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Harriet Fulbright Meets Mason Fulbright Scholars, Participates in Panel

Posted 06 May 2015

Since 1946 the Fulbright Program has sent thousands of faculty members and students into foreign countries to study, research and understand the nuances of the world. The program has become synonymous with scholarship abroad.

During a Tuesday panel discussion at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, Harriet Fulbright, the widow of program founder U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, provided an engaging explanation as to why her late husband decided to create the fund on the heels of World War II.

In a nutshell, she said, “You’re less likely to kill someone you know.”

The idea for sending scholars into the world, she said, is to expose them to foreign cultures in the hopes that increased understanding of other societies will generate world peace. Her own father, she said, sent her to Bogota, Colombia, for three months when she was 15, and she found it inspirational.

The panel was made up of Fulbright scholars, including Mason president Àngel Cabrera; Mason professor Lisa Pawloski, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies; and Zubair Meenai, Mason visiting scholar in residence from India who is teaching human rights to health majors. Many of the 70 audience members were also Fulbright scholars.

Mason professor and Fulbright recipient Eirini Gouleta, academic coordinator of Mason’s Multilingual/Multicultural Education Program, moderated the discussion.

Associate Professor Chawky Frenn (right) greets Harriet Fulbright at a Fulbright Scholar faculty workshop and panel at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Associate Professor Chawky Frenn (right) greets Harriet Fulbright at a Fulbright Scholar faculty workshop and panel at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Pawloski, who has received four Fulbright scholarships, said the funding she received was crucial to her research on malnutrition around the world, including an extended study period in Mali. Meenai reflected on the impact the program has had on his career, including his current term at Mason.

Cabrera said the Fulbright program brought him from Spain to the United States and covered the entirety of his graduate work.

“I have my master’s, my PhD and my wife from that experience,” he said, recalling that he met his future wife while he was a student at Georgia Tech. “It truly was transformative in my life, and I literally would not be here right now without Fulbright.”

Rita Rowand, global relations and protocol program manager in Mason’s Office of Global Strategy—and one of three Fulbright campus representatives—introduced the panel by announcing an ambitious goal: to double Mason Fulbright grant recipients for faculty and students in the next three years.

“This year we have 21 applicants, the most ever,” she said. “And 10 have been awarded [Fulbrights], with one alternate.”

Andrew Riess of the Council for International Exchange Scholars began the day’s events with a workshop for those interested in understanding the various Fulbright programs and the details of how to prepare a Fulbright application.

This article was written by Buzz McClain and originally appeared on the Mason NewsDesk here.