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:


Kevin F F Quigley
Fulbright Thailand and Laos 2007
Fulbright Thailand 2022
Bruce B Svare
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

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


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.


“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.


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.

A Fulbright Fellowship Opened My Eyes to the World – William Krantz – Turkey 1974-75

A Fulbright Fellowship Opened My Eyes to the World – William Krantz – Turkey 1974-75

My Fulbright Fellowship in 1974-75 to Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey was the first time that I traveled abroad. Owing to limited funds, my wife and I traveled via bus from Munich, Germany, to Istanbul. We went through the former Yugoslavia without any problems. However, we were pulled off the bus in Bulgaria to be interrogated. This is not the sort of experience one wants to have on your first trip abroad! After being held in a windowless room for several hours, we were allowed to leave. Much to our surprise, the bus waited for us. We arrived in Istanbul late in the evening long after we were expected. Our first experience of exceptional Turkish hospitality was a greeting by the Department Chairman and his faculty who were waiting for us at the bus station!

Istanbul traffic was an interesting cultural experience. It was a mixture of dolmuşes (shared taxis), commercial vehicles, and horse-drawn wagons, with very few private cars. Traffic lights in Istanbul had no influence whatsoever on the traffic flow. We observed particularly chaotic two-way traffic on a busy street that we later learned was a one-way street. When the traffic got too congested, dolmuş drivers pulled onto the sidewalk and honked their horns for pedestrians to get out of the way.

At night, many of the ancient wooden houses were lit with the golden glow of kerosene lamps. At that time, Istanbul just put its first black-and-white TV station into operation. It was interesting to observe the men in the teahouses with their eyes fixed on the TV while playing backgammon. We quickly adjusted to this radically different culture and fell in love with it. We soon were able to get along in Turkish thanks to the language instruction provided by the Fulbright program.

My assignment in Turkey was to teach a graduate-level course through an interpreter. I found that teaching through an interpreter requires organizing one’s lecture much more carefully. This experience greatly improved my teaching when I returned to the U.S.

My experience in Turkey was so transformative that I wanted to do something to help Turkey that would have a long-lasting impact. Hence, I set up an informal program for bidirectional exchange of students and faculty. I helped arrange admission and financial support for many Turkish students to pursue Ph.D. studies at the University of Colorado and other U.S. universities. I have returned to Turkey several times to offer workshops and to collaborate on research in which capacity I have co-authored two peer-reviewed technical papers and served as co-inventor on two patents with my Turkish colleagues. These patents address a national need in Turkey to reduce the boron concentration in water obtained via desalination from the Mediterranean Sea.

I also was awarded Fulbright Fellowships to Aachen Technical University in Germany and Oxford University in England, both of which were very rewarding. However, my first international experience, made possible by a Fulbright Fellowship to Turkey, opened my eyes to the world. Our way of saying “Thank You” to the Fulbright Program is to promote the mission of the Fulbright Alumni Association, “To continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy and service” by being a member of the Fulbright Association’s 1946 Society.

William Krantz – Fulbright to Turkey 1974-75 

University Chancellor and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Mpilo Tutu 

University Chancellor and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Mpilo Tutu 

Dean Beverly Lindsay and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

University Chancellor and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Mpilo Tutu 

by Beverly Lindsay

A few weeks ago, thousands of individuals around the globe expressed sorrow at the passing of Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the Nobel Peace Laureate who, in 1984, was the fourth Black person to receive this distinction.   In political and public policy spheres, he was known for his incredible decades of work in struggling and pushing the White South African government to abolish the harsh laws and inhumane conditions of apartheid.   Over 50 years, he remained at the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and in neighboring countries – although many forget that countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe were governed  by forms of apartheid.

Nevertheless, it  is often overlooked that his career began and concluded in education.   Following his father’s footsteps,  young Desmond graduated from Pretoria Bantu Normal College and taught high school English and History in the 1950s – thereby setting the path for blending the humanities into his professional life.  Ironically, his early teaching occurred when the South African Bantu Education Act became official in 1954, thereby further restricting and segregating Asian, Black, Coloured, and White education. [Notably this was the same year the 1954 Brown v Board of Education eliminated de jure school segregation in the United States.]  Tutu further resolved to become an Anglican priest and was officially ordinated in the early 1960s.  He completed  his BA degree from the University of South Africa and his BDiv from Kings College London, writing a thesis on Islam in West Africa.  At various points, he held combined academic and chaplain portfolios at  universities such as the then University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland and University of Fort Hare (the alma mater of Nelson Mandela.)

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s,  he was at the center of abolishing apartheid and its effects on all ethnic and racial groups, including conditions at colleges and universities.  While his primary foci entailed that of formal de jure government policies, he also strived to mitigate ethnic and tribal discriminations and violence – resulting from historical realities and violent and non-violent strategies.  He combined the concepts of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism with college and public addresses to numerous audiences.  Captivatingly,  he was a fluent polyglot and frequently  used languages in part or in whole in his communications.

Although I did not meet him during my initial professional trips to South Africa in the early 1990s, I was exposed to his university endeavors at the University of the Western Cape (UWC)– the foremost Coloured university.  As part of multiple multi-million dollars United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts to the then Academy for Educational Development (AED), I was what academicians would term Co-Principal Investigator for the four types of demographic universities.  UWC faculty and students were continually involved in anti-apartheid demonstrations and policy articulations.  As customary in the British university tradition, the university chancellor is often an esteemed person, with limited participation in academic affairs. In essence, it is regularly a ceremonial position. [The rector is the equivalent of an American university president.]  However, this was not a very accurate description of Chancellor Tutu who served for approximately 25 years, beginning in 1987.   His prior African public school, college, and university portfolios enabled him to comprehend the multiple roles of education.  Moreover, he was a visiting fellow or professor at Kings College London, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill,  and Emory University (among others).

For a decade, he was both the Archbishop of Cape Town and UWC Chancellor in the Cape Town Province – often referred to as the Coloured Province since large numbers of Coloureds resided there.  Interestingly, as a Black African, he held prominence among Coloureds.  Via an invitation from a Vice President of a Pennsylvania university to attend a public lecture and then to a select private discussion reception in the 2000s, I was honored to meet and converse with Chancellor Tutu.  I briefly shared some of my several university engagements at South African universities, where I had been seconded to the AED  [as a full professor and academic associate dean at the University of Georgia] to investigate and help pose policies and paradigms for merging  multiple university systems.  A bit of cultural levity occurred when voicing (to Chancellor Tutu) how assorted UWC students and faculty learned that some of us graduated or had been professionals at American Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  When we used the term HBCUs, the UWC individuals thought it meant “Historically Black and Coloured Universities.”

As an educator, priest, Archbishop, and Chancellor, he encouraged diversity before the term was in vogue.   While a bishop, he ordained and appointed gay priests and women – when this was taboo in many African nations.   As Chancellor, he was involved in  polices to include diverse ethnic, racial, and gender faculty and administrators.  He was often credited with coining the term  “Rainbow People or Rainbow Nation”  to encompass and include fairness for all demographic groups.  He threw himself upon the body of an African man, from a different African ethnic group, to prevent necklacing the man, who was accused of being an informant to the White government. [Necklacing involved hanging a gasoline filled tire around someone’s neck and setting it on fire.]  Singing and speaking in one of his five languages at university educational and political events was  a salient mode of inclusive diversity.  At his 1984 Nobel Peace speech, he and his family began and concluded with his leading tenor voice singing in his indigenous language.  To paraphrase, he often voiced that yesterday’s oppressed can become today’s oppressors, resulting in exclusion by new power groups in a post-apartheid era – rather than authentic diversity and fairness.


Beverly Lindsay, PhD, EdD held two of her Fulbrights in universities in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, neighboring countries to South Africa.  She  is  Co-Director and Principal Investigator of a multi-year Ford Foundation Grant on Women and University Leadership in Post-Conflict and Transitional Societies (University of California) – that works with South Africa and other nations.  She is senior author of  Higher Education Policy in Developing and Western Nations (Routledge, February 2022).


In 2008, the Fulbright Association awarded the Fulbright Prize to Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, for his tireless work for peace in South Africa and elsewhere, for his courage in speaking out against injustice, and for his efforts to achieve a democratic and just society without racial division.

Three Fulbrighters founded Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization

Three Fulbrighters founded Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization

In 2010, three Fulbright scholars and architects from different walks of life came together and co-founded the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU). They were Aliye Pekin Celik, PhD, James McCullar, FAIA, Professor Lance Jay Brown, FAIA. Professor Urs Gauchat, Hon AIA joined them as the fourth founding member of the CSU. They all have been in passionate pursuit of equity, diversity, and inclusion ever since their Fulbright days. They early understood the need for local and global action and the importance multicultural cooperation if the world was to move forward and change for good. They are still on that path.

Aliye Pekin Celik came to Princeton University from Ankara as a Turkish Fulbright Scholar. James McCullar went to Fontainebleau in France and Lance Jay Brown to Paris as American citizens with the values of globalism, international contacts and the humanism that Fulbright scholarships inspired. At one point in their careers, they got together to support the values they believe in, by supporting UN in general, UN-Habitat in particular.

The CSU mission is to promote a better understanding of the role of sustainable urbanization in the planning of our cities. The CSU fosters exchanges of best practices and innovations through UN conferences and programs in collaboration with UN-Habitat, AIA New York, the City of New York, and allied organizations. The CSU endeavors to build bridges between the design community, the general public and UN organizations in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since its formation, the CSU has worked closely with UN-Habitat in development of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 11 and New Urban Agenda, which was adopted by UN member states during Habitat III in 2016 in Quito and by the AIA in 2018. The fact that Aliye was a staff member at the UN made it easier for them to get involved and they made a big effort to bring design professionals and the United Nations together by establishing the CSU. It was a pioneering effort. The CSU has organized numerous conferences and programs at the UN, the AIA-NY Center for Architecture, UN-Habitat World Urban Forums, and at Habitat III.

The fact that Aliye held leadership positions at the United Nations, James in the AIA, and among practicing architects and Lance in the AIA and academia drew them together in earlier UN collaborations such as Crosstown 116 project which was a follow up of the Habitat-II conference in 1996 and the UN ECOSOC organized Green Architecture meeting in 2005 and the UN Forum on Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age in 2008 that led to formally co-founding the CSU. It was a pioneering effort.

Another Fulbright scholar, Oner Yurtseven, joined them as the treasurer in their early years. It was through their shared values of globalism, international contacts and the humanism inspired by the Fulbright experience that brought them together.

Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACA, NOMA had the timely privilege of being a Fulbright Fellow in Paris in 1967 after he had completed both his first Architectural Degree and Master’s in Architecture in Urban Design Degree at the Graduate School of Design and Harvard University. As an undergraduate at Cooper Union, he knew that the future was the city. A grant to study and critique the recently released Paris Master Plan was a perfect launch for an emerging architect and urban designer. Later he taught and practiced locally, nationally, and internationally, He has been a Board Member and President of the AIA New York Chapter and has a wonderful career as a practicing architect. He co-Directed the HUD funded “Crosstown 116: Bringing Habitat II Home from Istanbul to Harlem” and numerous other urban design projects. He co-authored and edited many books.

Aliye Pekin Celik, PhD, is immediate past President of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU) and the Chair of the Board. She was instrumental in establishing innovative participatory mechanisms to build alliances addressing some of the world’s most pressing concerns as the Chief of Economic, Social and Inter-organizational Cooperation Branch, UN-DESA. She worked in UN-HABITAT Nairobi and New York as the Head of New York office of UN-HABITAT, on building technologies, sustainable urbanization, energy, and gender issues. In the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, she worked on energy conservation and affordable housing. She has B.Arch., M. Arch degrees in architecture from Middle East Technical University, MFA in Architecture from Princeton University, and PhD from Istanbul Technical University. Celik was a Fulbright Scholar (1968), received numerous awards, and wrote extensively.

James McCullar, FAIA, has served as President and Vice President of the CSU. He is the founding principal of James McCullar Architecture. The studio has engaged in the design of new housing and adaptive reuse of urban sites that have contributed to the revitalization of their communities. As President of AIA New York, he organized the response to Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC2030 in collaboration with UN GAID for the first UN Forum on Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age, which led to formation of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization. His work received numerous awards. He received a BA and B.Arch. from Rice University, a Fulbright Fellowship for Urban Design in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Fontainebleau, France., and a M. Arch from Columbia University where his thesis was on the New York region.

H. Oner Yurtseven, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He served as Director, Department Chair, Associate Dean and Dean at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI .His areas of expertise are engineering and technology education, engineering accreditation, international engineering education, robotics, and renewable photovoltaic energy. He held academic and administrative positions at the Middle East Technical University and Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He was Provost of the Indiana University- Tenaga Nasional Berhad Cooperative Program, in Malaysia. He received BS in Electrical Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, Turkey, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the John Hopkins University in where he was a Fulbright Scholar (1969).

110 “Fulbright in the Classroom” Presentations

Fulbrighters are mission-driven, believing that there is a real need in the United States for deeper international understanding to fight xenophobia and prejudice and to promote peace. That is why dozens of Fulbright Association members participated in “Fulbright in the Classroom” in 2021, giving 110 presentations to over 2,000 students nationwide, sharing their experiences, love, and knowledge of other countries. Thanks to the generosity of Van Otterloo Family Foundation, which provided the FIC grant that made many presentations possible.

Caterina Zischke-Rincon, a Fulbrighter to Colombia and a musical educator, described her experience at three elementary schools in Denver, all serving under-represented communities, this way:

I began my presentation with community building to allow students the chance to share a bit more about themselves. As a class, we then explored Colombia’s unique geography and culture. We also talked about the country’s incredible biodiversity, from vibrant tropical plants to interesting animals and much more. Students then paired up with a fellow classmate to discuss what most interested them about the presentation thus far and why. The final section of the presentation focused on Colombia’s rich artistic traditions, including paintings by Pedro Ruiz and music by Totó La Momposina. It was beautiful to observe the class reflecting on and engaging with the presentation.

Fulbright in the Classroom has had a powerful effect in rural areas, too. Susan Barfield, a Fulbrighter to Chile, Slovakia and Lithuania, tells this story:

FIC Presentation at Luther School by Susan Barfield

I presented in a 2-room school in rural Montana; one room was K-3 and the other 4-8 with a total of 12 students. I brought many authentic Mapuche materials from southern Chile such as Mapuche musical instruments; videos of traditional dress, dancing, and music; jewelry; weaving examples of traditional clothing, and Chilean candy.

This year, the program expanded to include college audiences, like those at Texas State University. There, Fulbrighter Grace Mukupa, connected virtually to more than sixty students in two classes. Like Susan, she focused on cultural understanding, especially the power of food to build community:

FIC Presentation by Grace Mukupa

My presentation was more like storytelling; I incorporated my cultural experiences in Tajikistan, including food. Then I divided each class into two breakout rooms and asked the professor to lead the other room. The students shared cultural foods ideas that they would share at their Fulbright host countries. Finally, we came back together in a bigger room and shared why they chose those dishes and what they wanted their host family to learn about them and their culture through the choice of food.

Caterina, Susan, and Grace received Fulbright in the Classroom grants as individuals, but Association chapters also participated, such as the Louisiana Chapter, led by Patrice Moulton.  Patrice gave a presentation to first-generation students at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and reflected on the impact:

Watching and feeling a group of first-generation college students engage interactively in a discussion about the lessons and possibilities of global exchange was exhilarating! The students really connected when I told them of my experience in Nepal and then shared that, I too am a first-generation college graduate. I know how it feels to think that travel is for other people. I remember what it felt like to believe that “a girl like me” didn’t have those kinds of opportunities. When I shared this the room changed, there was eye contact and looks of interest, curiosity, and possibly hope.

Sharing hope and understanding is a powerful experience for these Fulbright alumni, reconnecting them to the central mission of the Fulbright Program. The added focus of Fulbright on the Classroom to inspire more diversity in international life generally, and among future Fulbrighters, is timely, powerful, and important.

We invite you to join the list of Fulbrighters below who participated in Fulbright in the Classroom last year (if we’ve missed you, please email You can do that as the recipient of a FIC Grant, thanks to the generosity of Rose-Marie Van Otterloo, through your local chapter, or just on your own.  Our FIC Tool Kit offers lots of resources to do this, and you can always email for more information or see a list of FAQs.

Many thanks to our FIC presenters!

Sofiane Akoubi Nicole Jefferson Grace Mukupa
Alex Akulli Joshua Krisinger Rhonda Petree
Jairo Viales Angulo Carol Larroque Zachary Senwo
Susan Barfield Leland Lazarus Rachel Shriver
Vincent Briley Harald Leder Richard Shrubb
Paula Faulkner Heather Massie Andrew Stinavage
Stefani Feldman Suzanne McBride Maria Willhoit
Rose Honegger Gaurav Misra Rachael Williams
Claire Jagla Patrice Moulton Caterina Zischke-Rincon
Chair of the Board – Cynthia A. Baldwin

Chair of the Board – Cynthia A. Baldwin

The Honorable Cynthia A. Baldwin, retired justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, was elected and became the Chair of the Fulbright Association Board of Directors on January 1,2022.

A veteran jurist and Fulbright Scholar who taught Constitutional Law, Legal Philosophy and Trial Advocacy on the Law Faculty of the University of Zimbabwe, she is serving on the Fulbright Board for the second time.

During her tenure as Chair, the Fulbright Prize, which has been awarded to Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell, Doctors Without Borders and Angela Merkel among others, will be awarded in 2022 to Bono, lead singer of U2  for his work in AIDS advocacy, global healthcare and poverty.

The Fulbright Association, located in Washington, D.C., has 8,000 Fulbright members throughout 54 local chapters in the USA. The Association has a wide variety of programming including Advocacy and Fulbright in the Classroom. The Fulbright Program is considered the largest and most prestigious educational exchange program in the world. The mission of the Association is to continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy and service.

Sandy (Sandra) Grubb Chapman – Pakistan 1975

Pakistan today is so inhospitable to Americans that our state department discourages travel there, but things were very different in 1975. Our little group of teachers on a two-month educational tour led by Dr. James Sheaffer of Chadron State were treated like honored guests. The governors of three of the four provinces welcomed us to their marble mansion where uniformed servants served us tea from silver platters. We heard lectures from the top professors of the universities; local dignitaries gave us receptions and tours of their industry, like the glass factory in Hyderabad where the heat was so intense that we had to leave after only a few minutes. I especially remember the rug makers in Lahore—little boys as young as five who were considered to be lucky to learn a trade and earn a nickel a day rather than be beggars on the streets.

More revealing of the general attitude toward westerners was how we were treated in the bazaars. Although the women would move off to the side and watch us through the veils of their burkas, the boys and men followed us everywhere. They weren’t hostile, just curious, even though a gun belt and rifle might be slung across their chest. And rather than not wanted to be photographed as I’d heard, they seemed pleased to have their picture taken—though I always asked first to be sure. One time, however, a just a picture and a brief interaction weren’t enough. A man in the old bazaar of Rawalpindi was so excited to meet some Americans that he ran over to us like he’d discovered a treasure and wanted to take us home to show to his grandparents. So, the next day Mohammed Islam took us to their home where we found a courtyard crowded with not only his entire family but most of the neighborhood children as well. Nothing, however, equaled the enthusiasm of the local drug dealers in the smugglers’ market in Landi Kotal on Khyber Pass. As soon as we got off the bus, we were greeted by joyful shouts from the local drug dealers:  “Ameri-kans . . .Ameri-kans! Hashish! Cocaine!” And although they didn’t make a sale this time, they too treat us well.

For me personally, more evidence of how we were regarded came when I got when I realized was alone, but then I thought, Oh, heck, nobody’s going to do anything to me with all these people around. So I took my time going back to hotel, watching the venders like the chapati makers and the paan man, and I returned with my camera the next morning—again by myself. But I certainly wasn’t alone. The usual curious crowd followed me from my first stop to my last as if I were a celebrity and actually made me feel even safer.

But of all our interactions and receptions, most memorable and now almost unbelievable, was in Darra, the village near the Khyber Pass that’s famous for its guns. We arrived late in the afternoon, after being warned by the Pakistani government to be out of there by nightfall or it couldn’t be responsible for our safety. First we just wandered about and watched as they made rifles from rebar and were about ready to depart when we were led into a mud-walled courtyard. The malik spoke no English, but he’d heard of our coming on his shortwave radio just a few hours earlier and had hastily organized a reception. We were told that blood revenge was part of the Pathan code of honor and that this kindly looking man had killed at least twelve men in order to qualify as the chief, but also important in the code is hospitality to guests. And tribesmen who would have robbed us and possibly killed us if we met on the road just a few hours later now served us tea and cookies. Today Darra is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, as perhaps much of Pakistan now might be, but that’s not what we experienced there—I remember instead the open hearts of welcoming people.

Sandy (Sandra) Grubb Chapman – Fulbright to Pakistan 1975

From potatoes to French fries, a permanent exchange – Elio Leturia – USA 1990

From potatoes to French fries, a permanent exchange – Elio Leturia – USA 1990

Not one but four times I applied for my Fulbright award. Only one from 14 annual awards was given to the communication and arts fields’ candidates. Imagine how intense the competition was!

I recall jumping in the air when I received the congratulatory letter getting the Fulbright. Perseverance had paid off. I had just applied for tenure at Universidad de Lima where I was an assistant professor in the Communications School.

 Coming from a chaotic and buzzing metropolis like Lima to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a campus in the middle of corn and soy fields, was quite a change.

 My first four months in the American Midwest were exhilarating. But towards Thanksgiving my culture shock had manifested more visibly. I remember when I was asked if we had French fries in Peru. “We invented the potatoes,” I answered with a chuckle. Thank God I have a sense of humor, so useful to lighten up some exchanges.

Before departing Peru we were told we shouldn’t discuss politics, sex and religion. But being a journalist and an artist, I couldn’t go through life without considering all subjects. Besides, I am curious. As a Fulbrighter I had also been awarded the opportunity to inform, discuss and share everything I knew. It was my duty to absorb everything so I could share it. That’s how I could really foster intercultural understanding.

I got back to Lima to my tenured teaching job and a newly Design Director position at El Comercio, the main Peruvian daily. They called me “the guy from the United States,” how funny! Fulbright and other contacts I made in the U.S. had opened such a singular opportunity. I redesigned the paper establishing a visual culture and starting the digital infographics revolution in Peru. I also renovated my teaching in my Alma Mater. My Fulbright experience was influencing my work.

Two and a half years later, the Tribune Co. relocated me to Chicago to art direct its publication in Spanish. Then I moved to the Detroit Free Press as a features designer where I also wrote stories with a Latino angle, always with the goal to share my original culture. In 2005 I went back to academia to teach visual journalism at Columbia College Chicago. There, besides my main expertise, I have taught Reporting in Spanish; my students have had over 60 stories published by the professional media. I have also taken students three times to Peru while teaching Travel Writing. The exchange continues.

I needed to give back to the local community. Since 2008 I have been a board member of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association managing its blog and organizing dozens of events for association members and foreign Fulbright students and scholars. In 2013 I was presented with the Fulbright Dee Sarelas Service Award for “the significant impact on the development of internationalism for the Fulbright Association and the Chicagoland community.” In 2017 I was named Fulbright Faculty Liaison to promote the program in my university.

Fulbright opened my eyes to a world that I keep exploring. Next year I will be teaching at Universidad de Málaga in Spain through a Fulbright Senior Award. I guess I am a “senior” now.

If I were to succinctly describe myself I’d say: I am a native Peruvian, naturalized US citizen, and a Fulbright scholar. That’s how much it means to me.

Elio Leturia – Fulbright to USA 1990

ENJOY! And Aftermath In Phnom Penh – Debra Carney – Cambodia 2009

ENJOY! And Aftermath In Phnom Penh – Debra Carney – Cambodia 2009

My 2009 Fulbright Specialist project at the National Institute of Education (NIE) was enlivening, enriching, and likely unrepeatable now.  Although I had provided faculty and staff development in Cambodia previously—at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and at Social Services of Cambodia—I had not taught before at NIE, and I was their first Fulbrighter.

NIE trained between 700 and 1000 of Cambodia’s teachers and administrators, and employed over 100 teacher-trainers.   At NIE, I conducted workshops and individual consultations for 57 graduate students, all future English teachers who would teach upper secondary school, mostly in rural provinces.

My NIE students were particularly interested in exploring new methods and materials for enhancing learners’ writing and thinking skills, and also in learning theory and best practices for classroom and tutorial teaching.  So, during our work together, my students and I examined new pedagogies using role plays and case studies drawn from the Cambodian educational context that I wrote for the project.  We also spent time strengthening their English language listening and writing skills. When I told my learners that I hoped they would enjoy writing, one student looked at me incredulously: “Enjoy writing?”  She shook her head as her classmates giggled in agreement.  I wrote ENJOY! on our class whiteboard, and the word became our multi-purpose refrain, expressing both frustration and achievement—and also what we all shouted at our group photograph commemorating the end of our time together, when we were all looking forward.

I had a small apartment in Phnom Penh and I walked to NIE every day, absorbing the edgy energy of the city.  I usually met with my students for workshop sessions in the mornings and early afternoons, then held individual consultations with them after that.  Most were as eager to investigate and employ new teaching methods as they were thoughtful and open about the circumstances under which they would teach:  very large classes (up to 60 students) and low pay, about $50 per month.  They would need supplemental employment to care for themselves and their families.  They also faced limited resources:  scarce text books and meager supplies, nonexistent or poorly-stocked libraries, monitored and expensive internet access.  Even at NIE, the computer I used to play CDs was an unreliable vintage model, and my students had few native English speakers with whom to practice the language they were expected to teach.

Still, the learners often told me that they would “teach the student, not the book,” reflecting their own awareness of individual students’ needs—and revealing their more contemporary approach to education, away from lecturing and rote-learning models.     But as scholars Neil Loughlin and Astrid Noren-Nilsson noted in 2021, Cambodia’s political structure is now “hegemonic authoritarianism.”  Many Cambodian educators are paid better, but the cost is constraint.  In 2009, my NIE students’ commitment, enthusiasm and curiosity reinforced for me the ongoing challenges all educators face: to remain fresh, current, thoughtful, and engaged.  As I consider contemporary Cambodia, I am reminded how mighty those challenges can be.

Debra Carney – Fulbright to Cambodia 2009

“We Are All in This Together”

“We Are All in This Together”


Celebrating 75 Years of Fulbright Stories

In celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 75th anniversary, we’re looking back at the experiences of Fulbrighters Dr. Bruce Fowler and Evan Patrohay, two scientists who are passionate about the conversation of our planet.

In 1994-95, Dr. Bruce Fowler completed a Fulbright in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied toxicology and is a world-renowned expert in the field with over 260 research papers and book chapters on the topic. Dr. Fowler is an active advocate for the Fulbright Program and supports climate change policy nationally and internationally.

Evan Patrohay is a recent graduate of the biosystems engineering program at Clemson University. He is a 2021-22 Fulbrighter currently in Tromsø, Norway, studying the effects of climate change on the ecosystem of the Arctic Circle. He has been an activist for climate change policy since he learned of the severity of the issue and hopes to use his knowledge to support him in a career in environmental policy.

The two ecological experts shared how climate change is affecting us all, what we can do to learn and to help, and how their experience as Fulbrighters impacts their worldviews.

Note: Dr. Fowler and Evan Patrohay were interviewed separately. Their answers have been condensed into a single interview for ease of reading.


When and where does/did your Fulbright take place? What are/were you studying?

Evan Patrohay: I am conducting my Fulbright research at the University of Tromsø in Norway, the world’s northernmost university, from 2021-2022. I am studying the effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems by examining how the traits of tiny sea-ice organisms, called ice meiofauna, are shifting over time.

Dr. Bruce Fowler: My Fulbright was in 1994-1995 at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. I was studying the toxicology of what are called III-V semiconductors; these are things such as gallium arsenide. Do you have any clocks or radios or devices with glowing red numbers? That’s gallium arsenide.

Dr. Fowler, what were you expecting to learn?

Dr. Fowler: I was expecting to learn about apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death. The reality met expectations to a degree, but not exactly as I expected. I spent a lot of time doing several things not related to research. I gave seminars and taught classes. I was also privileged to attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony with a number of other Fulbrighters in 1994 thanks to the to the efforts of the Swedish Fulbright Commission Director. In Stockholm, I had a technician, several colleagues in the Institute, and made a number of friends from other countries including one from Argentina who was also interested in studying apoptosis.  A very international group. Overall, this was a very interesting experience.

What would you like to/did you do after your Fulbright?

Patrohay: After I return to the United States, I plan to pursue a career in environmental policy. I originally pursued a Fulbright Grant because I knew it was an excellent way to witness firsthand the monumental ecological effects of climate change on the Arctic. I hope to combine my knowledge in political science, environmental engineering, and sustainability with my Fulbright experiences to inform the public of the dangers that climate change poses and to create meaningful policy.

Though I would like to begin in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, I intend to reach for the state or national level in the future.

Dr. Fowler: I continued working on my grants back here in the U.S., and I was back being a professor at the University of Maryland. I was also asked to chair the Fulbright Review Committee for Scandinavia. For two years, I led the committee in reviewing prospective applicants who wished to do Fulbright in Nordic countries. I was able to share my experience while selecting good candidates for this honor.

Three or four years later, I moved on to become the Associate Director of Science in the Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) which is under the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. ATSDR deals with a large number of toxic chemicals and was initially established under the Superfund Act. My job was to review documents prior to their release. I was now out of the laboratory. I had moved on but continued to collaborate with my friends in Sweden in writing and editing books on toxic metals. I was in Atlanta, Georgia, up until the point that I retired to Maryland.

Evan, why are you passionate about climate change?

Patrohay: This question is very interesting to me because, until three years ago, I did not believe in climate change. It was not until halfway through college, when my studies and friends presented the existing science and observations to me, that I understood the gravity of the situation. I was already passionate about the environment and stopping climate change aligned naturally with those affections. I never imagined I would be researching it thousands of miles away from home and in the Arctic Circle just a few short years later!

I find climate change profoundly interesting because it is more personal, more political, more philosophical, and more far-reaching than nearly any other environmental threat we face; it is a massive puzzle that we must use all our capabilities to solve.

Dr. Fowler, how has the field of toxicology changed since your Fulbright?

Dr. Fowler: Many fields in toxicology have gotten increasingly molecular: flowcharts with various metabolic pathways connected and interacting with each other. If these pathways don’t communicate with each other correctly or the communication is disrupted, the result could be cell death or cancer. It is now appreciated that chemicals such as toxic metals can interfere with these communication processes. DNA and genetic inheritance are important components, but the biology of these systems is much more complex. There are other molecules that regulate molecular communication called signaling pathways that regulate DNA.  Apoptosis is a general term that includes a number of what are called “adverse outcome pathways (AOPs)”, which result in cellular dysfunction.

Evan, what kind of changes will the world need to make to preserve our environment for future generations?

Patrohay: Oftentimes I hear disgruntled people lamenting how governments and big businesses must do more to protect the climate, and this is true. But it is also true that we in our capacity as individuals have influenced the emissions humankind has emitted, both directly from our households and indirectly from our consumption and demand. While large national and global-scale solutions are necessary, they must have a local foundation to stand on.

Support for environmental protection and accountability for green measures will be greatest when it comes from the hearts of the people, where they can strive for sustainability in their own towns and cities, for I have discovered that there is an intimate connection between the health of our communities and the health of our environment in ways I never knew before.

I believe that green infrastructure is one of the most promising solutions in our arsenal as it can manage water, limit pollution, and bring environmental beauty into our urban centers more efficiently than nearly anything else. Shifting away from monocultures and husbandry in agriculture, reviving local self-sufficiency in produce through community gardens, and working to limit suburban sprawl by incentivizing a return to city centers will also help. These are solutions that strengthen communities, serve as a foundation for national policies, and make our environmental endeavors more genuine and personal.

How have you engaged with other Fulbrighters with similar interests to your own?

Patrohay: I have been lucky because there is another Fulbright Scholar in Tromsø also researching Arctic ecosystems who I have been able to engage with during my stay. She and I have already partnered on some data-gathering trips, with more to come. The Norwegian Fulbright Commission has also put us in contact with current and previous Fulbrighters, many which have studied ecology as well.

Fowler: I’m here in the Washington area and connected with other Fulbrighters, some of whom, like me, are also interactive with members of the U.S. Congress. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we [Fulbrighters] used to walk the halls of congress, and I hope we will be able to do so again soon.

Do you have any messages for your fellow Fulbright alum regarding your field of study?

Patrohay: I came to the Arctic Circle because I wanted to learn more about a region on the ‘front lines’ of climate change, as the Arctic is warming at over twice the global average. There are many other places around the world that fit this description too, from glaciers and island nations to regions of desertification and permafrost loss, and Fulbright can take you within reach of any of them. Yet, in the not-so-distant future, it is likely that countless other locations will be added to this list, as climate effects become more profound and the ‘front lines’ expand. Therefore, I would recommend finding what interests you most to research: niche or grand, remote, or close to home. Knowledge is lacking in a myriad of categories and the opportunities are endless.

Dr. Fowler: It’s important to understand interactions between chemicals in the global environment and the environment and biological systems. The global view is that there are 80,000 to 100,000 chemicals in commercial use in the US and about 500-1,000 new ones each year. They are present in everything, even our food. For example, regulatory agencies try to set limits for a number of the older known toxic chemicals, but many are also in places you wouldn’t expect them or present new forms such as nanomaterials for which the toxicology database is very limited. A number of these chemicals have been locked up in global ice stores over the last 75 years but are now being released due to global warming and melting ice deposits.

In addition, there are now new chemicals and forms of these chemicals to be considered. If you go to the grocery store, many foods including apples, bananas, and other produce may be put in very thin plastic-like packaging. You may notice that this material is thin and that it doesn’t feel like it is made from plastic. That is because it may not be. It could be made from a high technology called material called chitosan, which is produced from the chitin of shellfish such as crabs. Someone figured out that you can grind up old crab shells pulverize and extract them before rolling them into thin sheets. Very ecological. Someone else realized if they impregnate chitosan with nanoparticles such as silver, copper, and other metals. Nanosilver is an anti-bacterial agent, which is why it’s in food packaging to help prevent spoilage and extend shelf life. There is a good reason to use it, but the idea is that it’s something that most people don’t know about. There is an ongoing discussion as to whether the presence of nanosilver in food packaging is a risk to human health. I don’t know the answer, and I suspect that neither does anyone else.

Do you have advice for young people who want to study in your field? Any advice for your fellow Fulbrighters?

Patrohay: Climate change is so far-reaching that its effects can be researched in ecosystems spanning every part of the globe. One only needs to tailor their interests to a particular portion of it. Have the confidence that no research will be useless, as our knowledge of climate change, its timeline, and its effects is still so deficient.

Always keep in mind what possible solutions maybe, as the expertise of scientists is an underrated but critical asset to policymakers. Weigh every individual, local, state, national, and global measure and consider how each can be blended. Be open-minded and strive to be as well-read, communicative, and empathetic as possible. Never skip an opportunity to share your research and expertise with others, and always listen to their responses. The solution will not be easy, but we are all in this together.

Dr. Fowler: It is a great career. There are very few toxicologists in the world, actually, relative to other branches of science, only a handful. They play an important role in a variety of fields related to chemical and drug safety. Big pharma and a number of other companies want to have a toxicology assessment of any new product they are going to put in the marketplace because if there is something unwholesome about that material if people eat, drink, or inhale it, they want to know problems first.

Also, something I would tell any young person going into toxicology is to learn a foreign language. My second language is German, which I took in high school. Swedish is a related Teutonic language with many similarities. As a Fulbrighter, it’s very handy to have a working knowledge language of the country in which you are staying even if you are not fluent. Do not expect that everyone will be able to speak English. It is important for your hosts to know that you took the time to learn at least some polite expressions. The ability to speak a few polite phrases is an ice breaker that makes your Fulbright experience more comfortable for everyone.

Finally, a lot of decisions are made on an increasingly multi-national basis. There are 180+ countries on the planet. As Greta Thunberg has observed, people in the northern hemisphere need to talk with people in the southern hemisphere because that is where many developing countries are located. Those are the people that need to be heard. The ability to communicate effectively will be critical to the future of our planet. Most of our industrial and intellectual activity is going on north of the equator whereas many of the developing countries are in the southern hemisphere – yet another reason to be able to communicate and bring people from impacted countries into the conversation. The Fulbright Program can play an important role in these communications because of its global reach. We are all living on a spaceship called planet Earth and for the time being, it is our only home, so best to take good care of it.

Fulbright Interns Samuel Lachance and Nathan Vince contributed to this piece.

Photo 1: Evan Patrohay in Norway

Photo 2: Bruce Fowler and fellow Fulbright Alumni on a 2019 Fulbright Association Insight Trip to Iceland

Photo 3: Evan Patrohay and friends in Norway

Photo 4: Bruce Fowler

“Embrace the Unexpected”

“Embrace the Unexpected”

Celebrating 75 Years of Fulbright Stories

In celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 75th anniversary, we’re looking back at the experiences of Fulbrighters Dr. Sudha Haley and Aparna Keshaviah. We asked the two alumnae about their experiences abroad with Fulbright, their shared expertise in classical Indian dance, and their advice for the next generation of Fulbright artists.

Dr. Sudha Haley has a long history in the public sector. She traveled to Israel on a Fulbright grant in 1984 and has since worked on countless pieces of public policy for the U.S. government, all the while performing Kathak classical Indian dance. She is a long-term Fulbright advocate and currently serves on the Fulbright Advocacy Task Force and leads the AARP Maryland AAPI Consortium Steering Committee. Dr. Haley currently performs her Kathak dances accompanied by Arun Bhagwat, retired IBM executive and world-renowned musician.

Aparna Keshaviah holds a dual career as a classical dancer/choreographer and senior statistician at Mathematica—a health policy research company. In 2006, she traveled on a Fulbright grant to India to conduct a statistical study of a classic Indian dance form called Bharatanatyam. Since then, she has continued to hone her craft and perform at local, national, and international institutions.

Note: Dr. Haley and Aparna were interviewed separately. Their answers have been condensed into a single interview for ease of reading.


When and where did your Fulbright take place? What did you study?

Dr. Sudha Haley: I was a Fulbrighter in Israel in the early 1980s studying Public Administration and their political system and their elections.

Aparna Keshaviah: I received a 2006-2007 Fulbright grant in Dance to India for a project entitled “Decoding the Modern Practice of Bharatanatyam.” I traveled to three Indian cities that are hubs of classical dance – Chennai, Bangalore, and Delhi – to survey dance teachers and students about their practice and notions of what is traditional in this form. In total, I visited 62 dance schools and surveyed 212 dancers ranging in age from 20 to 81 years.

What were you expecting to learn during your Fulbright? How did reality meet your expectation?

Dr. Haley: I had expected to attend lectures. However, the dynamism, the brilliance, and the inclusion of my Israeli counterparts was thrilling. They opened their minds, their homes, and their hearts to me. Taking me to rallies and other sites. To fully immerse me in the process. To this day, I revere and feel extreme affection for the Israelis.

Keshaviah: My hypothesis going in was that there’s no singular tradition within Bharatanatyam that can be consistently measured, and that’s exactly what I found. Of the 50 questions I asked around teachers’ movement execution, values, historical knowledge, and pedagogy, I heard strong majority opinion around only 7 of those questions. The most striking association I found was that the less teachers knew about Bharatanatyam’s history, theory, and current events, the more conservative they tended to be. This pattern held up across cities, genders, and age groups.

How did your interest in dance influenced your Fulbright?

Dr. Haley: As a child in India my father, an alumnus from Princeton and Colombia, and my mother who studied at a University in London, instilled the idea of raising me as a renaissance woman. I studied in classical piano and Indian classical Kathak dance. I loved dancing so much I wanted to be a professional dancer.

When I was on my Fulbright to Israel, one evening, I was at dinner with supreme court justices, and it was by chance really that the lady next to me was Justice Cohen’s wife. We talked for a while and then the topic of dance came up, and to my extreme delight Ms. Cohen told me she was the head of the Rubin Academy of Jerusalem, and more exciting was that she wanted me to dance there. She sent her car to pick me up at Hebrew University, and I danced at the Rubin Academy for Soviet Israeli ballerinas and other students. It was one of the most exciting times of my performing life. From the Rubin Academy, I made several Israeli friends who shared their knowledge and time to help me exceed my Fulbright’s goals.

Keshaviah: Having trained with several different dance teachers in India and in the U.S. growing up, I saw a lot of variability in how Bharatanatyam was practiced. On the one hand, that seemed natural for a living, moving art form. On the other hand, I repeatedly heard that Bharatanatyam is an ancient form with a 2,000-year-old tradition that should not be tainted by Western commercialization.

As an American-born daughter of south Indian immigrants, I felt caught between overly simplistic notions voiced about East versus West, tradition versus innovation. I wanted to better understand whether the nuances I saw in the form were aberrations or the rule. I saw statistics as the perfect tool to measure such, and thus developed this hybrid statistical study of dance that combined my two careers.

How has your interest in dance evolved since your Fulbright?

Dr. Haley: Throughout my professional career at the United States government at the sub-cabinet level I used my annual leave and my weekends to continue dancing. I danced globally and in the United States. I have danced at the Kennedy Center in solos and in ensembles, for New York opera’s production of Lakmé, at the Shakespeare Theater, and for universities and communities all over the world.

Keshaviah: The opportunity to witness so many dance performances and classes around India expanded my view of Bharatanatyam and boosted my confidence to strike out as a solo artist. For the past decade, I’ve been exploring ways to expand classical into contemporary, and have performed my modern reformulation of Bharatanatyam at institutions like the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Himalayan Institute, and the American Academy in Rome. I also co-founded a dance residency, called Dance ARĪS, that brought together different styles of classical and contemporary dance to Western North Carolina.

What did you do after returning from your Fulbright? What are you up to now?

Dr. Haley: Since retiring from the federal government position and in the International Bureau, I have become a volunteer mostly advocating for the less advantaged. Currently I am the Maryland State President for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). I also serve on AARP’s Maryland Executive Council, and I am the leader for the State of Maryland’s Asian American Pacific Islander Consortium. I also serve as County Commissioner on the commission on aging, and I am a Blue Star Mother, with my husband Dr. Kenneth Haley, for our Active-Duty Engineer Lt. Colonel twin son. Serving the people is what I really enjoy.

Keshaviah: In my first year back, I put my statistical skills to work to analyze the data I collected, and then I presented and published my findings through the Congress on Research in Dance. Since then, I’ve been evolving Bharatanatyam choreography and staging and have even begun composing original music for my work (as a classically trained pianist and vocalist). In parallel, I’m leading studies on the use of wastewater testing to measure population health and direct research on the health effects of climate change.

How have you engaged with other Fulbrighters with similar interests to your own?

Dr. Haley: When I first joined the Fulbright Association and became a member of the 1946 Society, I closely connected with several Fulbright Board Members. Dr. Bruce Fowler, who is also the head of our Federal legislation for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, is a very dear friend. I connected with him, and of course, Dr. Mary Ellen Schmider and attorney John Vogel, all are on or have been on the Fulbright Association Board of Directors. We even created and developed a presentation at last year’s Fulbright Association Annual Conference.

Additionally, because of close ties to another Fulbrighter, Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, we were able to procure an assembly room for all Fulbright conference participants for our crusade to Capitol Hill. Along with Executive Director Dr. John Bader, we met with another dear friend and ally, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen whose sister is a Fulbrighter. He is also on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and we went to him in-person. He welcomed us full-heartedly to request a slight increase in our Fulbright federal budget.

Keshaviah: I haven’t really travelled in Fulbright circles but am always excited to meet other Fulbrighters. With the time constraints that come with pursuing two careers, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to connect virtually with other Fulbrighters during this pandemic through Fulbright’s 75th Anniversary events.

Do you have any messages for your fellow Fulbright alums?

Dr. Haley: I would ask my fellow Fulbrighters if they consider themselves generally blessed to have achieved this high honor of being a Fulbrighter, which I take very close to my heart. We are respected across the globe, and I would ask my fellow Fulbrighters if they would want to give back to their communities some of their precious time and effort to help those in need. If they respond in the affirmative, I would ask them to contact their closest non-profit, faith organization, or any other organizations they belong to, to volunteer as a Fulbrighter on behalf of the Fulbright Association.

Keshaviah: To my fellow serious performing artists out there, and particularly the percussionists and musicians, I’m always interested in fertile opportunities to collaborate. During my Fulbright, I enjoyed staging an impromptu performance with two fellow Fulbrighters – a vocalist and violinist – during the annual Fulbright Association conference. Since then, I’ve collaborated with percussionists from a range of world music traditions, from African djembe to the middle eastern Riq and doumbek to the Cuban batá.

Do you have any advice to young people studying dance?

Dr. Haley: I would advise young people wanting to study dance to follow what my parents advised me: keep studying dance and performing but balance it with skills and education that can help you earn a livelihood and lead a productive, giving life.

Keshaviah: While it’s important to gain a solid technical foundation in the dance form you study, performance is about much more than mastering technique, and includes developing confidence and stage presence, reading and connecting with the audience, and harnessing your own creativity. I’d advise young dancers to develop their own vision for their dance, rather than following entirely in the footsteps of their teachers.

Beyond performance, there are many other areas that people interested in dance can pursue. It’s important for young dancers to think about what it is about dance that moves them; is it performance, choreography, institutional development, educational outreach, or something else?

Do you have any advice for future or current Fulbrighters?

Dr. Haley:  Fulbright is the Flagship for all international exchanges.  You have laid the foundation to have been selected as a Fulbrighter.  Now take some of your time and use your talents and skills to go forth, as a Fulbrighter, to serve your communities’ less fortunate.

Keshaviah: Embrace the unexpected, expand your core, and create the space to be surprised. One of my most memorable experiences during my Fulbright year was leaving my research in the cities behind for a few weeks to see elephants, tigers, and other wildlife in the jungles. Sometimes clarity comes from peripheral vision, and creativity can be inspired by adjacent pursuits.

Fulbright Interns Samuel Lachance and Nathan Vince contributed to this piece.


Photo 1: Aparna Keshaviah by Casey Lance Brown

Photo 2: Aparna Keshaviah by Casey Lance Brown

Photo 3: Dr. Sudha Haley with Leader Steny Hoyer

Photo 4: Dr. Sudha Haley

Photo 5: Aparna Keshaviah by Casey Lance Brown

Photo 6: Dr. Sudha Haley and friends

“Knowledge Flows in Both Directions”

“Knowledge Flows in Both Directions”


Celebrating 75 Years of Fulbright Stories

In celebration of the Fulbright program’s 75th Anniversary, we are looking back at experiences of Fulbrighters, which span decades and generations. This fall, FA’s Assistant Director for Philanthropy Claire Jagla interviewed two Fulbright alumni with intertwining fields of study, the anti-colonial movement and the anti-apartheid movement, and a 40-year difference between their grant years.

Dr. Cheryl Johnson-Odim grew up in New York. In 1975, she traveled to Nigeria on a Fulbright grant, studying African history and the experiences of African women under colonialism. She now serves as Provost and Senior VP of Academic Affairs at Dominican University.

Dr. Jonathan Freeman grew up in Memphis, Kansas City, and the Mississippi Delta. He traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright grant in 2016-17 to advance his research on protest music and the anti-apartheid boycott movement. He now works as an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Baltimore.

The two scholars shared about their experiences on the African continent, their collective musical background, the changes they’ve observed in their respective Fulbright destinations, and the knowledge they gained for themselves from their travels.


JAGLA: Can you tell me both where you are calling in from today?

FREEMAN: Baltimore, Maryland.

JOHNSON-ODIM: Evanston, Illinois, right outside of Chicago.

JAGLA: So, when did your Fulbrights take place? What were you expecting to learn when you left and what did you end up learning?

FREEMAN: I completed my Fulbright in 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the University of the Witwatersrand. My project at the time was investigating the role of protest music during the anti-apartheid movement, particularly during the 70s and 80s.

JOHNSON-ODIM: My Fulbright was long ago; it was 1975-76. It was in Nigeria. I was affiliated with the Institute of African Studies at University of Ibadan. I went to look at the role of women in the anti-colonial struggle.

JAGLA: I noticed from reading about the both of you that you had a musical childhood: there was a strong influence by music early in life for you. Johnathan, can you talk about that? Were you a musician as a kid, or were you just listening to absorb this music? What was your cultural connection to it? 

FREEMAN: Throughout junior high school and high school I was in the band. As early as the fourth grade I played the violin for a year. It wasn’t until 2001, when we relocated to Mississippi from Missouri that I joined the band to play trumpet, [which I played] throughout my entire junior high and high school up until senior year when I was move to French Horn.

JAGLA: Cheryl, I read that you sang on a radio show with Harry Belafonte as a kid. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how that impacted your understanding of the world?

JOHNSON-ODIM: Actually, it wasn’t a radio show, it was an album: The Streets I Have Walked, and it was the voices of children singing songs from around the world with him. At the time, Harry Belafonte, who had long been engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle, was supporting a troop of South African dancers that were then called the South African Boot Dancers, who were going all around the United States and performing to raise money for the anti-apartheid struggle. [We met] in New York, which is where I grew up. Harry Belafonte went out of his way to talk about apartheid. I was 12 years old, and it was the first time I’d ever heard of apartheid.

JAGLA: Jonathan, one of the things that I read in your course of study was this concept of “protest music,” which I think you’ve touched on, Cheryl, as well. Can you share a little bit more about that Jonathan? What is this “protest music”?

FREEMAN: So, primarily during the 70s and 80s, which is the period that I focused on, there were many artists that collaborated with one another to make protest music in protest of apartheid in South Africa. What was most fascinating about the use of protest music is that music is a universal language. I don’t know a person that’s walking the Earth right now that does not listen to some form of music. Those songs for a lot of it were a rallying cry in terms of “these are the conditions in which black people in South Africa are having to live under.” Protest music was a key way of being able to get the word out.

JAGLA: I noticed when I was reading your blog that one of the things that stood out to me is that you were in South Africa during the 2016 presidential election. How did it influence your Fulbright experience overall?

FREEMAN: Yes, it was quite an experience. Everywhere that I went, whether I was in a car, in an Uber, or at a restaurant, [I was asked] “What did I think about Hillary Clinton, what do I think about Donald Trump?” It just made me realize, or it rather reaffirmed [for me], that although our election cycles are very polarizing, the world was literally watching. I remember speaking with a group of high school students at Phomolong Secondary School in Tembisa, a township outside of Johannesburg, in February 2017. I was invited on behalf of the U.S. Consulate to give a talk on the work that I was doing there. Quite a few of them had questions on American politics and policies. It was amazing to see how engaged they were not just on a national awareness, but a global awareness of what’s occurring throughout the globe and particularly in the West.

JAGLA: Cheryl, what was your experience with talking about global things in Nigeria 40 years before? What were conversations that you had with people? What was going on? What was important during that time?

JOHNSON-ODIM: I was in Nigeria when Soweto happened in 1976. You know, so that was like a fulcrum to show me [what was happening] both in the United States and in Nigeria, but [also] in Africa more broadly.

One of the things that was interesting to me was that people in Nigeria knew so much more about what was going on in the world than people in the United States. I even found out that publications like Time Magazine and others had an international version, and then a version for the United States. In the international version, [they talk] about things with which most Americans will be totally unfamiliar. So, I found myself able to talk to average Nigerians about things that were happening.

People in Nigeria [were acting] in a very anti-American way because they saw the United States as a supporter of apartheid, which in fact it was, so no lie there. They didn’t target individual Americans but certainly I had conversations with people who lashed out at the United States or its international policies, and Soweto was a real vehicle for that.

The only other thing that happened while I was there which was very interesting [was that] there was a major women’s conference in the United States in 1976 and a number of African women from the university with whom I was associated attended it. They came back terribly disappointed saying basically [that] feminists in the United States and Western feminists in general, in their observations, were just completely unaware of the important role of racism and colonialism in the women question. What they [white Western feminists] identified as the ultimate enemy was patriarchy with so little understanding of the intersectionality of the experiences of Black women in the United States and African women.

A number of African women wrote and said the conference was caca, basically. In effect it was totally deaf to the experiences of most women around the world.

JAGLA: Thanks for sharing that. In terms of this situation changing at all for women in Nigeria over the last 40 years, has there been advancement of any sort, Cheryl?

JOHNSON-ODIM: Yes and no. [Imagine] a line going straight up to show progress. Progress hasn’t been like that; it’s been more like an undulating line. So, it has gone up and it has come down, come down, gone up, and come down. Now, each downward turn is perhaps going a little bit higher. I think there has been some change in Africa, not just in Nigeria, but I think that it’s true of the position of women all over the world: that we are still very much engaged in a struggle about gender equality. Nigeria is part of that struggle that the world is undergoing at this point. But also, there has never been a woman president of the United States. I believe it is nine different African countries who have had female presidents or leaders. So that says something about change.

JAGLA: Jonathan, knowing that your Fulbright was five years ago, there are probably fewer changes, but are there things that you’ve heard have changed in South Africa since you were there?

FREEMAN: I was there when Jacob Zuma was in office as President of South Africa and there’s a lot of corruption in South Africa, up to the executive level. His presidency was riddled with corruption, and I know since then they’ve elected a new president.

Also, while I was there for the first maybe two and a half months or so, I lived on campus at The University of the Witwatersrand or Wits for short. The week after I arrived at Wits, the FeesMustFall movement [started, so] there were student protests. That campus essentially turned into a police state. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a space like that, not even in the US, even back in 2014 and 2015, where incidences of racism were breaking out of colleges and universities all over the country.

[It was] not only a direct result of capitalism in South Africa, but also with the legacy of apartheid. It has to do with people in the 21st century in South Africa still not being able to have access to higher education, having access to the funds that they need to complete their academic studies. I was able to have conversations with students about “So, what’s going on here?”Dr. Jonathan Freeman in Braamfontein, South Africa

JAGLA: What are your hopes for the future of this movement and the anti-apartheid movement, what are your hopes for the future of students in South Africa? What you want for them? What do they want for themselves? Can you give a little voice to that?

FREEMAN: Absolutely. South Africa is a young nation. My hope is that more adults my age, Millennials and Generation Z, take the helm and fight for what is rightfully theirs, what they deserve: basic rights to an education, to resources, to access to capital, to housing. My hope is that in my lifetime, I’ll be able to see that happen for South Africa, and for the betterment of not just Black people there but for all people there.

JAGLA: It sounds like you both have a lot of wisdom insight to offer in terms of understanding Africa-United States relationships. I wondered if you had any messages for your fellow Fulbrighters about your work, why this is important, or anything at all you would like to share with them?

FREEMAN: Sure, I’ll start. These are issues that are not just central to South Africans Black, white, or anyone else in between. These are global issues; there are parallels that I could draw from the United States but [also to] other parts of the globe as well. I tell my students all the time, everything that has happened tends to happen again, so there are going to be, unfortunately, more issues: issues that have gone unchecked and unresolved.

I just like to say: be mindful of [to] what you can bring your impact, be solution oriented, be agile. [My] experience just really opened my eyes to how strong I am as a person. Be open to working with other people across differences. Don’t run away from a challenge regardless of how difficult it is, because there’s always a way to tackle it, and it could be one that just the smallest idea of going about it. I’ll leave it at that.

JOHNSON-ODIM: I’ve heard people say that [you learn] as much or more about yourself from travel, as you do about any place to which you travel. I think that in order for that to be truly accurate, you have to keep an open mind; you have to recognize that knowledge flows in both directions. You don’t just go to take knowledge to people, but you go to get knowledge from them. I think the Fulbright Program is one of the great federal programs, because it is really by meeting people and going places that we begin to understand ourselves as part of the world.

I really advise people to keep a journal. I think keeping a journal is really helpful to make you reflect and think, even while you’re still there. Even when you come back to write about the experience, [you’ll] know what it felt like to be some places, what it felt like to interact with other environments and other people.

Perhaps last but not least, [I] encourage particularly underrepresented communities to apply [to Fulbright] and to realize that this kind of an opportunity is available for them to take.

Fulbright Interns Samuel Lachance and Nathan Vince contributed to this piece.

Photo 1: Dr. Cheryl Johnson-Odim

Photo 2: Dr. Jonathan Freeman and students in South Africa

Photo 3: Dr. Cheryl John-Odim and friends in Nigeria

Photo 4: Dr. Jonathan Freeman in Braamfontein, South Africa