Tag Archives: Fulbright alumni

“Happiness and Tears,” a musical by Fulbrighter Judy Veramendi this May and June

OUR FULBRIGHT COLLEAGUE Judy Veramendi* invites you, your family, colleagues and friends to the Gorilla Tango Theater Production of her musical “Alegrías y lágrimas | Happiness and Tears.” True, heart-filled stories of Latino immigrants and refugees are intertwined with delightful songs and dances from their countries of origin.

Mostly in English, appropriate for 12 and above.

WHEN Sundays, May and June

TIME 6-7 PM

WHERE Gorilla Tango Theater, 1919 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Street parking available.

COST  $20 at the door, or via gorillatango.com

* There will be a live radio interview with Judy Veramendi on WNUR, 89.3 FM, Monday the 22nd at 8 a.m.

Get ready for the 2017 Spring Farewell with live music!


THE CHICAGO CHAPTER of the Fulbright Association  and the Institute of International Education (IIE) invite you, your family, colleagues, and friends to attend our 2017 Spring Farewell Reception and Music Performance.

WHEN Saturday, April 29, 2017

TIME  6:30-9:30pm

WHERE Alliance Française de Chicago, 810 North Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60610 (Please enter around the corner, at the Chicago Avenue entrance.)

This is the time to offer a fond farewell to the visiting Students and Scholars who will soon be returning to their home countries. The gathering provides an opportunity for Fulbright Association members of the Chicago Chapter to say “thank you” to our guests, and for visiting Fulbrighters and alumni to affirm friendships as well as academic, and professional connections which will last for many years.

In this opportunity we are combining the Spring Farewell Reception with recognition of  International Jazz Day, a UNESCO designated day honoring the tradition and world-wide cultural contribution of jazz music, with a live musical performance.

The program will feature the music of Roy McGrath and his group.

Light fare along with wine and soft drinks will be provided.

COST FREE for current visiting Fulbright Students and Scholars and members of the consular corps. | Guests, family members, Fulbright Association members and Fulbright Alumni is $20 per person.

RSVPs are required by Thursday April 27, 2917!  Please R.S.V.P. and pay by using the online form or click on the link below: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfMd9JSp0wMb6cY2swSQ-PZ17uyAm6G2CvhtRmPNt0rSSjv8A/viewform?usp=sf_link

You may pay via PayPal by clicking HERE or at the event using cash, or check.

 We are not able to take credit card payments at the event.

PARKING Street parking is available, as well as a parking garage at 671 N. Clark Street.

If you will be using public transportation, plan your trip with the CTA Trip Planner: www.transitchicago.com

QUESTIONS? Please email fulbrightchicago@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you at the event!

Cristina Sisson is the recipient of the 2016 Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award

By Teuta PejaSOME 100 GUESTS  gathered on Friday, January 27, 2017 at the elegant auditorium and reception space of the Alliance Française de Chicago, for the  the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association Winter Holiday reception and Dee Sarelas Award ceremony.

Among the attendees were  Fulbright alumni, current visiting Fulbright  scholars, Fulbright students, eight members of the Chapter’s Board of Directors, friends, and family. The event was co-sponsored by the  Institute of International Education (IIE).

Left to right, the organizing Holidays event and Dee Sarelas Committee: Kevin Spitta, Elio Leturia, Marilyn Sussman, 2016 Dee Sarelas awardee Cristina Sisson, Mary Mares-Awe, Teuta Peja, Meredith McNeal and Yasir Al-Ibrahem. Ron Harvey (not pictured) could not be present since he is teaching in Bulgaria.

Guests enjoyed socializing with each other, exchanging Fulbright experiences and intercultural discussions. The attendees represented some 40 countries from around the world.

Fulbright alumni and guests enjoyed a pleasant celebration with great food at the Alliance Française in Chicago.

Delicious appetizers, desserts and drinks were shared by all attendees.

The delicious buffet style food served at the Winter Reception included vegetarian options and complemented the festive atmosphere. A jazz trio of  musicians from Columbia College Chicago provided the entertainment for almost three hours.

A Columbia College Chicago jazz trio offered live music during the event.

A group of visiting Fulbright students commented on the pleasant space and  added that events like this create a wonderful opportunity to mingle, get to know other Fulbrighters and exchange advice about living and studying in Chicago.

The President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association, Mary Mares-Awe welcomed guests with a heartwarming speech highlighting the mission of  Fulbright to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States, and citizens of almost every nation on earth —through cultural, scientific, and educational exchange. She also thanked board members for volunteering their time and being dedicated to the Fulbright mission and its ideals.

The special part of the evening was the announcement of the winner of the prestigious biennial Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award. The award is given in recognition to a person who has worked diligently over the years to promote and carry out the Fulbright Mission.  This year’s recipient is Ana Cristina Sisson, a long-time, dedicated Chicago Chapter member.

Cristina Sisson delivers her acceptance speech as the 2016 Fulbright Dee Sarelas Service Award recipient.

Ana Cristina Sisson holds a bachelor’s degree as a double major in Spanish and English from Colby College in Maine, and a Master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. She was with Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Uruguay in 2006.

Cristina joined the Fulbright Association and the Chicago Chapter in 2008. Since joining the chapter, she has played a vital role in organizing many cultural and educational activities and events for thousands of Fulbrighters. She has also served in the position of Chapter treasurer until 2016.

In addition to her commitment to her young family and to the Fulbright Chapter, Cristina teaches Spanish at Hinsdale District One-Eighty-One. Prior to that, she taught Spanish at the Ogden International School of Chicago, and the Chase Elementary Magnet Cluster School in Chicago.

“In the spirit of service, Cristina has been an integral part of the board, serving in her portion in a totally volunteer status. Those who chose to do so, do it out or their dedication to the Fulbright mission.  Cristina so richly deserves this award…because she’s done a tremendous job and is truly an inspirational person.”       — Mary Mares-Awe, President, Fulbright Chicago

Fulbrighters from all over the world gathered at the Holidays event.

Traditionally, the previous award recipient presents the award to the new Dee Sarelas recipient, but this year it was different. The 2014 Dee Sarelas awardee, Ron Harvey, the Vice President of the Fulbright Chicago Chapter, was not present at the event because he is on a Fulbright research and teaching fellowship to Bulgaria.

The Holiday event and Dee Sarelas Award Ceremony was very-well attended. It has become the main Fulbright Chicago event of the year.

Current Fulbright students attending Columbia College Chicago. From left to right, Cyril Bassil (Lebanon,) Calisto Lemashon (Kenya,) Shreya Singh (India) and Melissa M. Jiménez (Trinidad and Tobago.)

But although Ron could not be present in person, he recorded a short video speech that was played at the ceremony.  In his speech, Ron emphasizing Cristina’s friendliness, her engagement with the Fulbright Chicago Chapter, and her enthusiasm to promoting the values of the intercultural exchange through educational activities.

“Cristina is great at bringing the people together; she would invite visiting Fulbright over for dinners with her family as well as other Fulbrighters and expose our way of doing things with the visiting Fulbrighters. Cristina has the belief that you do not have to be official to have an impact in people. I can’t think of a better person to receive the Dee Sarelas service award”Ron Harvey, Vice President, Fulbright Chicago

Fulbright Chicago president Mary Mares Awe talking to the Fulbright students, scholars and alumni.

Upon the acceptance of the award, Cristina remembered her Fulbright year in Uruguay working with the public-school teachers and her work with the Chicago Chapter board upon her return to the US.  In her inspirational speech, Cristina spoke of Fulbrighers sharing the will and excitement of working toward making a difference in the community.

2010 Dee Sarelas recipient and Fulbright Chicago board member Dr. Marilyn Susman and Fulbright student Teuta Peja welcomed the attendees.

She encouraged people to join the board and participate in Fulbright-focused activities.  She urged everyone to get involved in activities even though they may be out of their scope of work.  She also advised people not to let the fear of not knowing what the job entails, to get in the way of participating… “When there is a need, take a risk.” She said in referencing her own resolve to take up the position of treasurer, when there was a need for someone to step into the role.

Cristina wrapped up her speech by emphasizing the Fulbright mission and legacy.

“I wanted to leave you all with Senator Fulbright’s words, to inspire us to visit local schools, ask a professor to visit their child’s school and talk about the Fulbright program, the mission and your home country or where you traveled.  Don’t let the fear of being overwhelmed get in the way…”

Fulbrighters using social media and sharing photos.

After hearing the speeches, Manithda a visiting Fulbright student from Laos, said “The award ceremony made people get to know and appreciate people behind the scene more. I didn’t know who were the people behind the scene who did the good for people in the front until that award ceremony. This encourages me to want to help and voluntarily work with the Fulbright  organizing group.”

Baris Mesci, a Visiting Student Researcher from Turkey and his wife Tutku Mizrak Mesci.

The guests congratulated Cristina on her award and praised the organizers —the members of the board—  for putting up such an amazing event.

—Photos by Kevin Spitta and Elio Leturia

Fulbright Chicago Winter Reception at the Alliance Française

holiday-17-dee

By Mary Mares-Awe—THE CHICAGO CHAPTER of the Fulbright Association and the Institute of International Education (IIE) invite you, your family, colleagues and friends to attend our Winter Reception and the *Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award Ceremony.

This event will present a wonderful opportunity to mingle with fellow Fulbrighters, make new connections, and solidify friendships while spending the evening in Downtown Chicago.

DATE Friday, January 27, 2017
TIME  6:00p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
LOCATION  Alliance Française, 810 N Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60610    phone (312) 337-1070


COST FREE to current visiting Fulbright Students and Scholars, $20 for each accompanying adult family member and/or guests, Fulbright Alumni and Association Members.
RSVPs are required by January 25, 2917!  Please R.S.V.P. and pay by using the online form or click on the link below:
https://goo.gl/forms/Bro5Lo0RnSRiydWq1
DRESS CODE Business attire is required; no jeans, t-shirts or athletic shoes.
Email questions or cancellations to fulbrightchicago@gmail.com

*Aphrodite “Dee” Floros Sarelas was an early Fulbrighter to Greece. Dee was a Chicagoan dedicated to interacting with, and nurturing Fulbrighters in the Chicago area.
She was a person remembered for her wit, empathy, and vivacity in bringing people across cultures together. Her educational background and professional experiences in the field of Social Work prepared her well for contributions to our chapter and beyond – as an administrator for the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army Training College, as a liaison at White House conferences, as a special consultant to Voice of America, and as editor of Social Welfare in Underdeveloped Countries (United Nations publication). For the foregoing reasons, the Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award has been established in her memory.

We look forward to seeing you at this event!

Warm tango sounds in Chicago through Tita Lage’s voyage

By Mary Mares-Awe–ON WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 23, 2016 during a rainy  evening, members of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association, visiting Fulbright students, and other guests had the opportunity to attend a Tango inspired event at the Instituto Cervantes and listen to the warm sound of Tango music, and view a film showcasing the life of a centennial double immigrant.

Instituto Cervantes of Chicago Executive Director Antonio Martínez welcomed the audience.

Instituto Cervantes of Chicago Executive Director Antonio Martínez welcomed the audience.

The bilingual documentary entitled “Tita Turns 100” (Los 100 Años de Tita,) is produced and directed by Elio Leturia, who is a multimedia journalist and a member of the Chicago Chapter Board.

The biographical film that premiered at the Chicago Feminist Film Festival in March this year,  takes the audience on a journey of the life of Tita Lage, a lovely lady who was born in Spain in 1913, moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, at age 17 and finally relocated to the United States when she was 73 in 1986, bringing with her the love of tango music and dance along with her Spanish roots.

Tita became a naturalized US citizen the day she turned 102 years old.

"Por una Cabeza," "Uno," "Se Dice de Mí," were some of the tangos local singer Alba Guerra shared with the audience along with guitarist Juan Pablo Jones.

“Por una Cabeza,” “Uno,” “Se Dice de Mí,” were some of the tangos local singer Alba Guerra shared with the audience along with guitarist Juan Pablo Jones.

titapostcardFollowing the film screening, local singer and actress Alba Guerra, one of Tita’s daughters, sang beautiful, traditional Tango songs to the accompaniment of guitar musician Juan Ignacio Jones.

After the concert, guests were treated to a reception featuring Argentinian wine, and Peruvian empanadas and alfajores.

The Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association partnered with the Consulate of Peru and the Consulate of Argentina, in this cultural event organized by the Instituto Cervantes.

Deputy Consul of Perú Annie Saucedo, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association Mary Mares-Awe. Jane Florine, Elio Leturia, Deputy Consul of Argentina Marcelo Boffi, singer Alba Guerra and musician Juan Ignacio Jones surrounded by Fulbright scholars.

Deputy Consul of Perú Annie Saucedo, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association Mary Mares-Awe. Jane Florine, Elio Leturia, Deputy Consul of Argentina Marcelo Boffi, singer Alba Guerra and musician Juan Ignacio Jones surrounded by Fulbright scholars.

Elio Leturia is the Communications Director of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the recipient of the 2013 Fulbright Dee Sarelas Service Award. A native Peruvian, Leturia is an Associate Professor in Journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

Peruvian Deputy Consul Annie Saucedo, documentarian Elio Leturia and performer Alba Guerra.

Peruvian Deputy Consul Annie Saucedo, documentarian Elio Leturia and performer Alba Guerra.

Photos by Mary Mares-Awe and Todd Burbank

Book launch on Chile, 40 years after the coup, by Fulbrighter Kelly-Lowenstein

Ana Gonzalez, a feisty 87-year-old with bright red fingernails, survived many detentions and the disappearances of her husband, two of her sons, and a pregnant daughter-in-law during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime. Her home in Santiago is filled with images of her family and important personalities in the struggle for justice in Chile and the world. A tireless fighter for human rights during the dictatorship, she pays tribute to her murdered relatives by continuing to wage a joyful struggle for justice and against oblivion: “When you take this path of liberation…, you know that you can die at any moment. But those of us who remain are not going to allow that to happen because forgetting is death. Because of that, memory is essential.” Forty years after the coup, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present. The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship. History is also a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei. The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup. Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life. Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past. Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.

Ana González, then a feisty 87-year-old with bright red fingernails, survived many detentions and the disappearances of her husband, two of her sons, and a pregnant daughter-in-law during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime. Photo by Jon Lowenstein

THE CHICAGO CHAPTER of the Fulbright Association, in partnership with  Public Narrative and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, would like to invite you to an evening of dialogue about Chile, and where the country stands 40 years after the Pinochet coup, with author, researcher and Fulbrighter, Jeff Kelly-Lowenstein (South Africa ’95, Chile ’13, New Zealand ’15).

chilean_chroniclesKelly-Lowenstein currently teaches journalism at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He will discuss his recently published book, The Chilean Chronicles.  The work is a compilation of writing during Jeff’s 2013 semester at the University Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. The book reflects on the impact of the Pinochet regime on Chilean society, from a historical perspective, and on the country’s still-emerging democracy through recounting stories that would otherwise go untold.

WHERE  Columbia College Chicago, 33 E. Congress Parkway, Suite 610H

WHEN   Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TIME   6pm-8pm

COST   Free

RSVP Here!

Refreshments will be served.

Fulbright alumna from Afghanistan comes back to present at Loyola University

Identities in Transition: South Asian Womanhood and Girlhood Conference took place at Loyola University Chicago, October 28 and 29, 2016.

Identities in Transition: South Asian Womanhood and Girlhood Conference took place at Loyola University Chicago, October 28 and 29, 2016.

By Teuta PejaAFTER ONLY A FEW months of leaving Chicago “for good,” Fulbright alumna Shughla Hellali from Afghanistan returned to give a presentation at the South Asian Womanhood and Girlhood Conference (SAWG) at Loyola University Chicago (LUC), in October.

Shughla Hellali

Shughla Hellali

In this conference that addressed the topic of identities in transition with the aim to highlight the changing context of women and girls in South Asian society, Shughla discussed the rhetoric of epistemic violence against Afghan women caused by international media coverage and the limited understanding of the cultural and native context.

Shughla came to Chicago on a Fulbright Foreign Student grant in August 2014, to pursue an MA in Women’s and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. After the completion of the program, she returned to Kabul, where she is now working as the Gender Specialist with United Nation Development Program. Recently, she became the Vice President of the Fulbright Association in Afghanistan.

This is her second visit to the US since her returned to Kabul in December 2015.

In February of this year, she traveled to Washington DC to attend several meetings on peace and security in Afghanistan. She and her colleagues at the Afghan Fulbright for Peace organized the meetings with the USIP, US State Department and the Afghanistan’s Embassy.

During her recent visit to Chicago, Shughla was experiencing different emotions because as she says “she was back to her home-away-from-home.”

She added: “I will always be grateful to Fulbright Program for giving me the life-changing experience that helped me frame my goals and develop professionally and personally. Knowing the values of the Fulbright Program, I am very excited to be part of the Fulbright Association in Afghanistan and lead the association. Through my work at the association, I am eager to contribute to the promotion of the Fulbright values and mission in the country and abroad.”

In addition to presenting her paper at SAWG Conference, in Chicago, Shughla also presented her work on “Ms. Representation: Media Portrayals of Afghan Women and the Epistemic Violence of International Intervention” to Loyola University academic staff and students.

Teuta Peja is a current Fulbright student from Kosovo.