An Extraordinary Return on the Fulbright Investment

Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg
1971 Fulbright Foreign Student from Venezuela

Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg presents Luis Almagro (right) of the Organization of American States (OAS) with the 2018 Global Leadership Award on behalf of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA). Hilda wears a light gray blazer and light blue silk scarf and round glasses and holds a light blue bag and a set of thin books in both hands. Luis wears a black suit with an aqua tie, holding a trophy.

 Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg presents Luis Almagro (right) of the Organization of American States (OAS) with the 2018 Global Leadership Award on behalf of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA).

Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg knows about returns on investment, having served as the chief investment officer for the World Bank for 12 years and as the founder and chairwoman of Strategic Investment Group. When she says, “I cannot think of a better return on investment” for the opportunity Fulbright provided, she speaks from experience. 

After earning her bachelor’s degree in economics and working as the treasurer of a public utility company in Caracas, Venezuela, Ochoa-Brillembourg dreamed of coming to the United States to deepen her knowledge of finance. Although she was accepted at Harvard University, she saw that dream slipping away due to the cost of tuition and travel. As she recounted years later in her acceptance speech for the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award, she had given up hope when there was an “angel moment”- a woman who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Karla Fisher, helped her apply for a Fulbright. “I was running out of options and hope,” Ochoa-Brillembourg says. “It brings tears to my eyes, because when I couldn’t find scholarships in my own country to go to Harvard, America paid for me to study.”

As a Fulbright Foreign Student from Venezuela, she completed a master’s in public administration from Harvard University in 1972 and pursued doctoral studies in finance from 1972 to 1976 at the Harvard Business School.

Ochoa-Brillembourg emphasizes, “I cannot think of any money better spent than allowing worthy individuals to go abroad, either U.S. citizens […] to go overseas, or overseas students to come [to the United States]… and have that cultural exchange at the highest level of intelligence and knowledge and ambition – intellectual and personal ambition –and the impact that has on the well-being of the world.”

Ochoa-Brillembourg explained this return on investment in financial terms, describing how the company she founded after returning to the United States later in her career had contributed over $3 billion in its first 30 years, benefiting employees and shareholders through several billion dollars in salaries, capital gains, and dividends, as well as more than a billion dollars in state and federal taxes, while also employing 400 people. “That is a huge return on investment for [what] Fulbright spent on me,” she concluded.

 Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg discusses the role of educational exchange in regional advancement at a panel hosted by the U.S. Department of State in 2013. She wears eyeglasses and is mid-sentence, speaking into a mic.
 Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg discusses the role of educational exchange in regional advancement at a panel hosted by the U.S. Department of State in 2013.

Inspired by her Fulbright experience, she advised the Venezuelan Government to create an extensive scholarship program for Venezuelans to study abroad, which became the Fundación Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho in 1974, financing more than 100,000 Venezuelan students abroad.

After returning to Venezuela and giving back to her home country, Ochoa-Brillembourg moved to the United States to work with the World Bank. In 2016, she reflected further on the impact of her Fulbright experience when she took part in the Family of Voices project located at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, featuring contemporary Americans whose global origins and connections influence how they make their life, career, and community in the United States. She says, “It was the most generous, enlightened, miraculous act of generosity a country would have.”

“I am immensely grateful that this country gave me the opportunity to become a successful entrepreneur. As a businesswoman, I am both American and Venezuelan. I have Venezuelan human values of openness and inclusiveness, Venezuelan hopes, and a Venezuelan sense of possibility. But, I’m very American in my sense of ethical values, the power of education, meritocracy, my sense of responsibility, and self-reliance.”

Furthering the return on Fulbright’s investment, Ochoa-Brillembourg gave back to the Program as the director of the Fulbright Association from 2007 to 2011 and has also shared her talents as a director of many arts organizations and corporations. She was founding chair of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas and chair of the Executive Committee of the Washington Opera. She has also served on the boards of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, the McGraw Hill Companies, General Mills, Inc., the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Credit Union, the Harvard Management Company, US Air, Cementos Pacasmayo, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, and the World Bank/International Finance Corporation Asset Management Company.

“The United States to me has always been an extraordinary place.” Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg says she is “deeply invested in this miraculous place where everything is possible, where there is a meritocracy, where there is every opportunity for a woman or a man of any extraction to make a difference.” 

Innovating Through Inclusion: Building Technological Solutions for a Global World

Sophie V. Vandebroek, PhD
Technology Executive and Electrical Engineer
1986 Fulbright Foreign Student from Belgium

Sophie Vandebroek speaking on a panel with a headset mic. Another woman sits in front of her, to the side, blurred since the focus is on Sophie.

Sophie V. Vandebroek (left center), as the first visiting scholar for the MIT School of Engineering, focused on engaging engineering students and peers in the school’s outreach and diversity activities.

Dr. Sophie V. Vandebroek has driven innovation and growth at some of the world’s most important technology companies. As a Fulbright Foreign Student from Belgium, she received her PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1990. In the years since, Vandebroek has worked in leadership roles at multinational companies including IBM, Xerox, and IDEXX Laboratories, and holds 14 United States patents. Throughout her impressive career, she has always emphasized the benefits of working with diverse and entrepreneurial colleagues from around the world.

Vandebroek’s international experience, especially her Fulbright, has been pivotal to her success. She served as Chief Operating Officer at IBM from 2017 to 2019, where she led strategy and operations across IBM’s 13 global laboratories. These laboratories employed 3,000 researchers working to create technology to transform society, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and quantum computing. 

Before her leadership role at IBM, Vandebroek had an extensive career at Xerox serving as Chief Engineer, Chief Technology Officer, and Corporate Vice President for more than 25 years. At Xerox, she worked with centers in Canada, Europe, India, and the United States—always remembering the value of cross-cultural collaboration to advance research in AI and automation in transportation, healthcare, customer care, education, and other industries.

A large gathering of people holding drinks and smiling at the camera, with Sophie Vandebroek in the center raising a glass of champagne.
Sophie V. Vandebroek (center) celebrates the research and talents of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab with her colleagues.

Vandebroek used her professional experience to drive innovation at a center of American ingenuity: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2017, she helped found the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, dedicated to “pushing the frontiers of artificial intelligence and translating breakthroughs into real-world impact.” The Lab’s research portfolio of more than 80 projects emphasizes data-driven approaches to understanding language and the visual world. She furthered her connection with MIT as the inaugural School of Engineering Visiting Scholar in 2019, where she mentored entrepreneurs and encouraged diversity and inclusion—no doubt influenced by her time as a Fulbrighter at Cornell.

Throughout her career, Vandebroek has made the well-being of her professional communities a priority. She has advocated for greater work-life balance in tech, and helped to recruit, mentor, and champion Xerox employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ and people of color. For her efforts, she has been recognized by the Xerox Women’s Alliance, the non-profit organization Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and received the Inaugural Lifetime Diversity Leadership Award from Xerox in 2016.

Vandebroek has also advanced global collaboration through her founding of Strategic Vision Ventures, where she shares her expertise in working with transnational clients. She continues to serve on multiple boards across the world, including in the United States, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Dr. Sophie V. Vandebroek reflects on her motivation: “I was always striving to be part of a brilliant community of people I could learn from.” Learning and growing through Fulbright, driving innovation, and championing employees, it’s clear she has done just that.

Advancing Justice in the Digital World

Joy Buolamwini
Computer Scientist & Digital Innovator
2012 Fulbright U.S. Student to Zambia

Joy Buolamwini in pink eyeglasses, a tweed blazer, and a a colorful scarf holding a white theater mask and standing in front of a whiteboard covered in phrases related to implicit bias and healthcare

With seemingly inexhaustible energy and a reservoir of brilliant ideas, Joy Buolamwini is a leader and innovator making the world a more equitable place. A graduate researcher at MIT, Buolamwini leads projects that span the globe. She empowers young people to create technologies that serve their communities, encourages women to enter STEM fields, and uncovers inherent biases in the algorithms that shape our lives.

 Joy Buolamwini wearing a red shirt, black blazer, and white wraparound headband giving her TED Talk on algorithmic bias. Photo Credit: TED Talk.
 Joy Buolamwini giving her TED Talk on algorithmic bias. Photo Credit: TED Talk.

After graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Buolamwini committed herself to addressing the world’s problems through technology. As a college student, she noted, “I had set in my mind that I wanted to make an impact in African nations through mobile technology, but I wasn’t sure how.” The Fulbright Program provided the launching pad, and Buolamwini’s natural leadership abilities turned a dream into a reality. Through her 2012 Fulbright U.S. Student award to Zambia, she launched Zamrize, an initiative providing Zambian youth with the expertise to create technology through lab-based experiences. The African continent was a natural location for Buolamwini’s first foray into technology education: born in Canada to Ghanaian parents, Buolamwini spent her early childhood in Ghana before emigrating to the United States when her father, a scientist, accepted a position at the University of Mississippi. 

Building on the success of Zamrize, in 2014 Buolamwini launched Code4Rights, which promotes women’s rights and learning through technology education. As a Rhodes Scholar, she piloted the very first Rhodes Service Year after completing a master’s of science in education at the University of Oxford. Her year of service allowed her to build her Fulbright project into something with global reach. 

For her leadership as a STEM education advocate, Buolamwini received one of two grand prizes in 2016 in the national “Search for Hidden Figures Contest,” which identified the next generation of women leaders in STEM. On her encouragement of women pursuing STEM fields, Buolamwini says, “I think for anybody to thrive, you need to let people know that their story matters, and that who they are matters, and they have the ability to be what they choose to be. It’s easiest for people to believe that when they have role models.”

Joy Buowamlini sitting on a red chair with a red top and dark gray blazer holding a cardboard shield with the letters "AJL" and a smiley face with closed eyes in one hand and a white theater mask in the other.
 Joy Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League. Photo Credit: Algorithmic Justice League.

As a master’s degree student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League, an organization that seeks to create a world with more ethical and inclusive technology. The organization builds on her 2017 master’s thesis at MIT, which uncovered large racial and gender biases in artificial intelligence (AI) services offered by companies including Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. Buolamwini continues this work as a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab, where she researches algorithmic bias in computer vision systems.

Buolamwini has also championed algorithmic justice on the international stage at the World Economic Forum and the United Nations General Assembly. She serves on the Global Tech Panel, convened by the Vice President of the European Commission, advising world leaders and technology executives on reducing AI inequity. In partnership with The Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, she launched the Safe Face Pledge, a first-of-its-kind agreement prohibiting the misuse of facial analysis and recognition technology by law enforcement and governments. 

For her innovative research, Buolamwini has been named to the Bloomberg 50MIT Technology Review “2018 Innovator Under 35,” BBC “100 Women 2018″Forbes “Top 50 Women in Tech,” and Forbes “30 under 30.” Fortune Magazine named her one of the world’s greatest leaders in 2019, describing her as “the conscience of the A.I. revolution.” Her featured TED Talk on algorithmic bias has nearly 1.5 million views, and she is featured in Coded Bias, a documentary now streaming on Netflix. Her spoken word visual audit “AI, Ain’t I A Woman?” powerfully combines art and intellect to demonstrate the failings of AI as it misidentifies the faces of iconic women.  

Working tirelessly for a more equitable world as a Fulbrighter in Zambia and on the international stage, Buolamwini has seized the moment to make a positive impact as a leader and innovator in the technology industry.

International Collaboration and the Intersection of Creativity, Inclusion and Empathy

Albert Manero, PhD
Engineer and Technology Executive
2014 Fulbright U.S. Student to Germany

Albert Manero holding up a prosthetic arm in one hand while he raises his other hand to compare

Albert Manero was a graduate student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) when he heard a radio interview that would change his life. It was a discussion with Ivan Owen, who was talking about his work developing 3D-printed mechanical hands and about the prohibitive cost of prosthetics, especially for children who are still growing. When a prosthetic limb costs upward of $40,000, it’s not feasible for many families to buy them at the rate kids might need new ones. “After hearing that radio interview, it was hard not to be moved,” Manero explained to the Orlando Economic Partnership. “A group of classmates and I quickly got together to brainstorm ways we could support the growing efforts and add our own spin on creating a similar tool of empowerment and, from there, we never really looked back.”

Eight years later, Manero holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD from the University of Central Florida College of Engineering and Computer Sciences and completed a Fulbright Student award to Germany in 2014, as well as a graduate fellowship from the National Academy of Engineering in 2017. He is also the President, CEO, and co-founder of Limbitless Solutions, a non-profit organization that creates and donates bionic arms to children with limb differences. Manero’s goal is not just to make prosthetics affordable, although Limbitless does provide the arms at no cost to families, but also to provide kids with a way to express themselves, allowing each recipient to tailor the look of their prosthetic limb through customizable design and color selections. When asked about Manero’s impact on children and bionics, the German-American Fulbright Commission staff expressed that “his visionary work as co-founder and Executive Director of Limbitless Solutions to develop innovative bionic solutions for children in need is a marvellous example of the impact of the Fulbright Program in society.”

Manero’s original goal was to be an aerospace engineer, and, after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Central Florida, he participated in his first international experience at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Köln as part of a 10-week exchange program. That collaboration produced cutting-edge research for jet engine blade protective coatings. Manero returned to the United States with a newly expanded worldview and pursued his master’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. After completing his degree in 2014, Manero was awarded a Fulbright to Germany, returning to the DLR only a few days after he’d produced his first bionic arm as part of a summer project.

Manero’s Fulbright research built on what he had learned through his first exchange experience and is a prime example of the enduring impact of a Fulbright grant. “The experience allowed me to learn new perspectives for globally minded research. The project extended past my time in Germany, with continued collaboration throughout my PhD program,” Manero wrote. “My PhD advisor, Dr. Seetha Raghavan, developed the collaboration and has continued it with research students conducting research in Germany each summer as part of a now NSF [National Science Foundation]- funded program. I’m grateful to see more research students have that transformative experience.”

Manero’s time as a Fulbrighter also provided him incredible opportunities for personal growth and new friendships and perspectives. He notes that the time he spent in Germany “led me to be interested in the role of science policy and engineering education, which encouraged me to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Academy of Engineering. Those experiences have been key points that I have taken into my professional career.”

Manero has remained engaged with the Fulbright program, writing a Fulbright Student Program blog post in 2015, in which he highlighted the essential nature of global collaboration. “In the laboratory, my research has never been more effective, as I embrace the benefits and challenges of global research. Our research team is developing new testing methods and experiments, to be put to use this summer at the synchrotron facility. My German colleagues have shared both their experience and their problem-solving methodology with me, helping me develop in many ways. It has been a privilege to learn their history and culture, and to share in it together. For STEM students considering applying for a Fulbright grant, such an international research experience is essential for the interconnected future.”

This global mindset is evident in the way Manero approaches his work at Limbitless. “When you find that intersection of creativity, inclusion and empathy, it will resonate with others in whatever field you’re in,” Manero advised in an interview with GrowFL, an organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of second-stage companies in Florida: “It’s very fulfilling to work together and to bring diverse perspectives together to make tomorrow brighter.”

Promotional image for Fulbright Day: Ukraine. Fulbright blue background and emboss-style graphic of a man playing the trombone. The opposite corner from the man playing the trombone has graffiti-esque colorful flowers. The 75th Fulbright logo is above the flowers. White text reads: Notes of Freedom: 75th Anniversary of Fulbright & 30 Years of Ukraine's Independence, October 7, 5:00 p.m., Shokoladnyi Budynok, 17/2 Shovkovychna Str.

On October 7, Fulbright Ukraine celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program with an in-person event featuring live jazz music and visual art. For those who cannot attend the in-person session, the concert will be recorded.

The invitation to the event is as follows:

Please join us in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of The Fulbright Program worldwide & 30 years of Ukraine’s Independence!

We cordially invite you to an evening of refreshments and new artistic works featuring America and Ukraine in dialogue composed specifically for this historic occasion:

  • live jazz music by Yakiv Tsvietinskyi Double Quartet,
  • visual art by Misha Tyutyunik and Oksana Chepelyk,
  • and cuisine by Marianna Dushar

When: October 7, 5:00 pm
Where: Shokoladnyi Budynok (17/2 Shovkovychna Str.)
RSVP: [email protected] by September 24.

Fulbright Program in Ukraine & Ukrainian Fulbright Circle

* For those who cannot attend: We will record the concert & have a professional photographer capture the event.  Tune into our social media pages afterward to enjoy this celebration!

Запрошуємо Вас на святковий вечір  “Ритми Свободи” з нагоди відзначення

75-ої річниці Програми імені Фулбрайта та 30-ї річниці Незалежності України.

У програмі вечора-діалогу української та американської культур

будуть представлені:

нові джазові композиції у виконанні Double Quartet Якова Цвєтінського,

художня виставка Міші Тютюника та Оксани Чепелик,

частування від Маріанни Душар.

Дата проведення: 7 жовтня о 17.00

Місце: Шоколадний будинок (вул.Шовковична 17/2)

Просимо підтвердити свою участь до 24 вересня за ел. поштою: [email protected].

Програма імені Фулбрайта в Україні

та асоціація випускників Українське Фулбрайтівське коло

Promotional graphic for Australia's Fulbright Day on October 22, with blue splotchy design and headshots of the panelists at the bottom

*Please note that this event will take place the evening (7 p.m.) of Thursday, October 21, for those residing in the Eastern Time zone (ET).

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, the Fulbright Commission in Australia hosted an online discussion panel featuring four pre-eminent Fulbright Scholars, and moderated by Emmy award-winning journalist and Fulbright Board member, Sara James.

“Old Programs, New Challenges: In a complex and changing world, what is the role of educational exchange?” generated discussion on some of the most critical issues facing democracy and international education over the next 75 years:

  • Regional Security
  • Propaganda and Disinformation
  • Partisanship and Division
  • Equity of Access in Higher Education
  • Social Impact Causes
  • Educational Exchange in a Post-COVID world

View the recording of the event below.

On Wednesday, September 29, the U.S. Embassy Nicosia marked the 75th Anniversary of the worldwide Fulbright Program with a reception at the Chateau Status restaurant inside the UN buffer zone. Prominent alumni from both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities attended, as well as representatives of various ministries, institutions of higher education, and others who make the continuation of the Fulbright Program possible.  Ambassador Judith Garber presented awards to two outstanding alumni who have been pivotal in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Cyprus, namely renowned biochemist Dr. Leondios Kostrikis (Cyprus America Scholarship Program grantee, NYU, 1987), and molecular biologist Ms. Eldem Albayrak (Cyprus America Scholarship Program grantee, University of North Texas, 2010). 

Since the program began in Cyprus in 1962, more than 700 Cypriots received graduate degrees through the Fulbright Program, while over 1,700 more received undergraduate degrees through the Cyprus America Scholarship Program (CASP) – a unique educational exchange program administered by the Fulbright Commission in Cyprus. An additional 760 American scholars have visited Cyprus for research, professional collaboration, English teaching assistance, and cultural exchanges. Embassy Cyprus has been highlighting its outstanding alumni throughout the year on its social media.

Promotional graphic for Fulbright Day: Cote d’Ivoire with the following text - Cote d’Ivoire celebrating 75 years of Fulbright. Remarks from the president of the national Fulbright association, panel discussions on Zoom, short video testimonials from alumni, tribute to the late senator Charles P. Gomis, first Fulbright participant 1964. Join us to learn more about what Fulbright is and what it does in Cote d’Ivoire on Facebook: @USAbidjan - Website:

In celebration of the worldwide Fulbright 75th anniversary, U.S. Embassy Abidjan will hosted discussions, conferences, and a workshop on “Ideation and Literature” at American Spaces throughout Côte d’Ivoire from September 22 to 28, 2021. On September 28, the official date for Fulbright Day: Côte d’Ivoire, the U.S. Mission highlighted the longstanding and constructive collaboration between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States of America via alumni video clips, Facebook, and Twitter postings.

Fulbright Day: Côte d’Ivoire Agenda

Theme#1: How to Acquire a Development Mindset for Success?
Lecturer: Dr. Hortense Dodo (Fulbright Scholar 2007-2008)
Date: Wednesday, September 22
Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm GMT
Venue: American Center (along with Zoom & Facebook Live)
Click here to register:

Theme#2: Ideation and Literature Workshop
Lecturer: Dr. Naminata Diabaté
Date: Thursday, September 23
Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm- GMT
Venue: American Center (along with Zoom & Facebook Live)
Click here to register:

Theme#3: The Fulbright Program and its Opportunities
Lecturer: Dr. Hilaire Kouadio (Fulbright F.S Alumnus 2010)
Date: Tuesday, September 28
Time: 2:00pm-3:15pm- GMT
Venue: Andrew Young Center (along with Facebook Live on

Theme#4: The Fulbright Program and American Diplomacy
Panelists: Dr. Remy Oussou (HHH Alumnus) & Prof. N’GUESSAN Kouadio Germain (Fulbright F.S Alumnus 2009-2010)
Date: Tuesday, September 28
Time: 10:00am-12:00pm-GMT
Venue: Aerican Space- University F.H.B (along with Facebook Live)
Meeting ID: 839 8466 1781 Passcode: asufhb

Theme#5: My Fulbright Experience
Panelist-1: Aka Assoumou (Fulbright F.S 2013-2015)
Panelist-2: Dr. Olivier Tienebo (Fulbright F.S)
Date: Tuesday, September 28
Time: 12:00pm-2:00pm-GMT
Venue: American Space Yamoussoukro (in-person only)

Theme#6: How to Apply for the Fulbright Program and What are its Benefits?
Panelist-1: Dr. Daouda Coulibaly (Fulbright F.S & Bouake American Space employee)
Panelist#2: Prof. Pierre Kramoko (SUSI Alumnus 2014)
Date: Tuesday, September 28
Time: 10:00am-12:00pm
Venue: American Space Bouake (in-person only)

Fulbright 75th Anniversary – Yamoussoukro
Date and time: Tuesday, September 28, 12:00 PM 
ID: 835 5137 5460
Secret Code: 001293

Photo of a group of students in masks standing in front of a wall; on the wall is a woman smiling from a video conference call.
German guest speaker, Jana Beerhorst, joined remotely but figured prominently in the classroom during her “Meet-a-German” session with high school students in Dallas County, Texas.

Fulbright Day: Germany brought together a wide range of people in both Germany and the U.S. on October 6, 2021 for a day of exchange and learning among peers, as well as across generational and societal groups. Throughout the entire day, nearly 11,000 middle and high school students at 218 different schools in 46 states across the U.S. met virtually with volunteer speakers sharing their experiences of living, studying and working in Germany during our “Meet-A-German” event. In addition, we hosted a small gathering of people (and many others via live-stream) who joined the hybrid panel discussion on “The Fulbright Network: Strengthening Collective Action on Complex Global Issues” held at the EUREF-Campus in Berlin that afternoon. We marked the 75 years during which the global Fulbright Program has been making an impact on the world with events representative of the unique Fulbright experience, yet looked ahead to how the Fulbright Program can adapt and do more to make its impact more sustainable, inclusive and accessible – all while remaining true to its mission.

Here you may view a video montage of US students “meeting a German!”
Link to MaG video

And here you may view the panel discussion in its entirety.
Link to panel discussion video