“FULBRIGHT IN ACTION” was the theme of the 36th Fulbright Association Annual Conference that took place at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington D.C. October 3-6, 2013. Our Chicago Fulbright Chapter was well represented at this international event that comprised 27 panels and presentations. 250 participants from 35 countries attended the conference.
Not only did we have four Fulbright Chicago board members (Jason Romano, Patti Powell, Ana Gil García and Elio Leturia) at the conference but two of those participated as panelists. Ana Gil-García presented on the panel, “Walking the talk: Achieving diversity in the Fulbright Program” and Elio Leturia was on the “The Missing Voice on Gender Equality: Time for Men to Speak Up” luncheon panel which was presented by Sheryl Sandberg via a video introduction. Patti Powell presented “Charting the Hero’s Journey” as part of the opening Poster Session.
In the Diversity panel session, Gil-García discussed, along with Judy Meredith and David Smith, ways to increase diverse and minority applicants in the Fulbright Program, that has been decreasing in recent years. Her presentation encompassed her experiences as a Venezuelan woman, turned into a minority, a Latina, a Hispanic, a woman of color, a Venezuelan-American, a South-American, and other labels that she has received over her more than 25 years in the U.S.
Leturia, along with Charles Clymer, Glen Fukushima and Kunal Modi shared their experiences and points of view about ways to achieve gender equality from the male perspective. As Sheryl Sanberg said in her presentation, “We’re not going to get to a more equal world if this is a conversation about women, amongst women. This isn’t about women. This is about all of us. And it will take men’s voices, along with women to make a difference… That’s why I’m so excited the Fulbright Association has worked on pulling together this panel. And I’m so excited to have this conversation about gender equality led by, and fully participated in by men.”
Though much of DC was shut down we were able to have a beautiful reception at the Diplomatic Rooms of the U.S. State Department, where Harriet Mayor Fulbright, Tom Healy, Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and John Vogel, President of the Fulbright Association, among others, were present.
Another highlight of the conference was the screening of the documentary “Zuluhoops” by Columbia College professor Kristin Pichaske, who shot the footage during her Fulbright in South Africa. The documentary depicted the story of Ken Mukai, a Fulbrighter from Los Angeles, who used basketball to teach and connect with his students in a remote town of the country.
On the last day of the conference another film, “Death Metal Angola,” which is making the rounds of various film festivals was shown. This movie was the closing activity of three days full of lively discussion both in sessions and on panels everyday.