On Friday evening, the Fulbright Association Georgia Chapter gathered at Piedmont Park in Atlanta to welcome approximately 100 new Fulbright and Humphrey grantees from over 20 different countries including, but not limited to: Burundi, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sierra Leonne, Russia, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine and Sri Lanka. This year’s Welcome Picnic was attended by a record setting crowd of over 150 Fulbrighters, Fulbright alumni, and supporting friends who will be earning their advanced degrees across universities and colleges in the State of Georgia. Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa – the President of the Fulbright GA Chapter welcomed the Mayor Kasim Reed of the City of Atlanta, all the Fulbright and Humphrey scholars, alumni, and friends to the picnic.
Visiting Fulbrighters enlightened others with stories of their home countries and expressed excitement in their transition to various Higher Ed institutions throughout Georgia – from UGA in Athens to Emory, GSU and GA Tech in Atlanta. Alumni from those institutions as well as from Mercer, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark Atlanta and KSU joined the US Fulbright grantees offered some helpful tips to visiting Fulbrighters on ways to immerse into the rich cultures of Atlanta, Georgia, and the U.S. as a whole. The upcoming GA Chapter Enrichment Trip being organized by GA Chapter board members from UGA to Northern GA and the Fall Reception at Morehouse College will be the next opportunities (in October) to network and get to know your fellow Fulbrighters, while also learning more about the ongoing work of the GA Chapter. Fun was had by all at the Welcome Picnic and anyone present could spot diverse organic minds of all ages, races, and places buzzing throughout the event.
In addition to the annual Welcome Picnic, we celebrated 70 Years of the Fulbright Program, through a Commemorative Tree Planting Ceremony at the Mayor’s Grove section of Piedmont Park. Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta offered special welcome remarks honoring Senator J. William Fulbright and the importance of international educational exchange. Members of the Fulbright Georgia Association Board, led by President Zipangani Vokhiwa, dug into the celebration together.
Mayor Reed echoed sentiments that Senator Fulbright would surely agree with when Mayor Reed stated: “I have a very deep belief that the future success of cities and countries is going to be influenced in a dynamic way by us knowing each other. And one of the things I believe that occurs with Fulbright Scholars and the Fulbright organization is that you get to know each other – and I happen to believe that in your communities, when you return home, you’re going to be leaders.”
Atlanta is home of the largest international airport in the world, so it should be no surprise that Georgia has avidly promoted international education exchange through the U.S. Fulbright program since the outset of the program. One of our current national board members, Jerry Cooper, Chairman of Cooper Carry Inc. studied architecture at Georgia Tech, before his 1956 Fulbright to Rome, Italy. The Fulbright experience shaped his vision of “connective architecture” as he later co-founded what has become one of the top Atlanta architecture and design firms.
National Fulbright Association President, Nancy Neill, mentioned the 5 core impact areas which are also known as our Pathways to Peace. They include Sustainability, Global Health, International Education, Peacebuilding & Conflict Resolution and Economic Development & Entrepreneurship. The GA Chapter has adopted 3 of the 5, including Sustainability, which is consistent with our tree planting this evening. Nancy Neill commented on how the Fulbright Tree Planting fits in with our Sustainability track by creating a physical space where Georgia Fulbrighters can always meet up in the historic Piedmont Park for at least the next 70 years!
Through the Pathways to Peace efforts, we seek to make an impact through service and collective impact projects in the 5 areas noted above. For example, in Global Health, we have already begun with an Envision-Fulbright project with Dikembe Mutombo and his foundation back in 2015, whereby we provide Reading Glasses for people in need in the Congo (DRC).
We have plans in the works for an initiative to improve water and sanitation in Malawi by 2018 and are exploring partnerships related to helping Syrian Refugees with daily challenges of resettlement.
Whtiney D Barr