Reflections on the Virtual Annual Conference: A new digital Fulbright world

Reflections on the Virtual Annual Conference: A new digital Fulbright world

As the pandemic was declared in March 2020, and countries started closing borders, the enormity of the situation hit us hard, and we slowly started cancelling in-person, scheduled events. We realized not only spring and summer events but all in-person events for the year would need to be cancelled. One by one, from Advocacy Day, to travel programs, chapter events, the Fulbright Prize and ultimately the Annual Conference scheduled to be held in Taiwan came to a slow halt. All headlines read – cancelled due to the pandemic.

Session # 1 – Race, Racism, and Diversity

The work from home protocols were adopted and quickly we became a remote workplace. Online video conferencing, FaceTime calls and all things digital became the new norm. With the return of newly minted Fulbrighters, we were presented with a unique opportunity to fill a gap – the lack of programming, professional development, and providing a new alumni community to many disappointed and disheartened U.S. Grantees.

This led to creating a series of zoom webinars, and the idea for providing a virtual conference to our members. We all struggled to understand what was globally happening, with the health crisis, Black Lives Matter movement galvanized by shocking displays of police brutality, increasing racism and the financial crash of global economies. With this statement in mind–“The Fulbright Association is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We stand in solidarity with our Black community, and we will continue to advocate for peace, respect and cultural understanding within our local communities and around the world.”–we started planning our virtual conference. At the suggestion of Board vice chair Cynthia Baldwin, we adopted the theme “Where Does the World Go from Here?”, inspired the book written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pictured from top left clockwise is Caroline Levander, Krishna Guha, Shakira Simley, Maulik Pancholy and John Sargent.

The ongoing crisis determined the direction and content of the opening plenary – Global Crisis: Health, Finance, Racial Equity and Education. Celebrities like Maulik Pancholy (actor and activist) spoke on activism, bullying and growing up gay in America and Shakira Simley (Fulbrighter, food jammer and director of racial equity in the city of san Francisco) spoke on race relations and diversity. Shakira noted that, “Systemic racism is the joint operation of institutions to produce racialized outcomes, even in the absence of racist intent.”

Krishna Guha, Vice Chairman of Evercore ISI, Fulbrighter, and former national board member spoke on the economic and financial experience the world is going through. “This is an unpreceded economic shock as well as a health crisis. Devasting economic shock’s hardest burden has fallen on the most disadvantaged group of people around the world.”

John Sargent, Co-Founder, BroadReach Healthcare, Fulbrighter, and former national board member spoke on healthcare access and equality. His presentation addressed the healthcare perspective tackling COVID 19, stating, “the case for optimism is that COVID 19 while tragic has pushed many health systems to innovate and adopt for the industrial revolution technology.”

Caroline Levander,  Vice President for Global and Digital Strategy at Rice University, (Fulbrighter and National Board of Director member) played a dual role of moderator and speaker on International education, “higher ed as an industry, is seeing a cause for hope and cause for concern, with universities opening and closing, dispersing students and juggling protecting health. The industry anticipates a contraction in the US.”

Session #2 – Environmental/Addressing Current Challenges

Session #3 – The Arts as a Way Forward

The conference sessions and posters were divided into themes: Race, Racism and Diversity; Impact of the Pandemic; Environmental/Addressing Current Challenges ; The Arts as a Way Forward ; Peace, Education, and Social Justice ; COVID-19/Health; Teaching and Education; Education; International Exchange; Activism and Change. Presenters logged in from all over the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Columbia, Russia, and Vietnam.

The diversity in topics and presenters was central to the conference and the virtual platform made attendance and presenting innovative, and easier for attendees to engage. Presenters talked about racism, diversity, equal access, and using comics to create a deeper understanding of the pandemic and race. They discussed international educational exchange impacts, to dance, music and film. This conference had all the elements of relevant content for our growing Fulbright community. A session by IIE also guided on, “How alumni can help support student and scholar recruitment.” Click here to see screen shots of presenters – presenter pictures.

The 2020 Cohen dance lecture awardee was Janaki Patrik. Her talk titled, “Improvisation in Kathak,” led the audience through a captivating journey of meditation, and dance rooted in one of the oldest sub-continent (South Asian) dance forms, Kathak.

This year’s conference would not be successful if not for the support of our major donors and sponsors. Each year, donors contribute towards a scholarship fund that allows young professionals and faculty lacking institutional support to attend. National Board member Bruce Fowler and former board chair, Manfred Philipp, supported the 2020 scholarship fund.

Sponsors included institutional members, Rice University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Alabama, Auburn University and University of Arkansas. Other organizations like the National Peace Corps Association, Institute of International Education (IIE) and Strangers Guide sponsored as well.

If you attended the conference, we invite you to fill out the survey. We hope you all plan to keep updated with all our 2021 programming. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary for the Fulbright program, we will be offering a lot of unique digital programming for all our members. We would also love to hear from you all on any suggestions and ideas as well as your exchange stories for our 75th celebration planning. Please email

-Shaz Akram, Deputy Director


November 2, 2020 0

2020 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Patrik

2020 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Patrik

Janaki Patrik

Artistic Director, The Kathak Ensemble & Friends/CARAVAN, Inc.

Trained in both modern dance (Merce Cunningham studio scholarship, 1971 to 79) and classical north Indian Kathak dance (Pt. Birju Maharaj, Kathak Kendra and Kalashram, New Delhi, ongoing from 1967), Janaki Patrik has choreographed thirty full-evening productions and numerous smaller works. Her knowledge of Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Brij Bhasha and Bengali poetry has inspired dances as diverse as MANDALA X / The Hymn of Creation (1997) in Vedic Sanskrit, AGAMONI / Return of the Daughter in Bengali (2012) and WE SINFUL WOMEN (2017), based on Urdu feminist poetry. The musicality which is fundamental to her creativity in dance was developed in childhood during thirteen years of training in classical flute, culminating in lessons from Donald Peck, Principal Flutist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Artistic Director and Founder (1978) of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends, Janaki has presented solo and group productions in Canada, India, Sri Lanka and the United States at venues including Lincoln Center, Out-of-Doors Festival, Carnegie Hall/Silk Road Project, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Danspace Project, Brooklyn Museum and Asia Society in New York City; Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; Premier Dance Theatre in Toronto; Carver Center in Austin, Texas; Philadelphia Museum; Indian International Center in New Delhi, and Indian Cultural Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A dedicated teacher, Janaki’s ongoing technique and repertoire classes prepare students to perform an extensive selection of classical Kathak, as well as her new choreography, including MOZARTAYANA (Allegro from Mozart’s Symphony No. 41); FLASHPOINT (W.H.Auden’s LULLABY w Samuel Barber and John Adams’ Violin Concertos); CHEATING LYING STEALING (David Lang’s music of the same name); and BOLLYWOOD GOES CLASSICAL, restaging some of Bollywood’s most popular songs in classical Kathak style. She has been active in arts-in-education for three decades, leading in-school workshops and performing through Young Audiences/NY with a four-artist ensemble named CARAVAN.

Janaki’s writing includes the manuscript “KATHAK in AMERICA”, published in NARTANAM, A Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance, 4th Quarter 2011, Hyderabad, India; and a monograph entitled “PRODUCING ASIAN ARTS IN THE UNITED STATES : An American Triumvirate : Beate Gordon of Asia Society, Alan Pally of the NY Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Robert & Helene Browning of World Music Institute ” published in the January / March 2014 issue of NARTANAM. She writes for NARTHAKI, Indian Dance Online, Dr. Anita Ratnam, Founding Editor, Chennai. Her column is entitled CHOREOGRAPHING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: India and the United States.

Significant awards include a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, 1988/89 to research Kathak’s poetic repertoire, and a Senior Performing & Creative Artist Fellowship 2008/09 from The American Institute of Indian Studies for research in India to study the curricula, syllabi and methodology for teaching Kathak, and to observe new developments in Kathak choreography.

Since poetry is the well-spring of Kathak’s storytelling techniques and repertoire, Janaki has acquired facility in many of the major languages and dialects of north India, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Brij Bhasha, Maithili and Avadhi. Ms.Patrik received a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa in Russian Language and Literature from Swarthmore College in 1966, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University, The Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures in May 2000.

October 10, 2020 0

Fulbright Association 42nd Annual Conference & Advocacy Day

Fulbright Association 42nd Annual Conference & Advocacy Day

From October 24 to 26, 2019 in Washington D.C., the Fulbright Association held its 42nd Annual Conference & Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.

Senator Fulbright, who during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, called for alumni to create an active body to advocate for the program. Today, the main responsibility of the Fulbright Association, which is known for its multidimensional activity supporting programs such as Fulbright Alumni chapters in the U.S., spreading advocacy and organizing an annual conference that gathers hundreds of Fulbrighters to connect mind and hearts for global change.

Cultural diplomacy, including international education exchanges, have become one of the biggest tools of U.S. diplomacy and national power after World War II that provide vitality and substance to international relations built on friendly relations and mutual understanding. This is the main reason why on Thursday, October 24, the Fulbright Association visited Capitol Hill. During more than 100 meetings, Fulbright Alumni shared their stories of the impact of the Fulbright Program at home and abroad.

After a very productive day on the Capitol Hill, participants enjoyed an opening reception at Marymount University’s Ballston Campus, organized in cooperation with the Fulbright Hungary and the American Hungarian Heritage House. During the evening, the Emmy Award-winning Fulbright documentary “Armed with Faith” introduced by producer Haya Fatima Iqbal and shown to attendees.

Friday began with a plenary on “Cultural Exchanges: impact & innovation” with guests speakers Jay Wang, Erik Nibest, Katherine Brown and Kathy Fitzpartick. After this engaging talk, Fulbright alumni had the opportunity to join multiple concurrent sessions that corresponded with this year motto, “connect hearts & minds for global change,” as well as a career counseling panel and discussed current updates for the Fulbright Program.

On Friday evening, in conjunction with the 2019 Fulbright Association’s 42 Annual Conference, we were celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Polish-US Fulbright Program. The event, hosted by Ambassador of the Republic of Poland Piotr Wilczek at his residence, in cooperation with the Fulbright Association and the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission, was an amazing opportunity for building on the strong cultural relations between both countries and a great chance to celebrate bilateral educational cooperation.

On Saturday, over 350 registrants had the opportunity to take part in the morning plenary, “Fulbright Talks,” moderated by Ashley Conard, and enjoy a variety of concurrent sessions, research roundtables and an afternoon plenary with Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture with Roman Baca.

Every year, the Fulbright association brings international attention to the program during the Lifetime Achievement Awards Ceremony, established in 1993, that recognizes individuals or organizations which have made extraordinary contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures and nations to greater understanding of each other. This year, the Fulbright Association honored three distinguished figures: the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, in recognition for her remarkable, contributions as a leader, diplomat, and public servant, Mr. James S. Polshek, in recognition of his accomplishments in architecture and Melissa Block, in recognition of her accomplishments in journalism.

The President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

After the ceremony, Fulbright alumni and distinguish guests had the opportunity to enjoy the closing reception at Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel with food, drinks and live music.

In addition to 42 Annual Conference on Sunday, members of the 54 nationwide chapters discussed the future of community engagement in Fulbright Association and visited National Museum of African-American History & Culture.







Marek Siek, Fulbright Association

November 7, 2019 0

The 60th Anniversary of the Polish- US Fulbright Program

The 60th Anniversary of the Polish- US Fulbright Program

In conjunction with the 2019 Fulbright Association’s 42 Annual Conference and Advocacy Day, we were celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Polish-US Fulbright Program. The event, which was hosted by Ambassador of the Republic of Poland Piotr Wilczek at his residence, in cooperation with the Fulbright Association and the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission, was an amazing opportunity for building on the strong cultural relations between both countries and a great chance to celebrate the bilateral educational cooperation.

H.E. Piotr Wilczek, Ambassador of Republic of Poland to the US

As H.E. Ambassador Wilczek stated in his opening remarks, “The inauguration of the Fulbright Program in Poland in 1959 in the midst of the Cold War was a courageous and visionary decision.” Indeed, in the past 60 years of Polish-US cooperation with the Fulbright Program, almost 5000 grantees from both countries have been awarded the chance to receive an international education and develop their knowledge about the host country. During this period of time, links between both countries were strengthened and mutual understanding based on the cultural, economic and scientific cooperation has flourished.

Friday’s event gathered Fulbright alumni, members of the Fulbright Association, Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission, staff of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. Guests heard keynote speeches from Ambassador Piotr Wilczek, Anita McBride, Vice Chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Matthew Lussenhop, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs and Mary Ellen Schmider, President of the Board of Directors, representing the Fulbright Association.

Dr. Schmider spoke about two important historical figures for bilateral relations of Poland and the US, Generals Pulaski and Kosciuszko, as well as the impressive period of educational cooperation between the countries that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain.

During the official part of the reception, guests had a chance to listen to a piano concert given by Fulbrighter Michael Pecak, who performed one of the most famous piano pieces composed by Frederick Chopin, Polonaise in A-flat minor Op. 53 known as “Heroic.”




Marek Siek, Fulbright Association


October 26, 2019 0

2019 Conference Logo Announced

2019 Conference Logo Announced

The Fulbright Association is pleased to announce the winning logo of our 2019 Conference Logo Competition is Mexican designer Alberto Cervantes. His submission incorporated the conference theme of “Connecting Hearts and Minds for Global Change” by demonstrating a colorful overlap of diverse people around a globe with hands clasped in friendship. The logo selection committee was moved by its artistic portrayal of unique backgrounds and perspectives sharing space and camaraderie, which incorporates the founding values of the Association and the mission of the annual conference.

Alberto Cervantes, designer of the 2019 Conference Logo

Alberto Cervantes earned his bachelor’s degree from the School of Design at the National Institute of Arts in Mexico. Through a Fulbright grant awarded by the Fulbright-García Robles Program from 2005-2007, he completed his master’s degree in Communications Design at the Pratt Institute in New York. He worked for five years at the Wall Street Journal, and currently is the Infographic Director at Viacom.

“Fulbright has exposed me to a global community of bright and curious people that see the world as a place where ideas should be shared and discussed to everyone’s benefit,” says Alberto. “In times of divisiveness and intolerance, particularly at high levels of power, we need more organizations like Fulbright that believe in, encourage and foster the exchange of ideas, diversity, and progress through education.

Alberto stresses that Fulbright is more than just a means to obtaining an education. Not only did it enable him to earn his master’s degree, it also gave him the opportunity to live in one of the most diverse cities in the United States. He cites drawing upon the multicultural metropolis of New York as he conceived the design of his logo submission. “I’ve been living and working in New York for over a decade, and I’ve come to meet and interact with people from different nationalities, races, and faiths on a daily basis. I found inspiration for my logo in the multiculturalism I’m constantly exposed to in the streets of New York, which I don’t take for granted, and in Fulbright’s mission to bring people together despite —or because of— their differences.”

This design will be featured at the Fulbright Association’s annual conference, October 24-26 in the greater Washington, DC area. For more information about attending the conference, please click here.

To learn more about Alberto Cervantes and his work, please visit his website at

–Alison Aadland

June 25, 2019 0