totally blind, had a stake in these discussions, too.

Online, she observed, most advocates seemed to agree that the virus itself, as well as masking, stigma, social distancing, and lockdowns, presented new, potentially deadly obstacles to people with disabilities. On the other hand, many noted, by mainstreaming virtual school and online work, COVID-19 had finally delivered accommodations that people with disabilities had been calling for, for years, creating opportunities for individuals and populations historically left behind.

A few months into the pandemic, Itto found herself uniquely positioned to initiate a conversation with David Smith, Shaz Akram, John Bader, and Christine Oswald of the Fulbright Association about how to better serve a certain intersectional constituency, Fulbright scholars with disabilities, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the following months, these talks continued to evolve until, on April 5th, 2021, Itto formally founded Fulbrighters with Disabilities, the first of its kind.

“Whether you’re a current or prospective Fulbright scholar, a student or scholar with a disability, an advocate, an ally, or a friend,” said Itto, who served as FWD’s president for a year before stepping into the role of chapter representative, “you’re welcome to join.”

Anyone who’d like to join the chapter, request access to existing services, or suggest or offer new ones may send an introductory email to fwd@fulbright.org detailing how they’d like to be involved. FWD strives to welcome the widest possible range of insights, expertise, and skills, for

only a diverse and innovative membership will be equipped to tackle the unforeseen and unforeseeable challenges that come with breaking new and long-neglected ground.

“We’re figuring everything out as we go,” said Itto. “For example, even the name—it took us forever to agree on what to call the chapter, and we still missed something. If you’re using a screenreader, as I do, and you come across the abbreviation ‘FWD’ in lowercase, it might read it as the word ‘forward.’ That can be confusing since it’s in our email address.”

Yet if this glitch is inconvenient, it’s also serendipitous. “As scholars with disabilities, we’re all working to support each other,” Itto went on, “so that we can finally move forward together. We’re trying to make the Fulbright’s mission of peace through education accessible to all: to take everyone forward and leave no one behind.”

By Mekiya Walters

Communications Specialist with Fulbrighters with Disabilities | MFA in Fiction from the University of Arkansas

Advocacy Yields $15 million more for Fulbright

Advocacy Yields $15 million more for Fulbright

The regime change in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine remind us that our world may always be rocked by violence, and that we must each do what we can to build a lasting peace based on understanding. For our part, Fulbright alumni work continuously to ensure that the Fulbright Program remains an effective instrument of diplomacy and education. That is why the Association puts advocacy to Congress as a centerpiece of our programming, and why we always need your help to speak out.

This year, for the first time in a dozen years, the Fulbright Program may finally get a spending increase thanks, in part, to these advocacy efforts. First, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed a $10 million increase, thanks to the strong leadership of Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)—all of whom attended the Fulbright Prize event for Bono on March 31. After that event, Rep. DeLauro met with Board member and Advocacy Chair Melanie Horton and Executive Director John Bader, promising to do what she could for Fulbright—and she delivered!

The Senate Appropriations Committee followed their lead, but proposed $15 million more than the current $275 million of spending, for a total of $290 million. Also attending the Prize event was the Committee’s chair, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT). Senator Leahy has always been a great champion of the Fulbright Program, and this year—sadly, his last in the Senate—he gathered support to boost funding.

The Fulbright Prize event hosted nearly 20 members of Congress from both chambers and both parties—including Minority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). This perfectly reflects our longstanding commitment to building bipartisan friendships in support of the Fulbright Program. The Prize also reminds everyone—members of Congress, the diplomatic corps in Washington which had nearly 30 countries represented, and leaders of higher education—of the positive impact of Fulbright and the principle of peace through understanding.

Meeting with Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) – May 5th, 2022

But one event, however successful, is not enough. We must stand together nationwide and reach out to as many members of Congress as possible. That is why we followed the Prize with our annual Advocacy Month, once again conducted virtually. We organized more than 50 meetings with over a hundred Fulbrighters from across the country, all to explain why the Program works so well and why it requires a significant boost in spending. We were so pleased that several principals joined these calls, including Fulbright alumnus (to Greece), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN).

We are not done yet, of course.  The added monies included in the Appropriations bills may not become law, so we are continuing efforts to build support for those bills. Board member Bruce Fowler and Advocacy Committee member Sudha Haley met recently with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to deliver that message. Thanks, Bruce and Sudha!

Next year, we hope you will join us in advocating for a stronger Fulbright Program. We will be planning visits to local and state offices in February so that you can participate in-person while staying close to home. An in-person Advocacy Day will immediately follow the Fulbright Prize event next spring, if you can join us in Washington.  Keep an eye out for announcements and visit our advocacy website, www.fulbright.org/advocacy.  We look forward to hearing your voice raised for Fulbright!

2022 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Nair

2022 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Nair

Dr Janaki Nair is one of the rare female Kathakali artists who is trained to perform male characters. 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.

Dr Nair is also a visual anthropologist who, through her research, explored possibilities of making ethnographic films to create cultural and artistic memories. She is a post-graduate (M.A) in Media and her interests lie in the concept of ‘representation’ and ‘documentation’ using media as a main tool. Her second master’s degree (MFA) is in dance, and she intertwined both of these academic qualifications to tread new avenues in her career.

In 2020, she completed her PhD from Northumbria University with specialised supervision from University of Oxford, UK. She is currently a Research Project Leader at the OCHS, University of Oxford and is a distinguished researcher, who presented research papers at many international conferences (University of Oxford, Aarhus University, Cyprus University, University of Paris, Hyderabad University etc.) She was also engaged with University of Lincoln as a Post-doctoral Research Associate, where she researched about sustainable education methodology in post-conflict settings.

She won Kerala State Best Actress Award, 2015 for her acting skills. Dr Nair also has directed documentaries and acted in various films and television soaps. Being a researcher, performer, actress, film maker and Indologist, through her works, she aims to collaborate with international organisations and artists to mobilise and sustain the presence of traditional Indian arts and culture.

She was elected as a Fellow of Royal Society of Arts, London and has also received Charles Wallace India Trust scholarship for making one of her documentary films. She is the founder and artistic director of Natyatmika Institute of Indian Arts and Culture (NIIAC) and has won many accolades for her dedicated works to foster Indian arts and culture. Whilst her expertise is deeply rooted in Indian dance and cultural practices her engagement with the investigatory potential offers a unique perspective on the creative potential of traditional art within contemporary academic contexts. Clearly her interdisciplinary and cross- cultural range of practices opens many possibilities to showcase, preserve and disseminate traditional practices and pedagogy.

Fulbrighters with Disabilities Launch

Fulbrighters with Disabilities Launch

Fulbrighters with Disabilities (FWD), launched in April 2021, is a global, virtual chapter of the Fulbright Association dedicated to supporting students and scholars with disabilities around the world. As the first of its kind, FWD will pioneer new ways of engaging with stakeholders and advocating for students and scholars with disabilities on our own terms across physical, national, and cultural borders.

FWD’s guiding mission is to address four distinct barriers facing Fulbright scholars with disabilities so they can contribute as equals to advancing peace through education. These four barriers are as follows:

  • Difficulty navigating unfamiliar, disabling environments in host countries and institutions;
  • Difficulty identifying and accessing resources nominally allocated for persons with disabilities;
  • Difficulty leveraging unfamiliar laws and policies to secure reasonable accommodations such as accessible housing, transportation, digital content, etc.;
  • Difficulty securing employment and accessing professional opportunities due to stigma, discrimination, and lack of resources.

To this end, FWD now offers a limited range of tangible services, including the following:

  • Proofreading/providing feedback on applications for grants, fellowships, and scholarships (Fulbright, Rhodes, Chevening, etc.) for applicants with disabilities;
  • Connecting Fulbright scholars with disabilities (and family members who’re traveling with them) with resources and accommodations in their host countries and institutions;
  • Hosting educational sessions about the UN CRPD, laws governing disability rights and accessibility in various host countries, and strategies for securing reasonable accommodations under the appropriate laws;
  • Providing professional consultations to recent university graduates with disabilities who’re seeking employment.

As the chapter’s membership, budget, and capacity grows, more services will be made available. Examples might include, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • Establishing strategic partnerships with local Fulbright Commissions and providing virtual orientation sessions to incoming Fulbright scholars with disabilities in every country where the Fulbright operates;
  • Creating accessible online test-prep courses for the TOEFL, GMAT, and GRE;
  • Hiring English-language instructors to support students and scholars with disabilities who’ve had limited access to immersive English-language instruction;
  • Establishing a fund to provide reasonable accommodations (laptops with accessible software, wheelchairs, sign language interpretation, etc.) to students and scholars with disabilities where those accommodations can’t be secured through other means;
  • Providing consultations to Fulbright advisors to help them better support students and scholars with disabilities;
  • Building informal networks of individuals with disabilities who can support new Fulbright scholars with disabilities, share insights drawn from their personal experiences, and help them secure reasonable accommodations in every country where the Fulbright operates.

In addition to these services, FWD has also begun to organize and host events. On June 25, 2022, the chapter hosted its first webinar. The current board members introduced themselves and their roles, invited constituents to participate in developing the chapter’s charter, and proposed the convention of panels to carry out the chapter’s work.

In July, founder, former present, and current chapter representative Itto Outini received the Fulbright in the Classroom Grant to host three virtual sessions targeting current and aspiring students and scholars with disabilities. In these sessions, Itto will discuss the challenges she overcame as a Fulbright scholar with a disability, encourage other students and scholars with disabilities to apply for Fulbright grants, and offer guidance to those who are facing similar challenges. These sessions will take place at different times on different days of the week in August, October, and December of 2022 to better accommodate participants in different time zones. If you’re interested in attending a session, please follow the link to sign up via Google form.

FWD’s members continue to discuss events that the chapter may organize this year and next. To know more about upcoming events, or if you’re interested in joining the chapter, requesting our services, or offering new ones, please send an introductory email to fwd@fulbright.org detailing how you’d like to be involved with the chapter.

By Mekiya Walters

Communications Specialist with Fulbrighters with Disabilities | MFA in Fiction from the University of Arkansas

Insight Trip to Slovenia: May 2022

Insight Trip to Slovenia: May 2022

“Why would you ever want to go to Slovenia? I don’t even know where it is, let alone WHY you would want to go there.” I would tell everyone – Slovenia’s tagline is “the only country with LOVE in its name” but that did not seem to satisfy their curiosity, but in my opinion, visiting off the beaten path is what makes Fulbright Association tours so great.

For many, Slovenia would not be on their short list of countries to visit, but that is a mistake. The country is lovely, the people are friendly, and the food is excellent – all desirable attributes in my mind. After all, that is what makes a Fulbright Association trip so unique – the ability to interact with a county and its people at a much deeper level than your average tour.

The Fulbright program started in the wake of World War II – Americans set to better assist and understand the world by living and working abroad while also bringing both students and career professionals to the United States to better understand us. The Fulbright Association is made up of former recipients of Fulbright grants as well as many Friends of Fulbright. As members, we share the vision of increasing understanding and developing friendships across our countries.

Yugoslavia (of which Slovenia was a part) was crafted after WWI from a group of diverse nationalities, many of which hated each other. As a saying of that time notes, “seven neighbors, six republics, five nations, four languages, three religions, two scripts, and one goal: to live in brotherhood and unity”. If you are familiar with the Balkans, you know that the area has been the center of unrest for much of the 20th century. In fact, World War I broke out first in the Balkans before engulfing the rest of the world. Much hatred and unrest ran deep in the area.

Tito was able to hold Yugoslavia together by the sheer power of his personality. When Tito died, Yugoslavia fell apart. Today, the area is composed of seven distinct countries, and Slovenia is one. Slovenia is a lovely country in Europe with about 2 million people. It is roughly the size of New Jersey and the capital city, Ljubljana, has a population of about 300,000 people. This makes the capital city very walkable.

The Fulbright Association offers two types of trips: Insight and Service. This was an Insight trip – meaning we were to do a deep dive into the country, its history, its people, its culture, and so on. Many of us love to travel but touring through a country without truly interacting with the locals is not my idea of traveling. For eight of us, this trip gave us the opportunity to see a country that most Americans know little about. Thus, a trip with the Fulbright Association is not a regular touring trip – it is a deeper interaction with the people, the culture, and the history of the area.

We started our trip with a Zoom call with the Slovenian Ambassador to the United States and proceeded to visit, while in the country, historical museums, national parks, and other important sites. As an economist, I appreciated that we even learned about some of the larger industries in Slovenia – winemaking, salt extraction from the sea, and bees/honey (who knew Slovenia had more bees per capita than any other country on earth). There is a type of bee, Carniolan bees, that were native to Slovenia and are now found around the world. We came home with a much deeper understanding of the region and an appreciation for its issues. Visiting a WWI museum and especially exploring the western part of the country (where the war front ravaged through for 29 months) brought forth the horrors of that war and how it devasted the country. We saw a lovely church built by Russian prisoners of war from WWI in honor of 300 or so of their countrymen who died building a road over one of the taller mountains in the area.

I think all of us came away from Slovenia with a better understanding of the country, a love for its beauty, and an appreciation for Slovenia’s dedication to “green living” and recycling.

Kathy Parkison, Fulbright Association Representative

Fulbright University Sojourns in Indonesia and Myanmar: Future Teachers, Medical Doctors, and Women University Executives

Shwedagon Pagoda

For decades, I longed to have a Fulbright in Indonesia, since it is both the world’s largest Muslim country and third hugest democratic nation. Fortunately, I was awarded a Fall 2013 fellowship at the University of Lampung, situated in Bandar-Lampung (the capitol of the province) located at the southern tip of Sumatra Island, just below the equator. My original portfolio was situated in the University’s Faculty of Teacher Training and Education that had approximately 7500 undergraduate and graduate students. Eager students, faculty, and rector were keen to learn about different educational levels in the United States and other Western and Asian countries. The photo below portrays students in an outdoor interactive lecture.

My role extended to co-teaching physicians, in the Faculty of Medicine, who desired to enhance their skills in English and scientific research methodology in order to engage in international conferences and forums. Learning about the latest research and techniques in medicine and sharing their knowledge of medical practices, somewhat unique to tropical climates, were the overarching desires of medical faculty who assumed the roles of students. Notice the photo, composed of the then woman dean and immediate former dean of medicine, along with two women faculty, man, and the Fulbright university coordinator.

On a sociocultural level, I had the opportunity for immersion in a Muslim nation where I was awakened by Muslim pre-dawn call to prayer and calmed by it at the end of daylight. Further, I attended Friday noon-day prayers with my graduate assistant (with an English degree), whose curiosity arose because I desired to attend Friday noon-day prayers with her – although I am not Muslim. It was mid-day serenity.

University of Lampung Students

Although the sociocultural and religious milieu are quite different in Myanmar (largely a Buddhist nation), where I had a Fall 2017 Fulbright, considerable time was spent with two women graduate assistants at Myeik University. Both students were in STEM fields of botany and urban geography. It was quite striking that well-over half the Myeik University undergraduate and master’s students were women. Even more surprising were the major executive positions of Rector, Pro-Rector, and Deans were occupied by women – primarily in STEM fields. (The photo below portrays then university Rector, former Rector, Dean, and Graduate Assistants). Unbelievably, despite Myeik contemporary de jure and de facto military government, Western and Northern countries may learn some lessons that help place women in solid faculty and leadership positions. Throughout my time in Myeik and brief periods in Yangon (the capitol and largest city), I was constantly intrigued by Buddhism that permeates social institutions and daily life. One male professor calmly voiced to me that people who suffered in this life, were dealing with their past-life bad karmas. To me, this was quite surprising because he was located at one of the country’s major universities and held a PhD in humanities. Likely, the Myanmar Fulbright was one of my most unique life’s personal and professional experiences – including a Sunday afternoon excursion (with my graduate assistant) at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Why? Western nations do not evince overwhelming Buddhism; rather Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths are the dominant norms. Photos are shown below of the Shwedagon, the world’s oldest stupa.

I continue to remain in touch with talented professionals from Indonesia and Myanmar largely via Facebook, LinkedIn, and emails. Of particular note, women executives from both nations participated in our Ford Foundation multi-year Institute (at the University of California) that addresses women university leadership in Conflict, Post-Conflict, and Transitional Societies.

Beverly Lindsay, PhD, EdD has been awarded Fulbrights to Indonesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, South Korea, and Zimbabwe

Q&A with Iconic Drag Performer BeBe Zahara Benet on Cross-Culturalism, BEING BEBE, His Fulbrighter Father, and Being a Role Model

Q&A with Iconic Drag Performer BeBe Zahara Benet on Cross-Culturalism, BEING BEBE, His Fulbrighter Father, and Being a Role Model

In celebration of LGBTQI+ Pride Month and Good Docs’ educational release & academic screening tour of the award-winning new film BEING BEBE, Fulbright Association is hosting the Fulbright Forum event – BEING BEBE: Cross-Cultural Exchange & the Advancement of LGBTQI+ Human Rights.

Held on June 13th at 12pm EDT, Fulbright Association welcomes iconic drag performer BeBe Zahara Benet, filmmakers, and activists including Rainbow Railroad’s Executive Director Kimahli Powell to discuss the film’s themes – challenging stereotypes, empowering diverse gender expression, celebrating creativity, family acceptance, faith, love, and LGBTQI+ human rights.

Though fans know BeBe as the iconic first winner of the worldwide phenomenon RuPauls Drag Race, the film opens audiences’ eyes to not only BeBe’s personal struggles, but also the challenges that LGBTQI+ and gender non-conforming individuals in BeBe’s home country of Cameroon (as millions elsewhere) still face today.

BEING BEBE Fulbright ties run deep – from BeBe’s father Dr. Collins Ngwa (an esteemed Professor of International Relations in Yaounde who appears throughout the film), to Producer Jonathan Goodman Levitt and Advisory Board Member Natasha Johnson, both Fulbrighters to the U.K. Fulbright GNY also hosted a reception with BeBe after the film’s NYC premiere to continue the conversation about cultural diversity & Black Queer Excellence that the film embodies.

The following Q&A offers a taste of what BeBe brings to BEING BEBE and will share at the upcoming Fulbright Forum:

As an immigrant to the United States from Cameroon, how do you feel both cultures have influenced your art, music, and persona as BeBe Zahara Benet?

I feel lucky to say that America is my chosen home, and while it comes with its own hardships or difficulties, it’s still a place that has accepted me. I had to come here to birth this BeBe Zahara Benet. I’m able to live here and develop my craft and live my craft and inspire people and be who I want to be. There’s just such a level of freedom being here. When I came here at first, it was like, okay, do I have to act like an American? Do I have to dress a certain way? Do I need to sing a certain way? Do I have to perform a certain way?

But I realized that it’s the opposite because people do embrace where I come from. They do embrace the fact that I am, you know, showcasing culture and bringing it into their lives. They love that about me. Culture plays a huge part in my artistry. That’s what makes BeBe BEBE. There’s something amazing that I feel like I’m gifting other people from where I come from – whether it’s through dance, music, food, fashion, whatever.

You know, we wish it could be different in terms of certain things, but we don’t hate where we come from. I think we come to this country because there is some level of freedom to be able to live and to be able to develop and be who we are. If Cameroon had even half of the opportunities that America gives us here, then most people who are even coming here would not be coming here.

It’s that part though – the wish that the celebration of my art form could be in Cameroon, you know, where my people can actually be part of this kind of celebration and artistry. There’s just that little sadness in that, you know, I’m not able to really be BeBe in Cameroon.

In the new documentary, you look back at footage spanning the highs and lows of your 15+ years of your career – what was that experience like for you?

It’s very wild to me. Like how time flies so fast, but it feels like yesterday. I mean – I was a little skinny back then – now I’m a grown woman!  And what I love is now that I look back, many years later – with everything that’s going on now and with the conversations that are happening now – I think that it’s almost like divine timing. People need to see and hear these stories now, because it’s not always the tra-la-la and fra-la-la of it all. People need to see that, with perseverance and with struggle, there’s always that light at the end of the tunnel, you know?

And it doesn’t mean that it always ends up being perfect, but you just have to hang on to it and trust what that is. And I’m hoping that my story is what tells people that you [should] never give up. And I know it’s a pageant answer sometimes, cuz everybody says, “Oh, never give up” – but guess what? You can look at this movie and say, “Yes, never give up!” Do you know what I mean? Because you get to follow the journey of what that is. It’s not just a statement.

BeBe, your father Dr. Collins Ngwa was a Fulbright scholar – can you tell us a little bit about him?

Yes, my dad was an international scholar – a professor, and like a mentor to many people who went on to become diplomats, ambassadors, ministers. He traveled abroad a lot as a student and an educator and had SO many degrees (laughs). He was the pillar of our family. He was full of light. Full of love. Full of joy, you know. He always cracked jokes and loved to gather people together. He was a man that always was about unifying people. And I think I get a lot of that from him. Like we can all be different, but we can all come together and coexist together because of what our differences are – and that’s what makes this world beautiful, because we are all that different.

He was the kind of father who has no judgment on who you are, and accepts every layer of who you are. Even the times when Dad did not really know what drag was – the idea of just allowing me to be me, and just being supportive of the path in terms of my career and my artistry.  And my dad always was that kind of a man who was so grounded and not going to compromise his integrity, but believed that with hard work and perseverance, you will be successful and create your own thing and create your own opportunities. He lives on, you know. He lives on in us, his work lives on.

Granted, he traveled a lot, he was very educated, he’d lived here in the US, but he still was a man of culture and tradition in a place where difference was not always tolerated. So just being so accepting, even when he didn’t understand, even when it was still a journey for him – it was something special, and I think something that his studies around the world probably helped open his mind to. I think that I am able to be who I am because my family accepted me to be who I am.

As the very first winner of the international reality TV sensation RuPauls Drag Race, what has it been like to be a role model to so many LGBTQI+ and gender non-conforming individuals in Cameroon and around the world?

I don’t know if I set out to be a role model. I know I set out to live my truth. I set out knowing that there was something that I had to bring into the world, whatever that is. And I always keep saying that our platforms are a privilege. But I also know it comes with a lot of responsibility, you know, and that’s why we have to be very careful.

People need to see more things that are positive, because you have people from Cameroon and Africa and all around the world, who are not able to live the way we are living – who look to us to seek some peace or to try to be inspired or try to say, you know, if BeBe can do it, then I can do it. You know? And when you get all these messages where people tell you how you have moved them and helped them, when it comes to suicide, or just personal stories where it took them watching me do A, B, C, D, E, F, G for them to change their mind about something about their life. And to me, it’s not a responsibility that I asked for, but it comes with it. So I’m just humbled, you know?

 

– Marshall Kudi Ngwa (aka BeBe Zahara Benet), as told to BEING BEBE Director/Producer Emily Branham. Some of BeBe’s answers have been edited for length.

Learn more about BEING BEBE, and how to bring the film to your school or library:  https://gooddocs.net/products/being-bebe

 

Launch of the Fulbright Chronicles

Launch of the Fulbright Chronicles

Working with a fabulous global editorial team and a great group of contributors, we are very pleased to announce the launch of the Fulbright Chronicles.

This independent, on-line, peer-reviewed journal by and for Fulbright alumni explores how the Fulbright experience shapes our lives, shifts the arc of our career trajectories, develops novel approaches to collaboration, engenders innovative means of creative expression, and establishes new pathways of knowledge.

Highlights of the inaugural issue include a commentary by former Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar on “Why the Fulbright Program Really Matters” and an essay by Pultizer-prize winning author Jane Smiley on how being a Fulbrighter in Iceland shifted her career aspirations. There is also an article by MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow Derek Peterson describing the ways in which his Fulbright experience in the early 1990s shaped his scholarly vocation on the politics of African identity.

The Chronicles grew out of our Fulbright experiences in Thailand and a shared sense that the long-term impact of these experiences was an untold story.  Introduced to each other in 2007 by then Executive Director of the Thai Fulbright Program, Pornthip Kanjaniyot, in 2014 we were asked to co-edit the English version of a Thai-English volume marking the 60th anniversary of the the Thai Fulbright Program.  In recent years, we discussed that there was an opportunity to explore more broadly how Fulbrighters “see the world” and what they do with those insights.

We are so grateful to the Chronicles editorial team and initial contributors who helped launch us all on this remarkable journey.  We cordially invite you to join us.  You can learn more about our global editorial team and their Fulbright experiences or how to contribute an article or commentary at:  www.fulbright-chronicles.com.

 

Kevin F F Quigley
Co-Editors
Fulbright Thailand and Laos 2007
Fulbright Thailand 2022
Bruce B Svare
Co-Editors
Fulbright Thailand, 2006, 2014
Fulbright ASEAN Awardee, 2022

 

THANK YOU – National Volunteer Week

THANK YOU – National Volunteer Week

At the heart of the Fulbright Alumni network are our 55 local chapters across the United States. Behind every chapter event is a dedicated group of volunteer board leaders that create content, plan gatherings, and work to further the Fulbright mission. Their dedication allows US Fulbrighters to turn their Fulbright experience into a lifelong journey back in their home country.

We are grateful to the volunteers who charter chapters, join their local Board of Directors, organize events, and represent Fulbright in their communities. Without you, the Fulbright community would not be the global network that it is today.  On behalf of the Fulbright Association and all of its members – thank you.  

Indelible Impressions – Fathima Banu – USA 2005

Indelible Impressions – Fathima Banu – USA 2005

It was a dream come true when I received a call from the United States India Education Fund (USIEF) to attend an interview for the Junior Research Fellowship. I was on a roller coaster ride full of excitement coupled with trepidation as I was to travel for the first time in my life, on my own, to the USA. My destination was Arcadia University, Pennsylvania. My mentor Prof. P.S. Chauhan and his wife Dr. Vijaylakshmi, were my guardian angels throughout my six months sojourn at the University. My apartment at 1063, Church Road, Glenside is still etched in my memory. It gave me the space and the time to reflect on my dissertation. Long before COVID-19, it made me realize the importance of maintaining good health, relationships and that minimalist living was an ideal way of life. At the same time I grew stronger in faith and confidence. The University with its magnificent Grey Tower’s Castle, the lush lawns and the Landsteiner library with the state of the art facilities left me spell bound. The Visual Communication Department with its wealth of videos on the Civil Rights Movement in America gave me the insight that I required to write my thesis. The cordial welcome by the Provost and the support extended by the international advisor are still fresh in my mind. The reception hosted by the Friends of Fulbrighters at Mrs. Alexander’s house and the Fulbright Conference at the Marriot Hotel in Washington D.C. were all like the stuff found in fairy tales. To me history came alive when I visited the Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian Museum and the Lincoln Memorial. The Martin Luther King Historic site at Atlanta and the Muhammad Ali Centre at Louisville made me marvel at the sites and gave me yet another view of America. The myriad hues of autumn and the downy flakes of December kept me enthralled and wonder at the splendor of Nature. This Fellowship also gave a great chance to my family to visit me and enjoy the sites and sounds of the East Coast and appreciate the great American Constitution and the values it stood for.

What I cherish most is the long standing association with the United States Consulate in Chennai which enriched my College and our students both academically and culturally. To mention a few, the Toastmasters International Club’s programs brought under the guidance of the English Studies Officer, the English Language Specialist posted in our College, the Youth Leadership and the SUSI programs etc. enhanced the skills of our students. The Dignitaries from the Consulate who honored and graced many events in my institution opened new vistas. I consider myself blessed to have had a tiny but a fruitful role in the profound vision of Senator J. William Fulbright and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. May the world embark on many such meaningful programs that build and nourish relationships among people from various nationalities.

Fathima Banu – Fulbrighter to USA 2005

After 11 Years of Syrian War, Can Education Foster Peace?

After 11 Years of Syrian War, Can Education Foster Peace?

By Karam Alhamad  

Eleven years ago last month, war broke out in my home country of Syria. I was 21 years old.

To promote a freer, brighter future for my country, I did what I could, picking up my camera to document Assad’s atrocities against his own people. My hopes of peacefully graduating from the university in my hometown of Deir ez-Zor, Syria were quickly dashed. And in the span of just a few short days, I was transformed from a typical petroleum engineering student to a pro-democracy war protester.

I decided that if I could no longer be a student, I would be a teacher. I began educating the world about the horrors unfolding in my country. From 2011 to 2016, I used my photography and storytelling skills to shed light on the situation in Syria. By documenting the bombings, destruction and slices of everyday civilian life for the world to see, I deepened the world’s understanding of our situation. I worked with reporters and editors at Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Washington Post, and Foreign Affairs to spread awareness of the devastation Assad’s regime was causing.

My family taught me that education is the bridge to a brighter future, and I was busy laying the path to a Democratic Syria, story by story alongside my fellow activists.

This work was more than reporting. It was education in its purest and most important form. I was actively creating a window for the outside world to look in and learn about Syria, its people and its crisis. Knowledge is power, and Assad knows this. That is why I was detained and tortured by the Syrian government not once, but four times, for my efforts to showcase its abuses for the world.

Despite its best efforts, the regime failed to quieten my voice. And once again, education proved to be the key to redemption and a brighter future. At the age of 24, I was accepted to Syracuse University’s Leaders for Democracy Fellowship, which guaranteed my safety – albeit temporarily – in the United States. This experience was pivotal, and it ultimately led to future opportunities to pursue my education at esteemed institutions such as Bard College Berlin and, today, Yale University.

For me, these educational opportunities have never been knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Education is the catalyst for action, and this is what has always driven my efforts to tell Syria’s story.

Today, as the war rages on in Syria 11 years later, I urge you all – as members of the Fulbright community committed to building mutual understanding between nations and advancing knowledge across communities – to take the first step by learning more about the situation in Syria. The bombings, needless civilian casualties, inhumane detentions, chemical warfare and undue foreign influence are ongoing, and we need young people everywhere to educate themselves on the situation to make concerted efforts to end the violence.

This is why earlier this month I launched Zendetta, a first-of-its-kind animated graphic novel aimed at illuminating the crisis in Syria in a humanistic manner. I believe that in the hands of dedicated, passionate people like you, Zendetta has the power to spark the sort of learning that drives meaningful dialogue and, consequently, change. Concurrently, I have also launched the Zendetta Grant program, which will help more Syrians tell the world their stories by surpassing barriers to education, such as entrance examination and application fees.

Take five minutes to explore Zendetta. It’s easy to ignore headlines about another bombing in a far-off region of the world. But it’s harder to ignore a human story pouring forth from the heart. So please, visit Zendetta and learn how you can take action to help Syria today.

Fulbright Prize Honors Bono

Fulbright Prize Honors Bono

Fulbright Prize Honors Bono, Lead Singer of U2, Activist, and Co-founder of ONE and (RED) 

 

 Washington, DC – Today, the Fulbright Association presented Bono, U2 lead singer and co-founder of ONE and (RED), with the 2021 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding for his commitment to seek justice by fighting to end extreme poverty, tackle global health crises, and spur economic development in the poorest parts of the planet.

Watch the program here.

Speaking at this evening’s event about growing up in Ireland, Bono said, ”We looked to America. We saw a country with its own long-running arguments, its own injustices. We knew this promised land wasn’t always keeping to that promise. We knew America wasn’t living up to all its ideals, but the fact is America had ideals.

“We knew that because you wrote them down, you cited them, you held yourself to account on them. They shaped the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights and gay rights. I don’t know how, but I seemed to know that America wasn’t just a country. I felt it was an idea, if not yet a fact.

“Even when it got messy. Even when it got wild. America isn’t classical music, America is punk rock, America is hip-hop. I had a sense of America’s wrestling with itself, caught in the act of becoming… becoming itself… becoming its better self.

“William Fulbright talked about ‘the magnetism of freedom’, though he was selective about it. Even if he missed the full expression of it, in Ireland we felt its pull. And I have ever since.

“I love this song called America. And I ask you tonight as both fanboy and critic: Can you still hold that tune?”

“The causes Bono has devoted himself to remain all too relevant today. While affordable treatments have brought HIV/AIDS under control, a new pandemic left Africans at the back of the queue for vaccines,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, who introduced Bono. “So, we will still need Bono to keep up his advocacy work in the months and years ahead. And though he won’t have time to rest on his laurels, there’s no one who deserves this award more than he does.”

The Prize focuses on and rewards outstanding contributors to bringing cultures, nations and peoples together. Past Prize Laureates include Nelson Mandela, Bill and Melinda Gates, Desmond Tutu, President Bill Clinton, and Chancellor Angela Merkel amongst many others. The Prize also directly benefits the charitable priority of the Laureate. This year, Bono will be donating his $50,000 award to ONE and (RED).

“We’re honored to recognize and celebrate Bono’s commitment to fighting injustice, extreme poverty, the global AIDS crisis, and more recently, the disparities in the global COVID-19 response,” said Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin, Fulbright Association Board Chair and Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice. “The purpose of the Fulbright Prize is to recognize those who promote peace through greater understanding among peoples, cultures, and nations, and there’s no doubt that Bono embodies the best of leadership in times of unrelenting global crises and challenges.”

“Bono joins a distinguished history of laureates, and the recognition is well deserved,” said John Bader, Fulbright Association Executive Director. “We all have a responsibility to advance peace and understanding, and I hope that Bono’s leadership serves as an example to people around the world that we can all use our time, unique talent, and platform for a greater purpose.”

The 2021 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding Award Ceremony was made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. H. Andréa Neves, BroadReach Group, Egon Zehnder, Namecoach, and Georgia-Pacific.

 

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, and Angela Merkel. More on the Prize, with a complete list of laureates, at fulbright.org/prize

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 eca.state.gov/fulbright

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 fulbright.org

 

Online Photo Gallery Link for Guests

 

 

Fulbright Ceremony Highlights

Airport Friend – Melvina – Fulbright to USA 2008

Sometimes in life, the wrong gate leads you to the right destination.

It was middle December of 2008, my first winter in the US. I was traveling to the East coast with my housemate. We were very excited at the same time sleepy during the flights. The night before the flight, we still had final paper submissions. When we were waiting for the connecting flight at Houston airport, we were unaware of going to the wrong gate. So we had to reschedule our flight. We were so messed up. At the new gate, and we just realized we hadn’t yet reserved a hotel in New York City. Then, I saw an Asian girl was working with her laptop. I asked her if I could borrow her laptop, she said yes. Thinking back on that day, it was not a safe move. It was my first acquittance with Hoa Nguyen, Chinese-Vietnamese American from Texas, a graduate student at North Carolina University. We kept in touch through Facebook and emails.

In 2013, a message popped up in my messenger from Hoa that she wanted to visit me in Indonesia. Her colleagues and doctor were freaking out about visiting me, the stranger she met in the airport for 45 minutes. Hoa came to my city, Banda Aceh. In the middle of the visit, she expressed that she wanted to make her travel meaningful by donating to unfortunate kids in Aceh. I was asking why? She said: “It is for good karma. Skipping a cup of coffee from Starbuck and eating out of lunch once a week can change people’s lives.” We spent one whole day visiting orphanages in Banda Aceh, asking what kids’ needs were. It was our first social project for kids in Aceh. Hoa as donator, I am as the donation manager. I learned a lot about managing donations: assessing what beneficiaries need, planning the distribution, and making financial reports. Besides, it makes me realize that so many unfortunate kids around me are not getting enough government support. The governments’ supports did not match their needs most of the time.

Our partnership is continued until now. We had done 15 small social projects in Aceh in the form of giving monthly stipends for foster kids, education aid packages for kids, college tuition fees for students from low-income families and orphans, and food packages for poor people and elderlies. We supported undergraduate students in Banda Aceh from low-income families during the pandemic by giving internet package aids. We distributed food packages for daily workers to alleviate Covid-19 transmission. After almost a decade, some students we supported had graduated from high school and finished college. Foster children are growing strong and intelligent. It was a great feeling seeing the kids we helped excited go to school with new uniforms, shoes, and bag packs—small kindness matters.

I am very blessed I went to the wrong gate on that day. Meeting a stranger in the airport, becoming friends, then working together to support education for kids Aceh. It is one of the highlights of my Fulbright journey in the United States. This experience makes me believe in the power of good intention and random acts of kindness. 
Melvina Nasaruddin – Fulbright to USA 2008

Nomination of Bono for the 2021 Fulbright Prize

Nomination of Bono for the 2021 Fulbright Prize

Below is the original nomination of Bono for the Fulbright Prize which will be awarded on March 31st in Washington, DC.

Please accept my nomination of Irish rock musician Bono for the 2021 Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. Like millions of other fans, I have followed the group U2, of which Bono is the lead singer, for the past 25 years. He is admired around the world as an artist, activist and humanitarian whose overall global impact may be even more impressive than his considerable resume in the music industry.

His international recognition includes an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, a Commandeur of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) and in 2005, Bono was named one of Time magazine’s Persons of the Year.

Early in his career, Bono decided to use his fame as a rock star as an instrument to help humanity. An early trip to Ethiopia helped solidify his path and set a solid foundation for many years as an advocate for poor and marginalized populations. Much of his work as a philanthropist and humanitarian have focused on Africa.

He co-founded of DATA (Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa), an organization seeking justice through debt relief and fair trade; EDUN, a fashion brand designed to promote trade by sourcing throughout Africa; the ONE Campaign; a global initiative focused on lobbying governments to help end extreme poverty by 2030; and Product RED, a licensed brand raising awareness and funds from the private sector to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in eight African nations.

The collective work of these organizations has made a significant impact throughout that continent and well beyond.

Musically, Bono and U2 have been a cross-cultural endeavor with international impact. U2’s music has reached all corners of the globe, bringing soulful melodies and powerful lyrics that force people to think about the world in which we live and the kind of future we hope to create. For instance, “Summer of Love” and “Red Flag Day,” two songs from U2’s newest album, Songs of Experience, Bono describes the plight of Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland.

He and U2 recently completed the last leg of the 30th anniversary Joshua Tree tour in Mumbai, India. “So we come as students to the source of inspiration that is ‘Ahimsa’ – non-violence. Indians gave us this. It is the greatest gift to the world,” Bono said before the concert, a nod to peace that Sen. Fulbright surely would have admired.

Bono has had a personal impact on my life. He inspired me to volunteer in 2005 for a humanitarian effort in which a team of doctors and support personnel collaborated to provide medical care to more than 12,000 rural Zambians in a 15-day period. More recently, I have organized a soccer team and coach a group of African refugee boys who have resettled in our community in Abilene, Texas. I have been inspired, like many others, by the passion, commitment and leadership of Bono.

The totality of his work over the years – as a musician and activist – is impressive and deeply connects to the Fulbright mission of creating peace and understanding, promoting cultural respect, and working to creatively solve problems that enable humans to thrive. Like Sen. Fulbright, Bono has worked across the political spectrum to accomplish good and lasting things for a more peaceful world.

I am honored to nominate Paul David Hewson “Bono” as the next recipient of the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding.

Dr. Jason Morris

Abilene Christian University

Fulbright Scholar, Hungary 2009

Fulbright ETA, Hungary 2002

My Fulbright Experience – Raymond O’Donnell – China 2018

“I just want a salad,” I muttered under a breath of mixed anxiety and exhaustion; a thirteen-hour time difference wasn’t something a young-20-something year old could fake an effort through.

“我要买沙拉”

“Whoah yo my sha-rah.”

“Wǒ yāomǎi shālā,” she said, emphasizing each tone which I had mistaken as intonation at the time. I had no concept of the four different pitches to accompany spoken Mandarin, yet alone that misspeaking just one of those could change 买(Mǎi) “buy” to 卖(Mài) “sell.”

“I can do this.” I thought to myself. Three interviews, self-studying the best I could in preparation for moving to the other side of the world AGAIN, spending more than a summer in Shanghai but this time wanting to truly encapsulate myself in the Chinese culture and language learning process.

I starkly remembered at that moment our Fulbright outbound students’ language agreement, the faith and chance that our Professor 万里 took on a kid from Ohio that only had a passion for learning — and who wanted to go all in on that passion.

I confidently adjusted myself in the low riding seat to face the server, “服务员!” The sharply dressed man adjourned from his conversation with the other host and faced me; pen and paper at the ready. “我要卖沙拉.”

It’s not the most remarkable first day experience as a Fulbright Hayes Chinese Language Immersion Program participant, but it’s one that stood out to me the most. The first of many months in Xi’an, the beautiful NEW First Tier City of Shaanxi Province followed similar suit.

Wake up at 6:30-7 am, make your way to the student cafeteria and pay for your choice of 包子( ), steamed buns, or 粥 ( ), rice porridge. And, in my case, the extra 2 mile round trip commute for the only non-instant coffee available.

Six hours of language intensive curriculum: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing, only broken apart by the hour or so lunch at noon and the fifteen or so minute breaks between each day’s domain being taught.

But you know what, I didn’t mind my brain bursting at the seams with 汉子Hanzi. Speaking broken Mandarin with people from South Korea, India, Morocco, and other nations I did not know existed until we showed each other our position on a globe while sharing cheap cigarettes that cost 7-30 元. With those shared laughs, dinners out, 干杯(gān bēi) — otherwise known as cheers — and cultural study field trips to 大理市 (Dali), 丽江市 (LiJiang), 昆明市 (KunMing) and other cities I can’t immediately recall.

I was explicitly and implicitly taught Chinese culture and language the way the Fulbright Program was designed to do.

It is impossible to experience real life in China without being a part of the Chinese New Year. Drastically different than the United States’ New Year’s Day or Eve; the entire nation shuts down for what seems like weeks to spend time with family.

No matter how far, the heart is always fond of home and one could easily find stories on 微博(Weibo) about people riding share bikes hundreds and thousands of miles to — or sometimes the wrong direction — home.

I got to spend nearly two weeks with a family — a one-child family that lived in the inner city and upper skyline of Xi’an that gave me their ten-year-old child and a pocket smart-translator to survive the excursion. They fed me, and they taught me the Chinese word, idiom, or character for everything we came across. I was able to ski for the first time; then promptly switch to snowboarding after wrecking into their child two times, and go to the countryside two hours away to set off fireworks that we bought inside a ramshackle supermarket that was more than likely an illegal trade for such explosives.

Contracting food poisoning at one of dozens multi-coursed traditional Chinese meals, I got to take traditional medicine and be even more comforted by whom I only know and am allowed to call “Yen Mama.”

Days turned to weeks and weeks turned into months, and between the spontaneous adventures set by the Fulbright program, the school we attended, or by the dumb-witted brains of our young college selves, our pack of Fulbrighters made their way into the pinnacle of opportunity to experience Chinese culture . . . work culture.

An internship with the prestigious Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce, to be exact.

You would be hard pressed to find this paramount of trade, I’d personally walked past it several times on my way to the movies with an ex-girlfriend simply because it WAS past the movie theatre, up the stairs, and around the corner. Rows of cubicles symmetrically aligned with each having a different pedigree of importance and prestige to each department’s role.

Experiencing the 8-6 work culture and the two-hour lunch and nap break in-between emailing treasurers of trade was only part of the one-belt-one-road initiative.

It was something I’d only dream of.

Graduation was shortly after. Although each of us had our own kind of experience graduating the program, our studies, internship, and our English language camp with the Dandelion School in Beijing meant that none of us could have been prepared for the friendships and lifelong connection’s we left with.

I’m not in frequent contact with everyone in our old 微信(Weixin) “WeChat” group chat, but I see the successes everyone has accomplished since. Graduate degrees, big tech jobs, research articles and journals published, etc. Not one of us stopped being excellent after this Fulbright program and experience — not a single one of us plans to either.

My Fulbright experience wasn’t ordinary, it was beyond extraordinary, and not something I’ll ever take for granted.

Raymond O’Donnell – Fulbright to China 2018

Fulbrighters Standing with Ukraine

Fulbrighters Standing with Ukraine

Dear Fulbrighters and Friends,

We share your dismay with the return of warfare to the European continent. The tragic and violent attack on Ukraine is a moment of action, and a moment of reflection.

As we watch the images from Ukraine—children huddled in subways, destroyed buildings, and attacking helicopters—we must send resources where they are needed. I urge you to use this NPR article to find organizations such as the International Red Cross, Nova Ukraine, and Save the Children to receive your financial support today. Doctors without Borders, one of the recipients of the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, is at work in Ukraine and deserves your help.

This is also a moment to reflect on our commitment to keep the Fulbright Program strong and relevant. When conflict erupts, we should ask if we could have done more, as citizen diplomats, to prevent it. We are not naïve. Peace is hard to build and maintain, and it can be destroyed easily by hatred, resentment, and autocratic leadership.

So what can we do? We can have faith that ordinary people like you and me can make a difference in most cases and in many places worldwide. We can continue to work as hard as we can to advocate, educate, and serve. When the world seems to have gone mad, as it has now, we can keep trying.

As a community, we condemn the attack on the Ukrainian people, and we deplore the loss of life and wanton destruction. We agree with President Jimmy Carter, another Fulbright Prize Laureate, who said today that the US and its allies “must stand with the people of Ukraine in support of their right to peace, security, and self-determination.”

May Fulbright alumni continue to be catalysts for a more peaceful world.

Yours,

John Bader, Executive Director

Fulbright Association

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this statement included a claim that the conflict in Ukraine ends 75 years of peace in Europe. That is not accurate. Since World War II, Europeans have suffered armed violence repeatedly, such as the war and genocide in the Balkans, and have been the victims of many terrorist attacks. We regret the error and appreciate Association members who asked for this correction.