Fulbright was a wonderful, wonderful year. I’d never been to Europe before, my wife had never been either. It was all an eye opener for everything, for meeting people, and the Irish are the most generous and welcoming people, and learning a new language, to learn a little Irish, Irish Gaelic, for making friends and for being somewhere else.

Roger Rosenblatt

On May 14, 2021, the Fulbright Program hosted a virtual event celebrating the life and career of Roger Rosenblatt, a 1965 Fulbright U.S. Student to Ireland and a writer, professor, Emmy Award winner, and Peabody Award winner. The discussion was moderated by Daniel Peña, a 2014 Fulbright U.S. Student to Mexico, assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Houston – Downtown, and author of Bang: A Novel. 

Peña led a conversation that touched on the art of writing, advice for aspiring writers, and the impact of  the Fulbright experience on Rosenblatt’s life and career. The event concluded with a reading from Rosenblatt’s award-winning new book, Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility, where the author reflected on the main message of the book: “We are all responsible for one another, and we are all the same.”

MEET THE PANELISTS 

MODERATOR 

Daniel Peña– 1965 Fulbright U.S. Student to Mexico 

Daniel Peña is a Pushcart Prize-winning writer and Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.  Formerly, he was based out of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City where he served as a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholar. A graduate of Cornell University and a former Picador Guest Professor in Leipzig, Germany, his writing has appeared in PloughsharesThe Rumpus, the Kenyon Review, NBC News, and Arcturus, among  other venues. He is currently a regular contributor to the Guardian and the Ploughshares blog. His novel, Bang, is out now from Arte Publico Press.  

SPEAKERS 

Roger Rosenblatt– 1965 Fulbright U.S. Student to Ireland 

Roger Rosenblatt, whose prolific work has been published in 14 languages, is the author of five New YorkTimes Notable Books of the Year, and three Times bestsellers, including the memoirs KayakMorning, TheBoyDetective, and MakingToast, originally an essay in the NewYorker. TheStoryI  Am, a collection on writing and the writing life was published in April of 2020 and ColdMoon: OnLife, Love, andResponsibilitywas published in October 2020. He has written seven off-Broadway plays, notably the one-person FreeSpeechin America, that he performed at the American Place Theater, named one of The New York Times’s “Ten Best Plays of 1991.” In 2019, The Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor produced Lives in the Basement, Does Nothing, his one-person musical about the writing life, for which he played jazz piano.  

The Distinguished Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook, Rosenblatt formerly held the Briggs-Copeland appointment in creative writing at Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. Among his honors are two George Polk Awards; the Peabody, and the Emmy, for his essays in Time magazine and on PBS; a Fulbright to Ireland, where he played on the Irish International Basketball Team; seven honorary doctorates; the Kenyon Review Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement; and the President’s Medal from the Chautauqua Institution for his body of work.  

U.S. Embassy Tbilisi is proud to support the Fulbright Program throughout the varied regions of Georgia as part of our commitment to open, innovative, and thriving Georgia. Education helps foster a more inclusive society, as we broaden our horizons to understand that we are part of a larger, interdependent whole.

On June 3, 2021, the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi celebrated the illustrious international company of the Fulbright Program alumni and the 75th anniversary of the program. We are proud to celebrate the contributions made by the Fulbright Program over the years to Georgia’s journey toward becoming an ever more open, thriving society. The Fulbright Program is a compelling model of public-private partnership supporting Georgia’s development in cooperation with the Government of Georgia through International Education Center (IEC), Bank of Georgia and Georgia Capital through Tree of Life Foundation.

Celebrations highlighted shared experiences that connect the Fulbright program alumni, how their exchange experience continues to help them to think critically and act creatively to bring about positive change.

In addition to the below videos, click here to watch Cultural Attaché Christopher Anderson and Fulbright alumni speak with Formula TV about the program’s 75-year anniversary and the opportunities it continues to create for Georgian and American participants.

“Today we mark the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright exchange program, which was created through the inspired leadership of Senator J. William Fulbright who said: “Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.”

Like Senator Fulbright, I believe there is no more important investment than in the education of our future generations.” – Ambassador Degnan

Throughout its 75 year history, the Fulbright Program has supported hundreds of exchanges between Georgia and America including scholars, researchers, teachers, and artists to promote closer ties between the people of two counties. These exchanges are part of the United States’ strategic partnership with Georgia and aim to support Georgia’s effort to become a more democratic and prosperous country integrated with the Euro-Atlantic family of nations. Some of the Fulbright alum shares their experiences with us.

To celebrate Fulbright’s 75th anniversary, we brought together Georgian-American alumni and program partners to talk about Fulbright’s effect on their lives and future cooperation opportunities. There are more than 400,000 Fulbright alumni worldwide and around 6,000 alumni of U.S.-funded exchanges in Georgia.

Fulbright Day: Colombia

The Cátedra Fulbright: Challenges to women in Public Spaces was an event carried out within the framework of the Fulbright Program’s 75th-anniversary celebration. The first day of the Cátedra began with some words of welcome from the Embassy of the United States of America in Colombia and other guests and ended with the presentation of Dr. Jennifer Alexander, who was the first day’s keynote speaker.

The second day was divided into 3 sections, which started with the lecture “Lessons, knowledge and paths for women involved in social and environmental leadership” held by Francia Márquez, social leader and presidential candidate. Then another lecture was held by Fulbright Colombia alumni, Whitney Cordoba and Claudia Murillo. Finally, Dra. Lina Buchely ended the day talking about the challenges faced by women dedicated to caring for their homes or involved in community work and proposing alternatives to solve several of these challenges.

Around 2,324 participants connected to the event, synchronously or asynchronously, through Fulbright Colombia’s social media outlets like YouTube, Facebook, and the Official Website of the event.

On May 24, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) recognized 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders, commending their noteworthy engagement with the Fulbright Program. These Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders were recognized as having played a special role in making sure that students, faculty, and administrators from all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the Fulbright Program.  

As the Fulbright Program celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is important to acknowledge the role that HBCUs have played in expanding access to Fulbright awards. 

HBCUs were established to serve the African American community by providing outstanding education during a time when many institutions of higher education were closed to African Americans. Today, more than 100 HBCUs continue to fulfill this mission, preparing future leaders for international service and learning. The Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders recognition is one example of many ways that the Fulbright Program has engaged with HBCUs throughout its history, some other examples include:  

  • Involving HBCU presidents and alumni as members of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board since the program’s earliest days. Dr. Charles S. Johnson, then-President of Fisk University, was on the inaugural policy-making board in the 1940s; later board members have included: Dr. Sherman D. Scruggs, then-President of Lincoln University of Missouri; Dr. Felton G. Clark, then-President of Southern University; and world-renowned historian, Fisk University alumnus, and five-time Fulbrighter Dr. John Hope Franklin, who served as the chair of the board in the 1960s. 
  • Supporting HBCU leaders who have received Fulbright awards. Some examples of prominent Fulbright alumni include: Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University; Dr. Prezell Robinson, President Emeritus and alumnus of Saint Augustine’s University; and Dr. Ivory Nelson, President Emeritus of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. 
  • Recognizing the key role played by Fulbright Program Advisers (FPAs) in successfully guiding potential applicants and producing successful Fulbright student grantees. Long-serving FPAs include Dr. Sandye McIntyre and Dr. Carlene Leggett from Morgan State University, and Dr. Margery Ganz from Spelman College. 
  • Visiting HBCU campuses countless times to help promote awareness of the Fulbright program opportunities among students and faculty. 
  • Featuring HBCU alumni as Fulbright Student and Scholar Alumni Ambassadors, who represent the Program to potential applicants and other stakeholders by sharing their experience and perspective.  
  • Spotlighting the success of HBCU alumni and campuses by sharing stories online through Fulbright websites such as fulbright75.org and on social media. To celebrate the announcement of the 2019-20 Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders, the Fulbright Program flagship social media accounts (FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram) will share HBCU-related stories and videos the week of May 24, including a Twitter Chat with the Fulbright HBCU affinity group on May 27. 

The Fulbright Program is committed to recognizing and supporting the many HBCU students, faculty, and administrators who make a difference in our communities and world. 

Bringing the World to HBCUs

Dedicated HBCU faculty members and administrators use the Fulbright Program to enrich their campuses and careers, build international linkages, and help internationalize HBCU campuses by hosting visiting Fulbright scholars and students. 

Dr. Kathie Stromile Golden, 2004 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Azerbaijan, and an alumna of Southern University and A&M College, is an American political scientist and international education leader. An expert in academic programming, curriculum development, and faculty exchanges, Dr. Golden is the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of International Programs at Mississippi Valley State University, the country’s youngest HBCU. She has directed higher education partnership programs in Liberia, Mauritania, and Azerbaijan; served as Project Director for the Mississippi Consortium for International Development’s Higher Education and Development Project for Iraq; oversaw a $38 million budget for The International Development Partnerships Activity at the United Negro College Fund; and held positions at Morris Brown College, Morgan State University, and Southern University. As a 2004 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Azerbaijan, Dr. Golden lectured and conducted research on “Environmental Management for Sustainable Human Development” at The Academy of Public Administration in Baku. She is Executive Director of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and Director of the Graduate Assistantship Program.  

Dr. Lawrence Carter, Sr. at Morehouse College.

Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter, Sr., 1994 Fulbright-Hays Scholar to Brazil, is an American theologian, historian, professor, author, and civil rights expert. Dr. Carter’s HBCU journey began at a high school event in 1958, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advised him to matriculate at Morehouse College; Dr. Carter would spend the next four decades at Morehouse. In 1979, he became the inaugural Dean of the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel. Since then he has served as Professor of Religion, College Archivist, Curator, and Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Pastoral Leadership, as well as founding the 500-member Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel Assistants Pre-seminarians Program. To advance interfaith understanding, Dr. Carter commissioned the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Institute for Ethics and Reconciliation in 1999, and created the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builder’s Prize of the Morehouse Chapel in 2001. Dr. Carter has also served as Associate Dean of Daniel L. Marsh Chapel at Boston University, taught at Harvard University Divinity School, and has served as coordinator of African American studies at Simmons College. Dr. Carter shared “It was a profound and unforgettable experience…This Fulbright-Hays trip through Brazil is the closest experience I have had in 42 years in benefiting from a sabbatical. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to enhance my scholarship in the field of ethics and religion.” 

Dr. Sudhakar Jamkhandi (left) presents Maneesh Pandeya, a former political journalist and 2018 Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence from India at Delaware State University, with a certificate of appreciation for his presentation of “India’s Customs and Traditions” to students, faculty, and community leaders at Bluefield State College.

Bluefield State College (BSC), an HBCU located in Bluefield, West Virginia, makes engagement with Fulbright an institutional priority. Dr. Sudhakar Jamkhandi, Director of the Office of International Initiatives and Professor of English, works to internationalize Bluefield State through the Fulbright Program. Through his “Windows of the World” lecture series, visiting Fulbrighters participating in the Scholar-in-Residence (SIR) and Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF) Programs have helped public school students, BSC students, faculty, and community members gain a greater understanding and appreciation for other cultures and the visiting scholars’ areas of expertise. Bluefield State is the only higher education institution in West Virginia that shares this vital international resource with area public schools, building ties with residents in southern West Virginia and Virginia.  

2016 Fulbright Visiting Scholars visit Howard University to learn about African American contributions to the sciences and medicine.

HBCU Excellence Abroad

HBCU alumni use their education and thirst for knowledge to advance their careers at home and represent the diversity of the United States abroad. 

Dr. John Wesley Manigaulte, 1949 Fulbright U.S. Student to Italy and Howard University alumnus, was a distinguished scholar, archivist, American Civil Rights fighter, and community worker. Expanding his knowledge as part of the inaugural cohort of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Dr. Manigaulte overcame racial barriers as lecturer of history at Queensborough Community College in New York. Slowly gaining recognition as a historian, he became a professor and department head of the Social Science Department, and President of the Queensborough Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Traveling to Italy to further his research projects, he became known for his scholarship on Italian politician Giuseppe Mazzini. At the same time, he instituted the first courses in Black history at his institution, and worked to foster interfaith, interracial, and intercultural good will. A founding member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Fund for children with financial needs, Dr. Manigaulte continued to give back to his Suffolk County, New York community until his death. 

Ashleigh Brown-Grier (center) with students at American Music Idol Singing Competition and American Music English Camps in Marang, Malaysia.

Ashleigh Brown-Grier, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia and alumna of Talladega College and Morgan State University, is a Ph.D. candidate at Howard University, where she is studying internationalization at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a Fulbrighter, she taught English, hosted weekly English workshops, and coordinated immersive, country-wide English camps at a secondary school in rural Terengganu, Malaysia. She worked with students to create and publish Palatable Poems and Succulent Pe’s, a book of original poems and favorite recipes. Brown-Grier has worked as a special education teacher, completed a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania, and interned at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. She also founded Fulbright HBCU, a participant-run affinity group that supports interest in international opportunities for HBCU students, and International HBCU Xchange

These outstanding alumni are among the thousands of Fulbrighters who have demonstrated how international educational and cultural exchange drive opportunity and promotes achievement at HBCUs. Beyond their personal successes, these talented Fulbrighters have provided educational opportunities in their host communities and, after returning to their home communities, have given back through service and leadership. The Fulbright Program’s strategic partners, including The Posse Foundation, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Reach the World, and HBCUs themselves, promote inclusive success, internationalize U.S. students and communities, and build long-term international connections.  

Fulbright Day Tunisia promotional graphic

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Embassy in Tunis organized a reception with a small group of Fulbright alumni and a larger group of alumni over Zoom at the Cultural Affairs Officer’s home. Ambassador Donald Blome and Embassy staff heard testimonials about their experiences, and had a short Q&A session. Acting Assistant Secretary Joey Hood, who is a Fulbright alumnus, attended this event as part of his Tunisia visit schedule and will interact with the participants. 

Please see below for a video U.S. Embassy Tunis created for the 75th anniversary.

About Joey Hood:  

Joey Hood is the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Mr. Hood has spent most of his career working in the Middle East, and particularly on the Arabian Peninsula. He has served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq and in Kuwait, as well as Consul General and Principal Officer in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.   

Prior to these assignments, Mr. Hood was Acting Director of the Office of Iranian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. He is proud to be the Senior Leadership Liaison to the Pickering and Rangel Fellowship Association and “Mosaic,” a group that fosters community among and promotes professional development for State Department Muslim employees and those interested in the cultures and traditions of Muslim communities. Mr. Hood has also served in Riyadh, where he coordinated U.S.-Saudi military cooperation, and in Asmara, where he was a liaison to rebel leaders from Sudan’s Darfur region.  He has also been assigned to U.S. embassies in Yemen and Qatar. 

Prior to the Foreign Service, Mr. Hood was a Fulbright scholar in Burkina Faso and worked at a bank in Vermont.  He earned a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.

The Fulbright Specialist program was instrumental in fostering the technical exchange between the two sister parks – Crater Lake National Park in the U.S. and Triglav National Park in Slovenia.

John Duwe, 2017 Fulbright Specialist to Slovenia 

In celebration of National Park Week and the U.S. Department of State’s historic partnership with the National Park Service, the Fulbright Program hosted a virtual event exploring Crater Lake National Park on April 23rd, 2021. Fulbright alumni who are now associated with the National Park Service facilitated a discussion on how the National Park Service connects visitors to nature, conducts research and habitat species preservation, and works with Native American communities to preserve their cultural heritage.  

The event began with a special welcome message from the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board member Ms. Margaret Chai Maloney, who highlighted the importance of exploring amazing places and discovering stories of U.S. history and culture.  

Moderated by 2017 Fulbright Specialist to Slovenia and Crater Lake National Park ranger, John Duwe, the event also featured an overview of Crater Lake National Park and an introduction to the U.S. National Park Service. Following the overview and introductions, Crater Lake Park Aquatic Ecologist Dave Hering presented his work to restore and preserve the native bull trout, a type of fish which has suffered from the introduction of nonnative species and was named a “threatened species” in 1999.  The event concluded with stories from Klamath Tribal Elders Barbara Alatorre, John Wright, and Clarence “Boone” Jenkins, who discussed their fondest memories of Crater Lake and the story of how the lake came to be. 

“I’m so happy that Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board member Ms. Maloney talked about the feeling of spirituality in her welcome message,” noted Duwe, “because that’s really what is so special about Crater Lake. Until you go there, and feel it for yourself, you won’t really know what I’m talking about, but it’s inspiring and it’s humbling.” 

MEET THE PANELISTS 

MODERATOR 

John Duwe (2017 Fulbright Specialist to Slovenia) – John Duwe grew up both in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the cold spring water of Northern Michigan. His father was an environmental specialist for the National Park Service and his mother was a special education teacher. After completing a course of study in geology and a tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, he decided to combine his love of working in natural settings and sharing ideas with people and set out to become an environmental educator. John worked for two seasons as an interpretive park ranger at Crater Lake National Park while he pursued his Master of Science in Environmental Education and Oregon Teaching Licensure from Southern Oregon University. Since then, he has worked as a classroom teacher, a program director for an environmental education NGO, and most recently as the education coordinator at Crater Lake National Park. John traveled to Slovenia in 2017 as a Fulbright Specialist to work with rangers at Crater Lake’s sister park, Triglav National Park, sharing ideas and strengthening relationships between the parks. John now lives in Fort Klamath, Oregon with his wife Stephanie (also a park ranger) and their two retrievers. He hopes to continue to work globally as he strives to provide mutual understanding of shared resources.  

SPEAKERS 

Dave Hering – Dave Hering is an aquatic ecologist and fisheries biologist at Crater Lake National Park.  His interests include life history diversity and behavior of freshwater fish, the effects of invasive species, and conservation of native nongame fish and amphibians.  For the past 14 years, Dave has worked to protect imperiled populations of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in Oregon’s Upper Klamath Basin, and his recent work has emphasized partnership among multiple stakeholders to accomplish landscape-scale ecological restoration. Dave is currently engaged in a collaborative international project to restore an alpine lake ecosystem in Triglav National Park in Slovenia.  He is on the roster of the Fulbright Specialist Program and enjoys sharing expertise with international counterparts in the field of natural resource management. Dave holds a B.S in Biology and an M.S. in Fisheries Science.  He lives in Ashland, Oregon.   

John Wright– John Wright is an Elder of the Klamath Tribes. John was born and raised in Chiloquin, Oregon. At age 21, he moved to Warm Springs, Oregon, where he worked a full career in the woods and sawmills. Returning to live in Chiloquin in 2000, John supports his community through his participation on the Klamath Tribal Elder Committee and the Klamath Tribes’ Fish and Game Commission. He has also enjoyed teaching his grandchildren and other community members traditional camping, hunting, and fishing skills. John has been married to his wife Barbara (also from Chiloquin) for 54 years. Together they have seven kids, 23 grandkids, 16 great-grandkids, and 4 great-great-grandkids. John enjoys camping and working around the house.  

Barbara Alatorre– Barbara Alatorre is a researcher and historian of the tribes of Southern Oregon and is herself a member of the Klamath Tribe and a direct descendant of two signers of the Treaty of 1864. She has researched Klamath tribal history and stories for over forty years. Ms. Alatorre was recently honored as a “Star of Oregon” for years of outstanding community service, having served as president of the Portland American Indian Center, as a board member of both the Urban Indian Council and the Commission on Indian Services, and chairwoman of the Urban Ma’klaks. 

Clarence “Boone” Jenkins – Clarence “Boone” Jenkins is an Elder of the Klamath Tribes. Boone was born in 1943 in Klamath Agency, Oregon, and raised just below Crater Lake in Ft. Klamath, Oregon. He finished high school in Klamath Falls and then studied welding at the Oregon Institute of Technology. After college, he moved to Albany, Oregon to work in construction and help his parents run a bowling alley. In 1985, Boone moved to Alaska to work as a bowling alley mechanic and then moved to the western slope of Alaska to build ice roads for trucking. He moved back to Fort Klamath in 2000. Boone has five sons, four living in Oregon and one in Alaska. For fun, Boone likes to hunt, fish, and watch auto racing. 

Eradicating Poverty while Mentoring Changemakers

Muhammad Yunus, PhD
Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Economist and Social Entrepreneur
1965 Fulbright Foreign Student to Vanderbilt University

Muhammad Yunus sitting with a crowd of women

Dr. Muhammad Yunus set out with a simple but radical idea: “The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world — all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.” His lifelong dedication to empowering the world’s poor made him one of his generation’s most celebrated economists and the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize (jointly awarded with Grameen Bank) “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

His real impact, however, is not in the number of awards he has won, but the number of people he has empowered. Known as the “Banker to the Poor,” Dr. Yunus is a pioneer in the field of   microcredit. This method, which provides small business loans to low-income individuals, was first pioneered by Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976 by loaning $27 to a group of women to start a bamboo stool business. By providing microloans to groups traditionally excluded from business financing, Dr. Yunus has supported entrepreneurship, alleviated poverty in Bangladeshi communities, and changed the way the world thinks about development economics.

Before microcredit, the Nobel Peace Prize, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, and countless other honors, Dr. Yunus began his journey towards promoting opportunity for Bangladeshi communities as a 1965 Fulbright Foreign Student, undertaking a Ph.D. in Economic Development. Building on undergraduate and graduate degrees at Dhaka University, Dr. Yunus used his Fulbright to complete his doctoral degree in Vanderbilt University’s Graduate Program in Economic Development (GPED). His Fulbright prepared him to return to a newly independent Bangladesh and apply his global perspective to promote social mobility in local villages, while also teaching the next generation of Bangladeshi economists at Chittagong University.

In 1983, Dr. Yunus’ education, international experience, and on-the-ground work culminated in the founding of Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization and community development bank. Since its creation, Grameen Bank has provided $6.5 billion in collateral-free loans to 7.5 million clients in more than 82,000 villages in Bangladesh, with women making up 97% of its loan recipients. It has inspired similar funding opportunities in other low-, medium-, and high-income countries around the world.

His work did not go unnoticed. Alex Counts, an American undergraduate studying economics at Cornell University, learned of Grameen Bank, and was inspired by Dr. Yunus’ efforts to eradicate poverty. With the encouragement of his professors, Counts became a 1988 Fulbright U.S. Student to Bangladesh, training under Dr. Yunus and working to develop solutions to the complex problems of social mobility and economic development in low-income countries.

Counts reflects on the impact of his Fulbright experience, and Dr. Yunus’ mentorship: “My nine months in Bangladesh were an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime learning and bonding experience. I later returned to Bangladesh and realized my vision of promoting Dr. Yunus’s work globally by starting the Grameen Foundation in 1997 with his support. I ran the foundation for 18 years, before handing it over to a new leadership team that continues to take it in exciting directions.” Dr. Yunus, as Counts’ mentor and collaborator, serves as a founding board member and Director Emeritus.

Dr. Yunus’ influence extends beyond economics: he is closely involved with the United Nations, having served as a UN Secretary General-appointed member of the International Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference, a member of the UN Expert Group on Women and Finance, and a board member of the United Nations Foundation. Closer to home, he received the Independence Day Award – Bangladesh’s highest honor – in 1987, in recognition of his substantial contributions to rural development.

Dr. Yunus continues to teach, connect, and promote poverty eradication around the world. In a recent talk with students at the University of California, Berkeley, he shared, “Each human being is good enough to change the whole world. So feel that, and make it happen.”

To learn more about Fulbright alumni who have won Nobel Prizes, click here for the full list.

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William Tan

Not an Obstacle, but an Opportunity: Fulbright Physician Lifts Himself and Others in Need

William Tan, PhD
Neuroscientist, Physician, and Paralympian
1989 Fulbright Foreign Student to Harvard University

For Dr. William Tan, any challenge represents an opportunity, not an obstacle. A physician, record-breaking Paralympian, author, motivational speaker, and cancer survivor, his extraordinary life is a testament to the power of perseverance and helping others. Not only has the Singaporean physician achieved his lofty personal goals, but he also uses his international platform to advance opportunities for people and causes close to his heart.

Diagnosed with polio at age two and paralyzed from the waist down, Dr. Tan faced cruel bullying from his peers in kindergarten, as well as mobility issues and poverty. Instead of giving in, Dr. Tan began a decades-long pursuit of educational achievement, working toward his dream of becoming a doctor. Despite setbacks, and because of his hard work, he attended Harvard University as a 1989 Fulbright Foreign Student. At Harvard, Dr. Tan earned a master’s degree in physiology with first class honors and built long-term connections with the institution and surrounding Boston community, including Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Tan’s impressive academic career also includes a postdoctoral research opportunity in neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic and degrees in social work, medicine and surgery, and neuroscience from the University of Oxford, Newcastle University, and the University of Auckland, respectively. 

In addition to a distinguished academic career, Dr. Tan has prioritized giving back to people in need. He began wheelchair athletics at 15, becoming inspired to use his athletic abilities to raise money for children and those with disabilities. He completed his first race in 1987, racing for 16 hours to support kidney disease patients, because “winning medals, trophies, or prize money should not be an end to itself. It should be a means to further goodness and to help people.” 

In 1988, Dr. Tan aimed higher, competing in the Paralympic Games in Seoul, South Korea and raising over $18 million in charitable funds through marathons, ultra-marathons, and other competitions. In 2007, he became the first person in a wheelchair to complete a marathon at the North Pole in 21 hours and 10 minutes, in temperatures as cold as -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 degrees Celsius). Later that year, Dr. Tan became the first person with paraplegia to finish seven marathons across seven continents in 26 days, 17 hours, 43 minutes, and 52 seconds.

He encountered a different challenge in 2009. While competing in the Paris Marathon, Dr. Tan’s nose began to bleed. Though he made it to the finish line and returned to Singapore, he was given a devastating diagnosis: Stage IV leukemia. His doctors gave him just 12 months to live. Dr. Tan went through six months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, still finding time to complete an ultramarathon to raise funds for the National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine).

Now, with more than 10 years in remission, Dr. William Tan continues fundraising, speaking, and practicing medicine as a physician. In defiance of the obstacles in his life, he continues to help, believing that “living life to the fullest means not only chasing my own personal dreams but living a life to benefit others. That is the best legacy.”

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Na Eng

Fulbright Filmmaker Becomes an Emmy Award-Winning Storyteller with a Mission

Na Eng
Emmy Award-Winning Journalist and Communications Director at the McKnight Foundation
1999 Fulbright U.S. Student to Zimbabwe

When she was five years old, Na Eng and her family escaped from the killing fields of Cambodia and resettled as refugees in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her passion for telling stories has taken her on a remarkable journey around the world as a news and documentary producer and back home to Minnesota, where she is now the Communications Director at the McKnight Foundation, a major philanthropic organization. 

Eng’s 1999 Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to Zimbabwe proved to be a pivotal early step in her journey; she called it “one of the most transformative experiences of her life.” As part of her Fulbright, Eng created a film about a girl coming of age in a home burdened by alcoholism, AIDS, and poverty. The 40-minute documentary, Fortunate’s Letter, screened at several venues, including the 2001 New York African Film Festival.

Eng first explored filmmaking as an undergraduate at Columbia University, where she taught herself how to operate a video camera and turned the lens on her mother to relay their harrowing experience as refugees. A summer fellowship to Haiti followed, as well as an internship in Kenya. That is where Eng says she first felt drawn to the rich and fascinating continent of Africa. 

Eng went on to earn her master’s in International Media and Communications from Columbia University’s Graduate School of International and Public Affairs, earning a full merit scholarship as part of the inaugural class of Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.

Upon graduating, Eng applied for a Fulbright to Zimbabwe, aiming to tell a story that offered more depth, humor, and respect than other popular depictions.   

“I was frustrated by the absence of nuanced, humanizing narratives about this incredibly diverse and modern region,” she said in a recent interview. “I wanted to offer a window into how this one family experienced the world.”

A one-person crew, she lugged her camera equipment onto crowded city buses to reach the outskirts of Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare. At the center of the film is Fortunate Rukainga, a precocious student whom Eng met in an after-school girls club. “We had instant chemistry,” recalls Eng. “I loved how she asked so many questions and demonstrated such curiosity.” Eng developed a lasting friendship with the Rukainga family, and came to the conclusion that “the family dynamics, struggles, concerns and aspirations in Zimbabwe are strikingly familiar to those experienced by many Americans.”

After her Fulbright experience, Eng’s creative spark fueled an impressive two-decade journalism career that took her all over the globe—from the fields of cotton farmers in Burkina Faso to the homes of political dissidents in Bahrain. She heard the gripping testimony of a former prisoner of Guantanamo Bay and interviewed Fulbright alumnus Dr. Hans Blix, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Swedish diplomat, and recipient of the 2014 Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, about the war in Iraq. 

Eng earned numerous national awards while producing for the weekly public affairs show NOW on PBS and the documentary unit at CNBC. At PBS, she received an Emmy Award for a piece that showed the human impact of regressive taxes on the working poor in Alabama. Recently, an anthropology professor in Georgia shared that he has been showing the piece to his students for years, calling it “superb” and going on to write: “I never found anything better on the subject.” 

She garnered Emmy Award nominations for her investigations into the oil and gas industry and the subprime mortgage crisis. While at CNBC, her investigation into the growth of private prisons was recognized with a prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Documentary.

Na Eng receives an Emmy Award for a PBS piece on the human impact of regressive taxes on the working poor in Alabama.

These same empathetic storytelling skills have led to success in her current role in philanthropy. In 2015, Eng and her husband moved to her home state of Minnesota to raise their son closer to family. She is now a senior leader and Communications Director of the McKnight Foundation, which grants $100 million a year to “advance a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive.” 

At McKnight, she supports her colleagues and nonprofit partners in crafting and editing reports, videos, media coverage, op-eds, and statements that inspire people to action. A few recent examples include a #BrightSpots video campaign featuring organizations adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and an explanatory video that highlights ways to prevent evictions. Consistent with her Fulbright experience, she is still telling stories with a mission. 

Committed to giving back to the community, she serves on the board of Friends of the Saint Paul Library and the advocacy committee of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Eng’s commitment to the Fulbright spirit of global understanding and interdependence continues to benefit communities in Minnesota and around the world.