Hello, Dr. Fatzinger. We’re happy to highlight the Kentucky Chapter. Before we touch on that, could you tell me a little bit about your background? Sure, Stephen. I’m proud to represent the Fulbright Association’s Kentucky Chapter. I’m currently a faculty member and in my second term as the chapter president of the Kentucky Chapter. Working with a fantastic board and group of officers, I started as vice- president and worked my way up. I love education and was a member of the Fulbright specialist roster. I have two doctorate degrees, one from Vanderbilt University and the other from the University of Florida. I completed post-master’s work at Oxford and my postgraduate work at Harvard University, as well as a higher education leadership development program. I really relate to the Fulbright mission. Service is so important, just as education is important, and building relationships across borders is imperative, so it is a pleasure to lead the members of the Kentucky Chapter.
You described the Kentucky Chapter as a fairly new chapter, established in the summer of 2019. Could you describe your experience taking the helm of such a new chapter?
It’s really been fun. I have to give credit to our founding members: Ann Riedling, Fred Ruppel, and Wanda Dodson, who, really sowed the seeds of a solid foundation for the chapter. When I took over, we had the opportunity to consider the Fulbright vision in developing a foundational mission and the strategic priorities for the chapter. We set out to align our projects with (1) the Fulbright mission, (2) our strategic priorities, and (3) getting our feet underneath us. The annual picnic was the was the first official project of our chapter, and that’s still the project that’s best attended. Now, post-COVID, we are continuing to welcome new members, while also recognizing that Fulbrighters are really busy people. Fulbrighters are always on the move and they’re making an impact around the globe, so we have a membership approach that recognizes that members are always on the move. Sometimes we’re online, sometimes we meet face-to-face, but we meet our membership where they’re at.
As the chapter continues to meet that mission and expand, what kind of culture are you looking to build for Fulbrighters in Kentucky?
So happy you asked! We want to focus on the Fulbright mission, and we want to build a culture that is in alignment with relationships, networks, and opportunities — similar to what the 400,000 alumni of the Fulbright Program have experienced [through the Program]. We want members to be able to share their best and most treasured memories from during their Fulbright experience and come together to learn from others as those relationships continue to develop right here in Kentucky. Some of that will be through service, some of that will be through advocacy, and some of it will be in raising awareness and nurture future Fulbrighters to have the experiences we’ve had both locally and abroad.
Locally, your chapter launched the Kentucky Summer of Service Challenge in during the summer of 2022. Can you tell me more about this project?
Absolutely! We want to recognize that Fulbrighters are involved [in their communities] every day. A Fulbrighter isn’t a Fulbrighter for the week, the semester, or the year that they’re pursuing an opportunity. They had habits that they formed before they went on their Fulbright experience, and then they’ve had things that they continue to do based off the networks that they’ve built through their experiences.
We want to recognize the impact that Fulbrighters have — not only locally but around the globe. Through our service projects, one member is involved with a world library association providing books for young students. Another member has a family in Sierra Leone whom she helped by installing toiletry systems and certain types of systems that helped with irrigation; that was her service. We also have service here in Kentucky. It might be helping with the Eastern Kentucky floods, or it might be participating with other service organizations that we partner with on a monthly or weekly basis. We want to recognize through the Kentucky Summer of Service Challenge that Fulbrighters are not just serving when they’re on their Fulbright, but they’re making an impact for years afterwards, in the state of Kentucky, in the United States, and even while abroad.
Kentucky Chapter members can post a picture of what they’re doing in service on our Fulbright Association Chapter Page, so that we can continue to share in this fellowship. We’d also like to invite all members of Fulbright chapters from around the United States to join us and post those pictures so that the service continues. While the Summer of Service concludes in late September, our service doesn’t. Our service and our fellowship will continue. Perhaps this will become an annual project, and perhaps a bordering state will pick up the Summer of Service Challenge, or maybe another Fulbright Association chapter will pick up a “Fall of Service.”
Dr. Fatzinger, is there anything else you would like to say about the Kentucky Chapter?
We want to say thank you: thank you to every member who serves in this project, thank you to every Fulbrighter who is serving around the United States domestically.
Thanks to all those Fulbrighters who built relationships, are still leading domestically, and are continuing to serve even in the midst of some of these challenging times that we’ve had. Who would have thought that we would have had a pandemic on our watch? Who would have thought we would have had so much technological influence that eliminated borders and brought people closer together?
I encourage all members of the Fulbright Association’s 55 chapters, the 400,000 Fulbright Program alumni, those still hoping to become Fulbrighters, and friends of Fulbright to participate in service.
Thank you to the members of the Kentucky Chapter for participating in this Summer of Service Challenge.
– Stephen Gardner, Public Engagement Summer Intern