An Evening of Hope: Celebrating Fulbright Through Poetry

An Evening of Hope: Celebrating Fulbright Through Poetry

An Evening of Hope: Celebrating Fulbright Through Poetry, hosted by the Louisiana Chapter of the Fulbright Association and co-sponsored by the Fulbright Association featured works of acclaimed Fulbright poets, Julie Kane, and Ann Fisher Wirth. The lovely evening was held in November marking International Education Week and attended by over 70 members.

The Louisiana Chapter under the leadership of chapter president Patrice Moulton planned the evening to focus on the resilience of the human experience. As we come close to the end of 2020 and this tumultuous year, we look forward as individuals and as an organization to a brighter 2021. This event is also a sneak peek into all the amazing Fulbright alumni celebrations the Fulbright Association and its network of chapters will organize throughout the coming year marking the 75th anniversary.

Featured Poet, Julie Kane shared, “My Fulbright fellowship was to teach English composition and conversation and American poetry to senior English education majors at Vilnius Pedagogical University in Lithuania, now called “Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences.” It was not for being a poet, yet it has had profound effects on my work as a poet.”

One of the poems Julie read was, “To move to another country and not speak the language unable to tell where the words start and end in that river of speech…silent except when your name is spoken or cake or some number one to ten is to be reborn as a one year old child……,”

Julie states, ‘At first, of course, were the poems written during my six-month stay in Vilnius, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. They were included in my third book, Jazz Funeral, which won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize. A second edition of that book will soon be forthcoming from Red Hen Press, joining my latest book, Mothers of Ireland, as 2020 publications.

In 2005, three years after my fellowship, I was one of twelve international poets and the sole poet from the U.S. invited by the Lithuanian Writers Union to take part in Lithuania’s annual Poetry Spring Festival. A U.S. State Department travel grant helped to defray my travel expenses. For a week, we toured cities throughout Lithuania, giving poetry readings alongside translators who rendered our poems into Lithuanian. In each new city, the mayor would greet us at an official civic event as classical musicians played, and children showered us with bouquets of flowers. Never have I seen a country where poets and poetry were so cherished and respected.

That same year, one of my students from VPU came to my American university to study toward a master’s degree in English. As part of her graduate assistantship, she and I worked together co-translating poems by the Lithuanian poet Tautvyda Marcinkevičiūtė. In 2017, poet H. L. Hix and I co-edited Terribly in Love, a volume of selected poems by Tautvyda in English translation. That publication helped Tautvyda to secure a ten-week residency in the Fall 2019 cohort of the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa, which will influence her poems for many years to come.

The Fulbright experience does not end when our fellowships end. The friendships, professional relationships, and international bridges that we build during our time abroad continue to resonate throughout our lives and to nurture new creative opportunities and developments. I am so grateful for my life-altering Fulbright experience,” said Julie Kane.

The second featured poet Ann Fisher-Wirth discussed her two Fulbright grants while reading her poems. Her first Fulbright, for the academic year 1994-1995, was to the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where she taught lecture courses in American literature, Southern literature, and American poetry, and a seminar on Willa Cather. She also met with students in Basel and Lausanne for seminars on William Carlos Williams, the subject of her book The Autobiographies of William Carlos Williams: The Woods of His Own Nature.

In 2002-2003 she held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden. “My teaching at Uppsala was very diverse, I participated in a team-taught course for SINAS, the Swedish Institute for North American Studies, taught American literature and Southern literature as I had done in Switzerland, and gave numerous lectures on American environmental literature throughout Sweden, and in England, Finland, and France. One high point of the year, and an incredible honor, was delivering the lecture on American eco-novelists Rick Bass and Linda Hogan that celebrated the 50th anniversary of Fulbright presence in Sweden.

Early in October of that year, I was talking long distance with my daughter, the poet Jessica Fisher, and I mentioned that my husband and I had recently visited Uppsala University’s library, the Carolina Redivida, where we had seen the 1539 woodblock map that is thronged with ogres, demons, and mythical beasts and yet is the first geographically accurate map of the Northern lands. Jessica said to me, “Write poems about it.” “Oh I might write a poem,” I replied. “No,” she insisted, “I said write poems.” So I did. One rainy afternoon, I sat on the floor of the darkened room and wrote, “First, notice the bear”—the opening line of what became my fourth book of poems, Carta Marina. An autobiography, a daybook, a travel book, a love story, an elegy, a novel—Carta Marina is all these things, and traces the arc of one of the most important years of my life.

One of my poem was inspired by an engraving on a stone marker that moved me so much. The graveyard was right across from the English Department at Uppsala University, “Suddenly a storm hunted down our year and when I raise my head from the table every leave lay in the grass, the grass dazzled in that piercing blue silence, a door stayed open holding its breath, blunt shoes still with mud on them stood in the closet,  you hear the quiet voices everywhere, he was a good husband, she was a good sister, when my first child died, and the phone rang, they said come Herr Olsen has fallen…..”

I can’t begin to express how wonderful the Fulbright program has been. It opens the world and opens the heart. My family and I saw and learned so much, made lasting friendships, and shared experiences and adventures that we will never forget,” said Ann Fisher-Wirth.

Patrice Moulton, president of the Louisiana chapter moderated the reading. She mentioned that her favorite line from Julie Kane’s poem that really stuck with her, was out of the poem, reasons to love the harmonica, “because it tolerates a little spit, and it feels like in 2020 we are all tolerating more than a little spit. We are doing it well overall but one of the reasons I’m proud to be a Fulbrighter is being part of this community and resilient group of Fulbrighters tolerating a bit of spit.”

“Words that really resonated with me from Ann Fisher-Wirth’s poems were, “encounters have become my meditation,” I think we are all hungry for encounters with people, hugs to come back and things to be a bit more normal. I also loved, “Whoever you are, may you be at peace in this great silence,” in this time, I hope we all find ways to do that and as we have all come together this evening we hope we can all do that,” said Patrice.

Many attendees commented on how lovely it was to spend a Sunday evening listening to beautiful poetry. They loved author stories around the poems they wrote, providing hope with beautiful and relatable imagery.

Some memorable lines from Ann Fisher-Wirth’s poems that resonated with the attendees were, “Whoever you are, may you be at peace in this great silence.” “When you come to love, bring all you have.” “Clear clear like the sky.” It was wonderful to attend such a lovely evening during COVID.

-Shaz Akram, Deputy Director

 

Watch the full event below:

November 25, 2020 0

Chapter Resilience and Pandemic Influenced Programming

Chapter Resilience and Pandemic Influenced Programming

The pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world. Our lives have forever changed. We have gained a new outlook and appreciation for all activities in person. This includes all the things we took for granted – a hug, handshakes and gatherings of welcome – that Fulbrighters are so accustomed too.

This spring over 50 chapters nationwide had to abruptly cancel all their spring activities. As cities, states and countries began shutting down, and government mandated stay at home orders took effect, chapter leadership struggled with managing a viable connection to their members and visiting Fulbrighters in their communities.

The Fulbright Association continued to maintain a connection, through monthly chapter webinars and online training. A list of chapter webinars can be viewed here.

From how to utilize chapter web resources to using the Fulbrighter App, we shared best practices and strengthened the tools offered to chapters. Many of our chapters benefited from a special session on virtual presentations which our Walden Chapter hosted. Walden University exclusively teaches online and most of the faculty and students benefit virtually and were able to share their best practices with other chapters.

From signing up for zoom and gotomeeting accounts to exclusively communicating by email with members, chapters were quick to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. As country borders shut down, and travel came to an almost standstill, chapter leadership embarked on a new method of offering virtual programming.

  • Greater Los Angeles chapter offered a Fulbright Virtual E-Travels webinar
  • Northern California chapter is offering a series of virtual workshops like concerts, African drummers, poetry reading, yoga class and workout classes, cheesemaking and lectures i.e. coffee masterclass by CEO of Borola Cafe in Mexico City.
  • San Diego chapter is planning a ninety-minute panel discussion of current issues along the US-Mexico border by leading journalists and researchers. The panel will consist of two journalists, Ramon Blanco Villalon, a founding member of the Tijuana-based Semanario Zeta. They are also planning a San Elijo Conservancy presentation and hike.
  • Indiana chapter took the pause in programming to offer a board development session to chapter leadership.
  • Iowa chapter is organizing and producing three Chapter-Sponsored Broadcasts with National and International Pandemic Experts.
  • Kentucky chapter is planning to participate in the Day at the Downs.
  • Maine chapter collaborated with the World Affairs Council of Maine (WACM) with a virtual storytelling soirée event “Celebration of the Legacy of Cultural Exchanges” in June.
  • West and Mid Michigan Chapter held online talks “Summer 2020 in Context: Exploring Behind the Headlines” which addressed issues raised by the Black Lives Matter protests.
  • Minnesota chapter is organizing a virtual Career Workshop Young Professional
  • New Mexico chapter is offering a virtual talk on the Constitution, American History, and Preparation for going aboard.
  • Central Ohio chapter is offering a Fulbright Forum and online networking session in July with 3 virtual activities in 3 separate cities.
  • Brazos Valley chapter is planning to hold two events that conceivably could still happen by September 30. The first is the Queen Theater event which includes cost of movie plus exclusive use of the theater for the afternoon and a Brazos Bombers baseball game. Of course, these activities are still subject to cancellation due to the ongoing pandemic crisis in the state of Texas.
  • Western Washington chapter has organized virtual events like a Summer Solstice Sun and Sundials, Western Washington Artists Virtual Studio Tour, and a special discussion with executives from the 3-Time WNBA Champion Seattle Storm.
  • Other chapters like the North Carolina and South Carolina chapters are also planning virtual webinars.

The Fulbright Association chapters are nothing short of inspiring. They are affiliate groups run by an amazing cadre of Fulbright volunteers, all accomplished in their careers, work and scholarship. They are representative of a multigenerational group, diverse in age, gender, and race and I have been privileged to work with them. As we look to 2021, and the fast approaching 75th anniversary year of the program (1946-2021), I look forward to planning celebratory events with them. Our chapters are like the constellation of stars in the universe that light up and flicker with life, activity and brilliance as diverse as the US geographic landscape. Together we will create an exciting, memorable experience for each Fulbright member.

-Shaz Akram, Deputy Director Fulbright Association

July 30, 2020 0

Chapter Spotlight: Maine

Chapter Spotlight: Maine

For Fulbrighters across the world, storytelling serves as an important tool for advancing diplomacy and fostering cross-cultural communication. On June 18th, 2020, the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the World Affairs Council of Maine (WACM) partnered to celebrate stories that showcased the impact and value of international education programs, people to people diplomacy, and global outreach in Maine and internationally. The event “A Celebration of the Legacy of International Exchanges: A Storytelling Event,” highlighted the impact and value of the Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership Programs. Speakers at the event included a number of Fulbright alumni, representatives from the U.S. State Department, and FA’s own Shaz Akram. Although the program was originally organized as an in-person event, the Maine chapter quickly adapted to the COVID-19 circumstances and managed to hold an engaging and well attended online event.

WACM and the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association represent the two flagship programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, making this a natural partnership for a storytelling event. The main goal of this event was to showcase the impact and value of both programs to nurture and advance mutual understanding between people, globally.  A favorite refrain of the Maine Chapter is, “the shortest distance between two Fulbrighters is a story.” This event not only brought Fulbrighters and other internationally minded individuals together, but it also served as a way to support and advocate for Fulbright and IVLP. The partnership between the two organizations demonstrates the importance of intercultural communication and mutual exchange.

This was the Maine Chapter’s first virtual event, and Elaine Potoker, Maine’s chapter president, referred to it as a great success. While their preference was to hold it at DiMillo’s on the Water in Portland, she says “The fact that 82 Fulbright alumni & Friends and WACM members actually attended a virtual event on a beautiful 75 degree, dry (no humidity) day in Maine was quite impressive.” The Maine Chapter is committed to providing excellent programming for chapter members and plans on holding other virtual events in the future. The Maine Chapter also hopes to continue to grow its membership in Maine, expand their local advocacy initiatives, as well as establish outreach with other educational institutions, regional chapters, and outside organizations. Ultimately, Elaine’s vision for the chapter “is that of a holographic organization (as management consultant & organizational designer, Gareth Morgan, described it.)  We are no longer a model of governance where the President does everything! The idea is to create a team where each part can re-generate the whole.”1

While we are hopeful that we will soon see an end to the current public health crisis, the Fulbright Association is proud to see that our alumni community remains strong. We are inspired and in awe of the ways that our chapters continue to find ways to gather virtually and stand in solidarity with each other during these difficult times. The Maine chapter reminds us that sometimes the simplest way we can support each other is through a story.

To view a recording of the event, please click here. If your chapter is interested in holding an online event and would like support from the Fulbright Association, please send an email to chapters@fulbright.org.

-Lisa Bochey
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016

  1. Morgan, Gareth (1986, 1997, 2006). Images of organization. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

June 30, 2020 0

Chapter Spotlight: Louisiana

Chapter Spotlight: Louisiana

After returning from her Fulbright Specialist project in Nepal in 2018, Patrice Moulton was eager to continue to engage with the Fulbright network and continue to spread the value of international education and cultural exchange. While she was looking forward to the opportunity to get involved with alumni in her home state of Louisiana, she was disappointed to find out that Louisiana did not have an active chapter. Patrice shared, that she has always believed in the mantra “be the change you want to see.” So she connected with the Fulbright Association national office to ask what it would take to start a chapter, and the rest was history.

Patrice says that her initial challenge to starting the chapter was the tedious application process. She says, “I guess that others took for granted that I knew more than I did. I was so green and needed some hand holding just to understand the forms, process, and procedures.” Despite her challenges, she found it rewarding to connect with other Fulbright alumni and work towards the common goal of starting a chapter. She dove in head first and immersed herself in new media tools, including the Fulbrighter App, which she used to publicize her first official chapter event in April 2020.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Patrice’s story is the fact that she was able to take on all of these new challenges despite the changing and uncertain circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a professor of psychology at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Patrice was already hurled into the new system of distance learning and working from home. Nonetheless, Patrice found beauty in the process. She says that “There are always joys to be found in the most unlikely places, even COVID 19. I think that during this time of uncertainly, people are looking for meaning, for ways to connect, and for interactions not related to work. I think these dynamics are helping us find and connect our Fulbrighters in Louisiana.”

Since the launch of the Louisana Chapter, Patrice and her board members have hosted two events: a virtual Meet and Greet and a “Coping with COVID” virtual coffee hour. One of her favorite moments so far was when a visiting Fulbrighter from Peru shared with their group that she was celebrating her Birthday so far from home. The entire group turned on their microphones in the Zoom room, a fellow alum yelled “wait, wait!” and returned on screen with a guitar, and there was a wonderful sense of community as everyone sang a round of Happy Birthday! For the Louisiana chapter members, that moment of warmth was a bright spot in a time of global uncertainty.

Patrice is eager for the days when the Louisiana Chapter will be able to hold in person events, but for now, the chapter board is focused on setting a firm foundation of members. They want to utilize the Fulbrighter App to gather members virtually and begin to form a supportive community. The chapter will continue to explore ways to connect and make a difference in their community. A few ideas for the near future include a virtual evening of art and continued coffee breaks with short focused discussions. Depending on COVID impact with schools in the fall, they would also like to explore the possibility of participating in Fulbright in the Classroom initiative

Until then, Patrice says, “I look forward to continuing to be involved and exploring how we, as Fulbright, can make a difference in the world by building and sustaining relationships. I feel like the world needs more Fulbright right now.”

Are you interested in starting a chapter in your community? Visit our website for more details and send an email to chapters@fulbright.org to bring Fulbrighters together in your region.

-Lisa Bochey
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016

May 29, 2020 2

Chapter Spotlight: Chicago

Chapter Spotlight: Chicago

Fulbright Alumni and Friends at the Chicago Chapter Winter Wonderland Event

Across the country, our Fulbright Association chapters are providing excellent opportunities to bring together alumni and friends of the Fulbright Program. Last month, the Chicago Chapter and the Institute of International Education co-hosted the annual “Winter Wonderland” reception, which brings the Fulbright community together for a night of networking and socializing. The event brought together 70 guests representing 22 different countries, highlighting the vibrant and diverse members of the Fulbright community.

The programming featured vocalist and Jazz performer Tina Crawley, who performed with pianist Amr Fahmy. The music was a special treat, as Crawley was voted the Best Gospel Entertainer in 2015 by the Chicago Music Awards. She performed her interpretation of an array of pop songs with a jazz feel. Students and scholars alike were brought to their feet dancing and singing along to her jazzy beats. The event was an exceptional opportunity for Fulbrighters and friends to celebrate last year’s accomplishments as well as recharge for the start of a new semester.

Both new and existing members of the Fulbright Association joined the Chicago Chapter as they welcomed the newly elected Chicago Chapter board. During this event, the former president of the Chapter, Meredith McNeil, introduced the new president, Dr. Edel Marie Jose. Edel Marie is looking forward to working with the new team of board members, claiming, “Their invigorating spirit and excitement for the upcoming year will bring many new goals and events to the Chicago Chapter.” Guests were encouraged to ask questions and inform the new board members of how the chapter can better serve its members.

Board members Adan Fuss, Marilyn Sussman, Suzanne McBride, Edel Marie Jose, Meredith McNeil, Teuta Peja and past Fulbright Chicago Chapter President Don Garner

In the upcoming year, the newly elected board hopes to highlight the achievements of the Fulbright alumni and showcase their expertise in ways that give back to the community. They plan to do this by hosting a variety of workshops and speaker series in different locations to expand their reach of alumni in the area. An event they are most looking forward to is their Spring Symposium. The event, which will commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference of Women, invites Fulbright alumni and friends to celebrate women’s empowerment and encourage others to continue working towards gender equality.

The Fulbright Association national office is proud to work with dedicated chapter leaders like those on the Chicago team. Those interested in joining their local chapter can click here to log in or join the Fulbright Association today. To view a complete list of our national chapter network, please click here.

 

February 26, 2020 0