Reflections on Chapter Resilience and Pandemic Influenced Programming

Reflections on 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

Chapter Spotlight: New Hampshire

Chapter Spotlight: New Hampshire

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

Left to Right – Michael Delucia (NH Chapter & National Board Member), Debra Leahy (SNHU Dean School of Global Learning), Michael Evans (VPAA SNHU and alum)

I have always believed that chapters are the heart of the Fulbright Association.  More than 200 chapter events each year power our programming and advance our mission to promote international education.  Chapter leaders—all of them volunteers—spend countless hours in strategizing, planning and executing events of all kinds, from social gatherings to Fulbright Forums (a new way to label speaker/panel/issue events).

One of our most active chapters is based in New Hampshire, led by their amazing president Ann Ackerman.  Ann and her committed board offer many programs throughout the year despite the challenges of a scattered membership and limited resources.  They have been engaged with advocacy, both in meeting local members of Congress and including the New Hampshire delegation—notably Sen. Jeanne Shaheen—in events that show the local impact of Fulbright.  They partner with the Massachusetts Chapter regularly—a model of regional cooperation.

The New Hampshire chapter’s latest triumph was a World Affairs Council event focused on the future of U.S. foreign policy, featuring Amb. Nicholas Burns and hosted by Institutional Member Southern New Hampshire University.  The Fulbright Association co-sponsored this event, attended by over 300 students, faculty and Fulbrighters, with Ann making sure that our branding was prominent.  The presentation, preceded by a reception, provoked many interesting questions and debates.  It serves as a model for the Fulbright Forum.

I was honored to offer opening remarks on behalf of the Association and the chapter, where I stressed the importance of public diplomacy at a time when New Hampshire voters are making important decisions.  Senator Fulbright, I argued, believed in the power of all of us to own the future of the planet, to take our role as “citizen ambassadors” seriously.

Left to Right – International Student Vieng Xay with Chapter Communications Director & Web Master Affrille Degoma

Our New Hampshire chapter takes that role very seriously, and we are grateful for their hard work, and we celebrate their ongoing successes.

-John Bader, Executive Director

January 28, 2020 0