Tag Archives: Marilyn Susman

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

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Visiting Fulbright students attend 2014 International Women’s Day celebration

Left to right: Ronald Harvey, Ander Indart, Isaac Mejia, Flor Fernandez, Jenni Schneiderman, Meredith McNeil, Preema John, Patricia Powell, R. Schwarting

Left to right: Ronald Harvey, Ander Indart, Isaac Mejía, Flor Fernández, Jenni Schneiderman, Meredith McNeil, Preema John, Patricia Powell, R. Schwarting

By Meredith McNeilTHE UNION LEAGUE CLUB OF CHICAGO played host for the 13th Annual Chicago Women’s Day, Friday, March 7th. The Fulbright Association-Chicago Chapter not only was a partner organization for the event (organized by WorldChicago,) but five former Fulbrighters from the Chapter and five current visiting Fulbright students attended the International Fair and luncheon keynote speakers. The five visiting Fulbrighters attended free of charge through the generous contributions* from members of the Board, and co-sponsored through IIE.

Board member Meredith McNeil gets an engineering lesson from visiting Fulbright engineering students Ander Indart and Isaac Mejía.

Board member Meredith McNeil gets an engineering lesson from visiting Fulbright engineering students Ander Indart and Isaac Mejía.

Attendees from the Chicago Chapter Board included Ronald Harvey (President), Patricia Powell, Meredith McNeil, Marilyn Susman, and Chicago Chapter member Jenni Schneiderman. Visiting Fulbrighters were R. Schwarting (Germany, University of Chicago, Sociology), Ander Indart (Spain, UIC, Civil Engineering), Flor Fernández (Nicaragua, UIC, Masters in Business Administration), Isaac Mejía (Guatemala, UIC, Mechanical Engineering), and Preema John (India, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Arts Administration and Cultural Policy).

Rasha Mohammed

Rasha Mohammed

All three of the influential and spirited speakers highlighted the main themes of partnership and the need for males, as well as females, to be active in women’s causes that work towards change. The two cultural speakers, Dr. Rasha Mahmoud Hussein Mohammed of Cairo, and architect Carmen Vidal-Hallett of Chicago and Brazil, detailed how females are “revolutionary” in their countries.

C. Vidal-Hallett

C. Vidal-Hallett

In Brazil, Vidal-Hallett made encouraging remarks about women’s involvement in environmental improvement, mainly through water quality.

Dr. Mohammed’s focus was on women’s engagement in the Egyptian Revolution and how this activity has led to more men becoming active in anti-sexual harassment causes.

Michele Ledgerwood

M. Ledgerwood

The keynote speaker, Michèle Ledgerwood of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), highlighted the seven Revolutions affecting our world today (i.e., information, technology, security, governance) and how women are both affected by each, and how women can affect each in a transformative way. Although the topics and speakers were varied, the message remained that women, globally, need to work together, across economic, cultural, and religious lines, in order to continue to better situations for themselves and their families, and that male participation and inclusion is necessary for future improvements.

Jenni Schniederman and long-time Board member Marilyn Susman.

Jenni Schniederman and long-time Board member Marilyn Susman.

One of our visiting Fulbrighters, Isaac Mejía, had this to say about Ms. Ledgerwood: “The key speaker showed what I expect in a female leader. She had a great background experience. The way she started her speech with current references grabbed the public’s attention immediately.” Regarding Dr. Mohammed, Mejía said the “presentation was a great show of diversity and leadership in the African countries. I enjoyed the pictures showing the empowerment of women through the last decades. It is extremely nice to hear of current examples that somehow will influence the women in countries like mine that are male dominated.”

“Attending the luncheon was a great opportunity to hear from successful and multifaceted women who are catalysts for change and leaders in their fields,” added Flor Fernández. “It was truly an inspiring experience.”

The Fulbright table listens attentively to Dr. Rasha Mahmoud Hussein Mohammed’s description of women’s involvement in social change in Cairo.

The Fulbright table listens attentively to Dr. Rasha Mahmoud Hussein Mohammed’s description of women’s involvement in social change in Cairo.

The afternoon closed with remarks from the vice president of the Union League, highlighting the well-known Chinese proverb: when sleeping women wake, mountains move.  It was an excellent call to action at the end of an event encouraging positive female engagement in today’s world and positive change for all!  The Fulbright Chapter attendees left with a great sense of optimism for the future.

* Thanks to Christina Macholan, Don Garner, Elio Leturia, Regina Mamou and Marilyn Susman

Photos by Ron Harvey

Good luck on your way back home! 2013 Spring Farewell was celebrated in Greektown

The first group of participants pose at the rooftop of the museum

The first group of participants pose at the rooftop of the museum

THE NATIONAL HELLENIC MUSEUM  and the Parthenon Restaurant in the Greektown area of Chicago were the spots chosen this year to celebrate the accomplishments of the Fulbright students in the Chicago area that have completed their programs and are getting ready to leave for their countries of origin.

The second group gathers at the first floor for a talk.

Participants gather at the first floor for a talk.

More than 70 participants among Fulbright students, alumni and guests got together at 11 a.m. at the new Hellenic Museum site for a tour of the facility. The museum, whose mission is to showcase and celebrate the contributions of the Greek and Greek American communities, was inaugurated 16 months ago, in December of 2011.

The second floor exhibit area of the Hellenic Museum

The second floor exhibit area of the Hellenic Museum

The new museum (the original was founded in 1983) is hosted in a contemporary and beautiful 40,000 square-foot building that features a library, several exhibition halls, and archival research center, and oral history center and different classrooms. There is also a rooftop (that can be rented for events) that has a magnificent view of the Chicago skyline.

Participants observe the historical photographs of the exhibit

Participants observe the historical photographs of the exhibit

After the museum tour, a delicious Greek buffet was awaiting at The Parthenon Restaurant

After the museum tour, a delicious Greek buffet was awaiting at The Parthenon Restaurant

The participants were divided into two groups to tour the museum.

Every year in late April, the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the Institute of International Education organize the Spring Farewell event in an ethnic neighborhood.

Participants can try on clothing used by the the Greek immigrants

Participants could try on clothing used by the the Greek immigrants

Certificates of completion are awarded to the Fulbright students who came to the Chicago area universities to pursue, generally, a master’s or PhD degrees. Last year, the Swedish neighborhood in Andersonville was chosen with a visit to the Swedish American Museum.

However, the Fulbright scholars, who generally are professors and researchers, are also invited to share the accomplishment of the students.

After the tour, a delicious Greek buffet was offered at the Parthenon Restaurant, right across from the Hellenic Museum where everybody had a chance to share moments of conviviality, celebrating the Fulbright spirit.

The second group listens to the tour guide, a passionate descendant of Greek immigrants

The second group listens to the tour guide, a passionate descendant of Greek immigrants

At the third floor of the museum, participants participate with interactive programs

At the third floor of the museum, participants participate with interactive programs

Fabiënne Zuijdwijk, Marilyn Susman and Martón Sicklos

Fabiënne Zuijdwijk, board member Marilyn Susman and Martón Sicklós

Chicago Chapter Board member Don Garner and his daughter at the Oral History archive

Chicago Chapter Board member Don Garner and his daughter at the Oral History center

Participants at the Oral History archive

Participants at the Oral History center

Marcial Escudero and his girlfriend right before the tour

Fulbright scholar Marcial Escudero and his girlfriend right before the tour

Participants listening to the tour guide at the rooftop

Participants listening to the tour guide at the rooftop

It was a beautiful spring day for the 2013 Fulbright student farewell.

It was a beautiful spring day for the 2013 Fulbright student farewell.

The Greek buffet at The Parthenon Restaurant, right across from the Hellenic Museum

The Greek buffet at The Parthenon Restaurant, right across from the Hellenic Museum

Students share a delicious lunch at the Parthenon Restaurant right before getting their Fulbright Association certificates of completion

Students share a delicious lunch at the Parthenon Restaurant right before getting their Fulbright Association certificates of completion

Alexandra de León receiving her Certificate of Completion right after lunch at the Parthenon Restaurant. With her, Ronald Harvey, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Alexandra de León receiving her Certificate of Completion right after lunch at the Parthenon Restaurant. With her, Ronald Harvey, President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Another Fulbright student receiving her Certificate of completion at the Parthenon Restaurant

Eva Borjas receiving her Certificate of completion at the Parthenon Restaurant

A group photo of the students who attended the event and got their certificates.

A group photo of the students who attended the event and got their certificates. No, they are not possessed; that’s the flash on their eyes. So many cameras shooting at the same time.

Ten Fulbright Association Chicago chapter board members attended the Spring Farewell: Heidi Rockwell, Kari Burnett, Regina Mamou, Marilyn Susman, Elio Leturia, Ana Gil García, Cristina Sisson, Thomas Ahleman and Ronald Harvey. Not pictured, Jason Romano and Don Garner.

Ten Fulbright Association Chicago chapter board members attended the Spring Farewell: Heidi Rockwell, Kari Burnett, Regina Mamou, Marilyn Susman, Elio Leturia, Ana Gil García, Cristina Sisson, Thomas Ahleman and Ronald Harvey. Not pictured, Jason Romano and Don Garner.

Photos by Ron Harvey and Elio Leturia