News & Events
Fulbrighter is a global platform that is helping to build an international community of Fulbright grantees and alumni from around the world. It provides ways to connect on academic projects and research, form affiliations through shared social, cultural and regional identities & values or simply put the call out for a spare bed when circumstances dictate. UK-based Rob Ellis and Ethan Corcoran are the media and technical visionaries behind the platform. Supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, they recently hosted the inaugural Fulbrighter and community engagement workshop in London exploring how better to engage – or re-engage – Fulbright alumni. George Greenbury, US-UK Fulbright alumnus and member of the Alumni Advisory Council attended and shares his thoughts.
Reflections from George Greenbury, US-UK Fulbright alum and Alumni Advisory Council member
How long has it been since you attended a Fulbright event, or met a Fulbrighter, or even corresponded with one? Rob Ellis’s exceptionally timely and well-organised international workshop on Fulbrighter and Community Engagement brought together the world’s most active alumni associations to help tackle this problem: how to get more alumni involved in the work of Fulbright and connecting organically both socially and professionally.
The two days began with introductions from delegates representing alumni associations from around the word (and it was truly international, with Australia, Ecuador, Germany, Latvia, Nigeria, Poland, Tajikistan, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States all represented). These revealed that most alumni associations are wrangling with the same challenges: how to communicate with alumni when mailing lists are often incomplete and sometimes out of date, and how to raise money for alumni activities.
Fortunately, answers abounded: Ethan Corcoran and Rob Ellis introduced delegates to the new features that have been added to Fulbrighter, the app where over 35,000 alumni are now connecting and collaborating. And world-leading alumni associations with thousands of members attending events every year shared how they fund these activities, through modest annual subscriptions that are taken up by an incredibly supportive base – all eager to give back to the Fulbright mission.
And there were heart-warming stories of alumni working together to solve real world problems: providing disaster relief in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana; facilitating coronavirus research via Fulbrighter; and delivering English language lessons in Tajikistan. Elsewhere, alumni were supporting current grantees, buddying up in Germany to assist Americans with cultural acclimatisation; leading conferences and developing Fulbright Chronicles to support the publication of books and research papers; and putting on Thanksgiving meals across America for foreign Fulbrighters who would otherwise experience a very quiet and lonely long weekend in November.
Inspiring remarks from Maria Balinska, the Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, and Mary Kirk, the Director of the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at the State Department, identified why this is all so important: alumni are essential to extending the reach and enhancing the opportunities offered by Fulbright. More active and engaged alumni communities are transformative organisations that help bring about the change that William Fulbright hoped to see in the world, a finding emphatically underlined by the diverse associations that Rob Ellis so adroitly brought together this week.