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The Future is International: Fulbrighters Reimagine Education

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants celebrating International Education Week at the University of Arkansas, 2017.

For 75 years, the Fulbright Program has demonstrated that by living and learning together with people of different cultures we can shape a more positive vision for our communities and our world. 

Over the next 75 years, what will education and learning look like around the world? Fulbright educators, academic administrators, and international exchange specialists weigh in on the current state of international education, and imagine new ways to live and learn together.

Fulbright international educators and administrators, including (from upper left, clockwise) Dr. Adria Baker, Dr. Donathan Brown, Dr. John M. Dunn, Dr. Olga Selezeneva, Mr. Charles Sasaki, and Dr. Adelina Silva, reflect on the future of education and Fulbright.

Education must be accessible.

To promote progress and advancement, all people must be able to access high-quality education, regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. 

The idea that everyone wants access to learning…All of the potential of a human life to learn, that’s what I learned. That it is everywhere, it’s global and it does not deviate from family to family and that’s a real world effort that I think we need to focus on.

Dr. Adelina Silva, Vice Chancellor for Student Success at the Alamo Community College District

We are making progress in the States, I think, in saying more and more students need to be experiencing the world, outside of the United States. But remember that those students from really poor backgrounds, some might say ‘underrepresented communities,’ not only do they have the expense of trying to navigate to another place in the world, but they’re losing income because they don’t have a job, they don’t have money, they don’t have anything coming in. So in our universities, we need to do much, much more to make sure that we have resources in place and financial commitment to help students experience what so many of us have experienced.

Dr. John Dunn, former Interim Chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and president emeritus of Western Michigan University

Education must be inclusive.

Classrooms and learning environments must be available and accessible to all and they must represent and respect all backgrounds and identities. At host institutions, public schools, and upon return to campus, Fulbrighters learn, understand, and celebrate inclusive education and pedagogy.

Thinking about how my presence as a person of color abroad also helps to educate people in other countries about what the United States really is […] I think for scholars of color and others who are representing other diversity, you know, “groups of diversity,” walking into the room as a representative of the nation really does contribute to a duller and much richer and deeper understanding. And as a [public] diplomacy program these are really absolutely essential.

Mr. Charles Sasaki, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Windward Community College in Hawaii
Isabella Braga (top right), 2020 Fulbright U.S. Student to South Korea, connects with her English students via Zoom during the pandemic.

Technology can improve learning, but all must have access.

Technology can improve learning in many ways by connecting learners to people in different communities and geographic areas. If all have access to technology, innovative educational materials, tools, and methods can lead to improved educational outcomes and expand education to remote locations and underserved communities. 

Learn more about the future of digital education from expert Fulbright teachers.

Now, in contrast to 30 years ago, we do have platforms that allow us to make the interactions we’re making today, via Zoom. And so, it’s not the same, but at least we can make eye contact, we can see people, we can exchange ideas, we can exchange views.

Dr. John Dunn, former Interim Chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and President Emeritus of Western Michigan University

Education must be responsive and adaptive.

Responsive, adaptive educational systems and institutions are necessary to protect student growth, defend against natural disasters and disease, and prepare for other global challenges.

The ‘5 Rs’ to handle challenges, whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or other large-scale events:

1. Reflect
2. React
3. Restructure
4. Review
5. Refine

Dr. Adria Baker, Associate Vice Provost for International Education and the Executive Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars at Rice University

Education must be international.

Education cannot fully inform without international understanding and cooperation. The Fulbright Program has provided students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds the opportunity to study, teach, exchange ideas, and find solutions to complex local and global challenges. From these experiences, Fulbrighters internationalize their classroom and educational communities – as well as their civic and social communities –  preparing students for the future.

I just keep re-emphasizing for our students, our community college students, to visualize themselves in the midst of a world, not in the midst of a particular geographical region where they happened to be born and perhaps where they live.

Dr. Adelina Silva, Vice Chancellor for Student Success at the Alamo Community College District

I have always believed that an international educator is a kind of person…who is extremely diplomatic, extremely open-minded, very flexible, very creative, and, of course, hard working.

Dr. Olga Selezeneva, Deputy Head of the International Cooperation Office at the Higher School of Economics at the National Research University in Moscow, Russia

When you serve as a host institution or you find yourself as a Fulbright[er] to a different institution who is hosting you, there is a mutual benefit that I understood quite quickly and quite clearly and something I thoroughly appreciated. And in many ways it moves beyond just language, food, and customs.

Dr. Donathan Brown, Assistant Provost and AVP for Faculty Diversity and Recruitment and an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology

A Uniting Force for the Future

Education is a uniting force with the potential to positively transform communities. By learning from other educational systems and cultures, we can build a more just and inclusive future. 

As we reflect on the impact and future of international education, we commit to fostering mutual understanding through the Fulbright Program for at least another 75 years.

To learn more insights on the future of international education, we invite you to view “Fulbright Impact in the Field: Reimagining International Education in a Post-Pandemic World.