Fulbrighters attend a seminar with Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ambassador Tacan Ildem (center front), at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in February 2020.
Fulbrighters attend a seminar with Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ambassador Tacan Ildem (center front), at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in February 2020.

Since the program’s founding, Fulbrighters have served as unofficial citizen ambassadors. Fulbright alumni continue to work to forge lasting connections, counter misunderstandings, inform the public, and help people and nations work together toward common goals.

In recognition of 75 years of outstanding service, we recognize several Fulbrighters working in the fields of public diplomacy and service, and explore how Fulbright has influenced and contributed to their careers.

Black and white photo. Dr. Robert Brooks; U.S. Ambassador to India Chester Bowles; Dr. Olive Reddick; Dr. Zakir Husain, Vice-President of India; Mr. Prem Kirpal, Secretary, Ministry of Education at Fulbright House, U.S. Education Foundation, India in 1965.
From left: Dr. Robert Brooks; U.S. Ambassador to India Chester Bowles; Dr. Olive Reddick; Dr. Zakir Husain, Vice-President of India; Mr. Prem Kirpal, Secretary, Ministry of Education at Fulbright House, U.S. Education Foundation, India in 1965.

Sylvia Poggioli, 1968 Fulbright U.S. Student to Italy

Fulbright Host Institution: University of Rome
Current Position: Senior European correspondent for NPR’s International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans

Sylvia Poggioli, with a bun and hoop earrings, stands smiling against a wall for a headshot.

“Looking back, I now understand that the political and social turmoil I witnessed during my Fulbright year laid the foundation for the career I would ultimately follow–journalism: first, working at the English-language news service at Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), the major italian news agency, and later as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio. I’m still not sure I completely understand every aspect and complexity of this society and exactly how it has evolved and radically changed in the last 50 years, but certainly without my Fulbright year and the opportunity it gave me to absorb and interact with Italians in such a turbulent time, I am sure I would not have had developed the skills needed to competently observe and analyze Italian society.”

Hammad Hammad, 2008 Fulbright U.S. Student to the Netherlands

Fulbright Host Institution: Universiteit Utrecht
Current Position: Alternate Permanent Representative, Political-Economic Officer, U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome

Hammad Hammad business headshot

“The Fulbright Program was instrumental in kickstarting my career as a public servant. Living and working in the Netherlands on Fulbright inspired me to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer. As a gay Arab-American diplomat representing the United States abroad, l have been able to connect with a wide range of audiences and I have tried to use my position to shape U.S. government policies that take into account the most vulnerable — whether migrants or LGBT youth in Mexico or political prisoners in Venezuela — to ensure our policy formation does not occur in a vacuum.”

Victor D. Cha, PhD; 1991 Fulbright U.S. Student to South Korea, 1998 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to South Korea

Fulbright Host Institution: Kyungnam University
Current Position: Professor of Government, Vice Dean, and D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University

Dr. Victor D. Cha in mid-sentence while speaking at an event.

Dr. Victor D. Cha is an academic, author, and former national foreign policy advisor for the White House, focused on the Asia-Pacific region. In his distinguished career, he has worked on the National Security Council, testified before Congress on Asian security issues, and served as a Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Cha was a John M. Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University and is a current Fellow in Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute. He is also a Contributor for NBC News and MSNBC and has been a guest analyst for various national and international media including PBS, NPR, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Cha has written numerous articles, six books, and other works on Asian security, including North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

Laura Hochla, 2003 Fulbright U.S. Student to Spain

Fulbright Host Institution: University of Granada 
Current Position: U.S. Foreign Service Officer, currently on detail as Director for Europe at the National Security Council, The White House

Foreign Service Officer Laura Hochla stands in front of a large bush with her arms crossed, smiling.

“Fulbright was absolutely my gateway to diplomacy, and not simply because U.S. Embassy staff in Madrid encouraged me to pursue the Foreign Service as a career. My time as a Fulbright grantee gave me my first experience learning a culture other than my own, listening to points of view often vastly different from my own, and finding common ground on points of disagreement.”   

Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, PhD 1967 Fulbright Foreign Student from Singapore 

Fulbright Host Institution: Cornell University 
Current Position: Ambassador-at-Large, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Chan Heng Chee headshot

Chan Heng Chee is a Singaporean academic and diplomat who served as Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States from 1996 to 2012. Prior to this, she served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1991. Outside of government, Ambassador Chee has served in various capacities in the Singapore International Foundation, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, the Institute of Policy Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She also served as Chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Cydni Gordon, 2017 Fulbright U.S Student to Argentina

Fulbright Host Institution: Assistance and Research in Affective Disorders Institute (ÁREA)
Current Position: Program Officer, Western Hemisphere, Fulbright Program, Office of Academic Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Cydni Gordon standing on a beach on an overcast day, smiling at the camera.

“I know that the academic/professional component of Fulbright is highly emphasized, but for me, the cultural exchange proved to be just as consequential —the personal friendships and professional connections have endured time and distance and I’m forever grateful for my time there and especially for the chance to learn about and from not only Argentines, but others I got to know. While I was able to narrow down my research interests, I also made incredible lifelong friends.”

Photo caption: Cydni Gordon in Reñaca, Chile during a Fulbright Western Hemisphere Enrichment Seminar, 2018.

Sam Worthington, 1984 Fulbright U.S. Student to Switzerland 

Fulbright Host Institution: Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, The University of Geneva 
Current Position: President and CEO of InterAction, the nation’s largest alliance of over 220 relief and development nongovernmental organizations working overseas, investing $15.4 billion a year to development projects

Sam Worthington headshot

“At Université de Genève, I had the opportunity to research a small program in the United Nations’ International Labor Organization called ‘Participatory Organizations of the Rural Poor.’ The work focused on programs to advance the power people must have over their own lives, no matter how marginalized their circumstances. My insights learned as a Fulbrighter continue to influence how I see international development and the role of external groups, including the international NGOs that make up InterAction’s membership. Today, decades later, I find myself back in Geneva at the United Nations meeting with leaders in more formal and high-level events, yet the lessons remain the same: our work must be rooted in local voices and the ability of a people to shape their lives and future.”

Dr. Robert Sterken, Fulbright Specialist and 2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Burma, discusses democracy at the U.S. Embassy Thailand with Ambassador Glyn T. Davies in 2015. They stand together with a group of older students.
Dr. Robert Sterken (back row, center right), Fulbright Specialist and 2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Burma, discusses democracy at the U.S. Embassy Thailand with Ambassador Glyn T. Davies (back row, center left) in 2015.
Richard Schaefer, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar; U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney; and Elizabeth Guinessey, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.
From left: Richard Schaefer, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar; U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney; and Elizabeth Guinessey, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. “My Fulbright to Costa Rica gave me the chance to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica following a fascinating presentation on immigration by Dr. Richard Schaefer, fellow Fulbrighter.” – Elizabeth Guinessey

Building a Better Future Through Diplomacy

An enduring testament to the Fulbright Program’s mission, Fulbrighters and alumni continue to build a better future through mutual understanding as unofficial cultural ambassadors, career diplomats, international journalists, political scientists, and citizen changemakers.

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at 2018 Global Leadership Forum Diplomatic Reception, standing on a small raised platform with a podium in front of them.
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at 2018 Global Leadership Forum Diplomatic Reception.

A Fulbrighter’s Mission for Peace and Cooperation

Javier Solana, PhD
Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain (1992-1995), NATO Secretary-General (1995-1999)
1966 Fulbright Foreign Student from Spain

Black and white photo of Dr. Javier Solana during his tenure in the Spanish government

Dr. Javier Solana (right) during his tenure in the Spanish government.

Dr. Francisco Javier Solana de Madariaga, a Spanish physicist and politician, has used his professional career in academia and government to advocate for international cooperation among European nations, the United States, and the world. As a Spanish and European diplomat, Solana advanced European integration, and as the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Solana helped lead the organization in its transformation following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Born in Madrid in 1942 to a politically active family, Dr. Solana became a student member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) in the early 1960s. While working with the PSOE to oppose the fascist rule of Francisco Franco, he studied at Complutense University of Madrid, the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research, and abroad in the United Kingdom.

During his six-year Fulbright experience from 1965 to 1970, Dr. Solana visited and studied at various universities within the United States, eventually completing his doctorate in physics at the University of Virginia. On campus in Charlottesville, he not only taught physics classes and conducted research towards his thesis, he also joined in campus protests against the Vietnam War. As president of the Association of Foreign Students, he also played a role in unifying the international community on campus. 

Dr. Javier Solana serving as Secretary General for NATO.
Dr. Javier Solana serving as Secretary General for NATO.

Speaking on the impact of Fulbright, Dr. Solana stated, “The Fulbright Program is a network of good people who become friends, who become people who try to project the values of peace, cooperation, for social well-being. All those things, which are the great values […] we need to continue to cultivate today.”

After his time in the United States, Dr. Solana returned to Spain to teach solid-state physics at his alma-mater, Complutense University of Madrid. After a few years in academia, he was elected to the Spanish parliament in 1982, and later appointed to the Spanish cabinet, where he held many positions, including Minister of Education and Science, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In December 1995, he became Secretary-General of NATO. While initially an opponent of Spain joining NATO, Solana went on to lead the alliance through conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also presided over the historic enlargement of NATO in 1999 when the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland became the first former communist states to join the Alliance.

Continuing his career as a diplomat, Dr. Solana was appointed Secretary General of the Council of the European Union in 1999. In this role he worked to create consensus on foreign and security policy issues to strengthen the Union’s authority in international affairs. Today, Dr. Javier Solana continues to influence the field of foreign policy as a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution and President of Barcelona’s University of Administration and Business Management (ESADE) Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics in Spain.

In his own words, “The Fulbright Program has had a positive and important impact on generations of young Spaniards and Americans. If we are looking for ways to reinforce the transatlantic relationship, this is something we must do more of.”  

Citizen Diplomat: Former Ambassador Highlights the Need for Person-to-Person Exchange

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch
U.S. Diplomat and Former U.S. Ambassador to Nepal
1997 Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow to Singapore and Malaysia

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch speaking at an event with two young people at the table

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) welcomes fellows and their mentors to the 2017 International Affairs Fellowship Graduation event, on behalf of the Council of American Ambassadors.

For Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch, diplomacy is a calling. Bridging cultural divides since childhood, she learned valuable lessons from her diplomat father, Chang Fuyun, the first Chinese graduate of Harvard Law School. As an expert in international affairs, she believes that one of the most powerful tools for increasing mutual understanding is soft power, achieved not through official diplomatic channels, but through person-to-person exchange. A Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow to Singapore and Malaysia, Ambassador Bloch embodies the Fulbright Program’s mission to connect people of different nations and transcend cultural and political borders for common goals. 

Ambassador Bloch’s career in international affairs began in 1964 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia, and culminated in her appointment as Ambassador to Nepal in 1989, becoming the first American diplomat of Asian descent to hold this rank. As a Chinese immigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of nine, Ambassador Bloch knows first-hand the benefits of understanding two different cultures and nations. Her life’s work has focused on creating connections between young people around the world and shaping future leaders through educational and cultural exchange. “Experience tells us that education and exchange are effective tools, bar none, for building mutual understanding,” says Ambassador Bloch.

Ambassador Bloch has held a number of public service positions. She worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as Assistant Administrator of Food for Peace and Voluntary Assistance and as Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East. She also served as Chief Minority Counsel to a U.S. Senate Select Committee; as a U.S. Senate professional staff member; as Deputy Director of the Office of African Affairs at the U.S. Information Agency; as a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and as Associate of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. 

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) and Gish Jen (second from left), acclaimed Chinese American writer, speak with scholars and students at USCET's American Cultural Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2012
Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) and Gish Jen (second from left), acclaimed Chinese American writer, speak with scholars and students at USCET’s American Cultural Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2012. Photo: Provided to China Daily

After 25 years in government service, Ambassador Bloch became Group Executive Vice President at the Bank of America in 1993 and served as President and CEO of the United States-Japan Foundation from 1996 to 1998. During this time, she was a 1997 Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow, using her skills at the United States Information Service branches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore. Ambassador Bloch says of her Fulbright experience: 

“The Fulbright Program offers personal cross-cultural experiences that can tear away misperceptions, build bridges, and create global perspectives needed for world peace and understanding. As a Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow, I had the opportunity to return to Malaysia over thirty years after serving there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Witnessing the immense development of the country and touched by so much empathy from the Malaysian Fulbrighters I met, I became a staunch advocate of the transformative powers of international exchange for the rest of life.”

Subsequently, Ambassador Bloch founded the U.S.-China Education Trust (USCET), a nonprofit organization working in China to promote U.S.-China relations through education and exchange. “USCET is a direct outgrowth of my firm and unshakable belief in international education and exchange,” says Ambassador Bloch. She serves as USCET’s Founding President and maintains affiliations and posts at various prestigious Chinese universities.

For Ambassador Bloch, there is nothing more critical than educational exchange. “We must take every opportunity we have to learn about each other, as this will lead to better understanding […] If we hope to transcend endless conflict, war, and misunderstanding, we must embrace education and exchange with open hearts and a combined sense of purpose.” 

Building Mutual Understanding Through Diplomatic Service

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
U.S. Diplomat and seven-time U.S. Ambassador
1954 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia

Thomas R. Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Thomas R. Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, behind nameplate. Credit: UN Photo/Saw Lwin

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, a retired U.S. diplomat whose career has spanned four decades, has advanced diplomacy and mutual understanding around the world. He holds the title of Career Ambassador, the highest title in the U.S. Foreign Service; speaks five languages; holds the 2002 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award from the American Foreign Service Association; and is the recipient of 13 honorary degrees.

Ambassador Pickering showed an early interest in diplomacy, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Bowdoin College and completing a master’s degree at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1954. Upon graduation, he undertook a second master’s degree at the University of Melbourne as a 1954 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia.

Following his Fulbright, Ambassador Pickering served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1959 and later joined the U.S. Department of State, where he held numerous positions, including Ambassador to El Salvador, India, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia, and the United Nations. In recognition of his distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Pickering was promoted to the position of Under Secretary for Political Affairs in 1997, the third-highest post in the U.S. Department of State.

Following Ambassador Pickering’s retirement, the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program was renamed The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program in his honor. The program continues Ambassador Pickering’s work, preparing outstanding young people for careers in the U.S. Foreign Service, including members of historically underrepresented groups. After his retirement, he joined the private sector as the Senior Vice President for International Relations and Executive Council Member for The Boeing Company, and continues working toward a more peaceful world through various organizations including the International Crisis Group, Council on Foreign Relations, and The Project on National Security Reform.

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. Credit: Miller Center

Reflecting on his illustrious career, Ambassador Pickering is grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by the Fulbright Program. He refers to his Fulbright in Australia as his “first diplomatic assignment” and “salute[s] the Fulbright Program for its continuing work, especially in newly emerging democracies.” Highlighting the ongoing importance that Fulbright plays in international diplomacy, he notes that “those who have crossed thresholds thanks to the Fulbright Program have gone on to build bridges between countries, across academic disciplines and generations, and most importantly, among people.”  

Ambassador Pickering continues to build and support the United States’ relationship with Australia. In The Alliance, a SkyNews network documentary series, he highlights the Fulbright Program’s important contributions to 70 years of bilateral cultural and academic exchange. Ambassador Pickering remarks that he has encountered many distinguished Fulbright alumni throughout his diplomatic career: “In each of my assignments, I have worked with ministers, businessmen, teachers and diplomats who got to know America as Fulbrighters.” Like Ambassador Pickering, Fulbright is often their first opportunity to think beyond their borders and establish lasting connections.

Leading and Advocating for All Women

Margaret “Peg” Snyder, PhD 
Founding Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
1994 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Uganda

Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder with Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai

Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder (left) in 2006 with Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, whose Green Belt Movement was one of the first programs to receive UN Women funding. Photo: The Guardian

Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder is known internationally as the “United Nations’ first feminist.” As the Founding Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), known since 2011 as UN Women, she worked to promote and acknowledge women’s contributions to societies around the world.

Dr. Snyder completed a bachelor’s degree at the College of New Rochelle in 1950, and a master’s degree in sociology at the Catholic University of America in 1952, before being named the Dean of Women at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s call to action for young Americans to travel and volunteer overseas, she took a sabbatical to Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania). There she helped African students travel to the United States to study as part of the “Kennedy Airlifts.” After this experience she gave up her position at Le Moyne and decided to continue working in Africa.After completing a PhD in sociology from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 1971, Dr. Snyder began working at the United Nations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the UN offices, women represented only 7% of local staff. Dr. Snyder worked to overcome resistance to women-led initiatives, in turn helping to acknowledge Ethiopian women as leaders of their communities. “There was a failure to realize,” she wrote in 2020, “that the most serious problems of development defy solution without the involvement of women.”

Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder with a local African woman during her tenure at the United Nations
Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder (left) with a local African woman during her tenure at the United Nations.

Dr. Snyder devoted her life’s work to the United Nations, with 20 years of service and an additional 30 years as an informal advisor. The programs she worked on and advised were responsible for channeling millions of dollars to women-led projects and organizations. The UN Development Fund for Women started as a small organization with a meager budget but grew exponentially under Dr. Snyder’s leadership —by the 1980s, the United Nations had women’s development commissions in 30 countries. At UN Headquarters in New York, Dr. Snyder was known for promoting women within the organization—her staff was composed of young women, whose careers she helped advance by utilizing her extensive network. 

Vintage photo of Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder
Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder, Dean of Women at Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, New York in the 1950s. Photo: The Snyder Family.

After officially retiring from the United Nations in the early 1990s, Dr. Snyder undertook a 1994 Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The timing of her Fulbright was well-suited to her experience—she taught at the newly established Women’s Studies Program for master’s candidates at Makerere. As aptly stated by Comfort Lamptey, the Representative of UN Women to Nigeria, “Peg was a trailblazer. She believed that if you put money in the hands of women, they can do magic.”

Dr. Margaret “Peg” Snyder is remembered fondly by friends and colleagues for her contributions to women around the world. After Dr. Snyder’s passing in January 2021, Dr. Nancy Hafkin, former chief of research at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), wrote, “Peg shaped the way I learned to deal with the world: how not to be stopped by conventional limits, how to think outside of the box.”

A group of students standing on campus holding a U.S. flag and a Lebanese flag.
“The cultural exchange I had had was so empowering that in some ways it positively changed my perception of some concepts in my home country!” – Samer Gharios, Lebanese Fulbrighter

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut along with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) prepared a video clip which featured Fulbright alumni from various generations. The video clip highlights the Fulbright legacy in Lebanon and the program impact over the alumni careers and communities. The video will aired on LBCI starting on September 1. LBCI is Lebanon’s top television channel reaching around 60% of the Lebanese population. Watch the video below, or click here to view it on YouTube.

Ambassador Dorothy C. Shea also wrote a letter to Lebanese Fulbright alumni to congratulate them on their accomplishments. The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Fulbright Alumni: 

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the prestigious Fulbright Program.  The Fulbright Program was established in 1946, and each year it provides awards to approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals worldwide.  In commemoration of this milestone, we selected September 1 to highlight the many and amazing Fulbright alumni from Lebanon—now more than 500 of you!   

I want you to know that we are thinking of you, and that we are so proud of everything you have accomplished.  On behalf of my team here at the U.S. Embassy, my colleagues in the Department of State, and the American people, I send our sincere gratitude to each of you for being such exceptional ambassadors of Lebanon and such accomplished representatives of our Fulbright exchange programs.  We are constantly inspired by what you are doing to take care of each other and those around you—both in your communities and throughout Lebanon—during this time of challenges and adversity.  The United States stands by you and the people of Lebanon.  Whether through support for educational opportunities or provision of much-needed humanitarian assistance, we, like you, are living the motto of “in this together.” 

We recently produced a special TV commercial that features your voices and your photos in an homage to the flagship Fulbright Program and this special anniversary.  I hope that you will watch it with pride and fond memories of your program, your experiences, and your connection to the United States.  There is much work to be done, but I am confident that our collaboration and partnerships, through Fulbright and beyond, will lead us to solutions and successes.   

I wish you a happy Fulbright 75th anniversary.  Until we meet in-person, stay safe, stay strong, and keep up the amazing work. 


Dorothy C. Shea 

While the world is full of beautiful places, only the most unique and spectacular earn the distinction of being named a national park. These parks have served as a source of inspiration, wonder, and research for Fulbrighters over the past 75 years. The national parks of the United States have been popular destinations for Fulbrighters to explore and work for decades. Fulbright has helped foster cultural and scholarly exchanges between the National Park Service (NPS) and national parks around the world, in an effort to ensure that the world’s natural heritage is protected. 

Fulbright’s close relationship with the NPS was strengthened this year with the announcement of the Fulbright-National Parks Partnership. The Fulbright Program and the NPS pledged to combine efforts, resources, and ideas to increase environmental and cultural awareness around the world through Fulbright exchanges.

As we celebrate the 105th anniversary of the National Park Service, we invite you to take a tour of the different parks Fulbrighters have visited or worked in, from the volcanic landscapes of Haleakalā in Hawaii, to Acadia, the crown jewel of Maine’s Atlantic coast.

If you have trouble viewing the StoryMap below, please click here for the full-sized version, which will open in a new tab on your browser.

Fulbright Day Ecuador Promotional Graphic

Fulbright Impact on Higher Education
Virtual Panel: Perspectives and experiences generated by Fulbrighters in the academy

August 26th, 2021
5:30-6:30 GMT-5 (6:30-7:30 EDT)

The Fulbright Commission of Ecuador was established on October 31, 1956, through a binational agreement between the governments of the United States of America and Ecuador to promote mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchange programs. Since the beginning 65 years ago, more than 2,000 Ecuadorian citizens and 900 U.S. citizens have been selected as Fulbrighters.

In worldwide celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 75th anniversary, on August 26th, Fulbright Ecuador will host a virtual live panel: “The Impact of Fulbrighters on Higher Education in Ecuador.” The event will facilitate a conversation that engages our trailblazing Fulbrighters to share their perspectives and the experiences that transformed them and their work in academia.

Facebook Live Event
Join us at: https://fb.me/e/1AQQfpDcI
Language: Spanish

5:30 PM Institutional Video “Fulbright Ecuador Celebrates”.
5:45 PM Opening Remarks by Veronica Reed, Board Member, Fulbright Commission Ecuador
5:50 PM Alumni Panel: “Fulbright Impact on Higher Education”
6:25 PM Closing Remarks: Sandra Gross, Fulbright Ecuador Executive Director

The Fulbright experience has been life-changing for me. .. Fulbright changed my life. It opened my eyes .. It opened my heart and it opened my perception.

Pedro Castillo García, 2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia

On August 3, 2021, the Fulbright Program, in collaboration with National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), hosted Rights and Representation: Alumni with Disabilities Reflect on Fulbright’s Global Impact. The panel discussion took place during the NCDE Joining Hands Symposium, and included four Fulbright alumni: Pedro Castillo García (2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia), Inocencio Zandamela (2013 Fulbright Foreign Student from Mozambique), Adriana Pulido (2011 Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia), and Uyanga Erdenbold (2007 Fulbright Foreign Student from Mongolia).

I used to be someone, I use canes and I use prosthesis as I was born with a condition without legs. I was the kind of person with a disability that when I saw another person with a prosthesis or a wheelchair, I would change the lane. I made my life’s endeavor to be disassociated with my disability. Most of my friends did not know I used prosthesis. I did not want people to know. I thought it would make me less of an artist. I thought it would make me less of what I am. The [2015 U.S. Disability Rights Fulbright Seminar] opened my eyes.

Pedro Castillo García, 2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia

Moderated by Mobility International USA’s CEO and co-founder, Susan Sygall, the event highlighted the work and achievements of the alumni.  The alumni reflected on the continued impact that their Fulbright experiences in the United States had on shaping their perspectives disability rights advocacy, and how they contribute in their home countries.

My experience from the Fulbright Program really gave me the skills and the knowledge to understand different communities and how they are working with their students and bring that kind of knowledge here to Mozambique and improve our deaf literacy here as well. To help them understand deaf rights and be fully part of the society.

Inocencio Zandamela, 2013 Fulbright Student from Mozambique

The Fulbright alumni discussed their Fulbright experience in the United States was influential in their work on disability issues, as well as in their post-Fulbright work to advance disability rights in their home countries. Attendees discovered how necessary disability advocacy is to ensure access and inclusion in all environments. The event concluded with a live Q&A with the audience members where Fulbright alumni elaborated on their experiences including their thoughts on disclosing their disability status as well as their continued work to promote access.

what Fulbright did for me was basically Fulbright freed me in the intellectual and the physical sense. .. In addition to a lot of life-changing things, one thing that happened to me was in America, I owned a key to my apartment for the first time. That is because before coming to America, I had never traveled on my own. I did not have independent mobility. I often traveled with a sibling, classmates or friend. Only in America I was given an opportunity to have the mobility training. I was able to come and go on my own.

Uyanga Erdenbold, 2007 Fulbright Student from Mongolia

Meet the Panel

Pedro Castillo García (2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia) – Pedro Castillo García is a writer and musician from Bogotá, Colombia. After completing his undergraduate studies, earning a bachelor’s degree in Literature, Pedro’s first job was as a high school English teacher in one of Bogotá’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, through “Enseña por Colombia” (organization of the Teach for All/Teach for America global network). In the evenings, Pedro channeled his creativity into writing poetry, plays and songs.

In 2014, after a suggestion from a friend, Pedro applied for and received a Fulbright Foreign Student Program grant to attend Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, where he pursued an M.F.A. program in Writing for the Screen & Stage. There, he had the chance to study the craft of play and screenwriting, as well as the history of musicals, under masterful instructors. Upon graduation in 2016, Pedro stayed for a year to teach and to work in the theatres of Chicag, assisting in great productions at the prestigious Goodman and Victory Gardens theatres; the latter in fact, did a small production of Pedro’s musical “Dorian” (a jazz adaptation of Wilde’s celebrated novel). After a year in OPT (Optional Practical Training), Pedro returned to his native Colombia with a universe of knowledge and experience ready to share and put to service.

Pedro’s first visit to the United States was at a young age to receive his first prosthesis, having been born without legs. He traveled there with his mother, Maria Luz García, whom Pedro cites as an important influence on his development as a young person with a disability exploring new passions in teaching, theatre and music.

Inocencio Zandamela (2013 Fulbright Student from Mozambique) – Inocencio Joao Raul Zandamela is from Maputo, Mozambique, a country on the eastern bank of Southern Africa. He describes himself as a Deaf person who is dedicated to developing the cultural identity and improving the quality of education for Mozambique’s deaf children and youth. His methods focus on teaching, capacity-building, psychology, counseling, sign language acquisition, and more.

Inocencio became a deaf person early in his childhood and attended mainstream schools throughout his life. As a deaf learner in these schools, Inocencio struggled due to the lack of access to accommodations such as sign language interpreters. Despite these environmental barriers, Inocencio completed his high school studies in Mozambique and went on to attend the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa to pursue his undergraduate degree. Upon graduation, Inocencio qualified as a teacher and officially started working in his dream profession in 2008, serving the deaf community and schools. There, he counseled students and guided them in their psychological development. To advance in his profession, Inocencio received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue graduate-level studies in psychology in the United States. From 2013-2015, Inocencio attended the College of St. Rose in New York, where he earned his Master’s in Education, specializing in Educational Psychology.

In the education field over 12 years, Mr. Zandamela has had teaching experiences in five different schools for the deaf in South Africa and worked as a teacher for three special schools for the deaf in Mozambique. With his expertise in Sign Language, he has been assistant researcher for the African Studies Center at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique where he authored a Mozambique Sign Language Dictionary. He also has been a Sign Language trainer for many education institutions both public and private on appointed by Mozambique’s Department of Education and has presented during many conferences, workshops and seminars.

Apart from education, Mr. Zandamela has been actively involved as a leader for many organizations such as the International Students Societies at Wits University, National Association of the Deaf’s board and the Association Educating the Deaf of Mozambique, etc.

As a member of the Deaf community, Inocencio enjoys sharing a common cultural identity. Inocencio is married to a Deaf woman named Suzete Zandamela, with whom he has five children who are hearing and bicultural sign language users. As a follow-up dream, Mr. Zandamela is eager to engage in research about linguistic and deaf culture by getting a scholarship to fulfill a doctoral degree, conducting research and coursework at a prestigious university in his home country or abroad.

Adriana Pulido (2011 Foreign Fulbright Student from Colombia) – Throughout her career development, in her home of Bogotá, Colombia and abroad, Adriana Pulido Camargo has been strongly committed to the full inclusion of people with disabilities, both as an activist and as part of the public, private and the international cooperation sectors. While working for the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, she was able to lead a Pioneer initiative in the world to promote the inclusion of individuals with visual impairment around the country through the use and adoption of technologies. Currently, she works as the disability Inclusion Advisor for the International Committee of the Red Cross, where she has the opportunity to foster the inclusion of individuals with disabilities who have been affected by the armed conflict and urban violence.

In 2011, Adriana received a Fulbright grant to pursue a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Florida, the first Colombian with a disability to win this scholarship. After winning the Fulbright Scholarship, she defeated her fears as a blind woman and made the decision to travel alone for the first time. While doing her Master’s, she was able to expand her academic and cultural knowledge, as well as to share one of her greatest passions with her friends: playing music.

Adriana has also played an important role as an activist regarding the rights of visually impaired people. She belongs to the National Network of Women with Visual Impairment, a group that gathers women coming from different regions who are blind and low-vision. The purpose of this Network is to promote women’s empowerment, social and political participation.

Undoubtedly, the Fulbright scholarship has had a strong impact in Adriana’s life, both personally and professionally. She could widen her world view and build a network of friends, as well as acquire enough tools and skills to promote inclusion projects in her country. She is convinced that, thanks to the scholarship, she has been able to create a trust and credibility environment around her in every place she has worked as a project leader or inclusion advisor. She has shown that the Fulbright scholarship for people with disability is worthy, and that those with disabilities add value to the initiatives they are involved in, which in turn contributes to a more inclusive society for all.

Most recently, Adriana was named the Winner of the Fulbright Excellence Award in 2021. Name:

Uyanga Erdenbold (2007 Fulbright Student from Mongolia) – Uyanga was born and raised in Mongolia. Through marriage, she has immigrated to the U.S. she is also mother to a mixed-race son. She values her intercultural experiences and works to promote meaningful diversity, one not solely based on external attributes, but more on our shared human experiences, respect, and dignity, so that she can contribute to leaving her son a world in which everybody matters.

Uyanga Erdenebold is a public relations and diplomacy professional with over-nine-years-of experience working for the U.S. Department of State and in non-profit NGOs. Working in charge of educational exchange and scholarship programs such as Fulbright fellowship at the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, Uyanga standardized scholarship selection process, enhanced selection transparency, and launched successful outreach programs to rural, and other disadvantaged, audiences to diversify the applicant pool. Through this program, she and her guide dog Gladys have traveled to all of the 21 provinces of Mongolia and had direct conversations with thousands of rural youth, educators, entrepreneurs, and professionals. This program, now standardized and held annually, has recently been recognized as the top best-practice for the U.S. State Department’s Education USA initiatives worldwide. She also served as the U.S. Embassy’s main point of contact for over a thousand alumni of various U.S. Government-exchange programs, and directed and supported numerous alumni-led social projects. She also served as an advisor and manager for the board of directors of the Mongolian Association of State Alumni (MASA), an active and dynamic association that she helped to build.

Uyanga is the first blind Mongolian to receive the Fulbright scholarship, and completed her graduate studies in Library and Information Science at the Louisiana State University (LSU). She conducted professional internships at the Library of Congress and at the Maryland State Library. Most recently, Uyanga worked as the Program Manager for the Tomodachi MetLife Women’s Leadership Program at the U.S. Japan Council in Tokyo Japan (until July 2020). She currently serves as an executive board member for the Council on Diversity and Inclusion at the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

An avid dog lover, Uyanga is one of the founding board members of Lucky Paws, the first animal rescue/advocacy group in Mongolia. Uyanga’s first guide dog Gladys went on to become the first ever guide dog to live and work in Mongolia.

Watch Uyanga’s TED talk on “Understanding and acceptance in a challenging world”


Susan Sygall (CEO and Co-Founder, Mobility International USA) – As CEO and co-founder of Mobility International USA, Susan is an internationally recognized expert in the area of international educational exchange, international development, and leadership programs for persons with disabilities, and especially women with disabilities. Susan, a wheelchair rider, has had a personal and professional commitment to disability rights and women’s issues for more than 30 years. She has co-authored numerous publications and has lectured throughout the world on a variety of topics related to inclusive development, international exchange opportunities for persons with disabilities, women’s empowerment, and disability rights.

Susan has received numerous awards for her passionate advocacy for disability rights. In 2013, she became an Ashoka Senior Fellow and received recognition of her work in 2011 by being awarded the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance Matusak Courageous Leadership Award and receiving an honorary doctorate from Chapman University and the University of Portland. In 2000, she received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. In 1995, Sygall received the President’s Award from President Bill Clinton for her dynamic leadership in international exchange programs for people with disabilities, for her mentorship of young people with disabilities, and for her active role throughout our country and the world in empowering people with disabilities. Sygall has also been honored with the Rotary Scholar Alumni Achievement Award. She was also awarded a Graduate Rotary Scholarship and the Kellogg National Fellowship.

On August 6, Latvia celebrated Fulbright Day with a social media campaign that highlighted three prominent and impactful alumni. Inese Voika, a Latvian Member of Parliament who studied at Harvard, discussed her experience in the U.S. and its impact on her public service career. The campaign also featured Gatis Šmits, who studied film at NYU, and Dr. Jānis Stāvusis, a genetics scientist who studied at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The campaign shows how important the enduring people-to-people ties are to the U.S.-Latvia relationship.

Follow their social media accounts to view the campaign: