Human Rights and Democracy

Alabama played a pivotal role in the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Through a 4 day seminar in Huntsville, Alabama hosted by the International Services Council of Alabama, scholars learned about this history as well as current efforts to empower marginalized groups and create change in a democratic society.

The seminar began at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which houses artifacts from the U.S. Space Program. Representatives from the Fulbright Visiting Scholar program warmly welcomed Scholars. They then enjoyed a tour of the space center, followed by a reception, dinner, and address from journalist, David Person, entitled, “Why Come to Alabama to Study Democracy and Human Rights.”

David Person addresses Visiting Scholars

David Person addresses Visiting Scholars

The evening ended with swing dance lessons from the group I Charleston Huntsville, a group that developed out of a global challenge for communities to make videos of themselves dancing the Charleston in front of famous places.

Scholars dance the Charleston

Scholars dance the Charleston

The next day, scholars traveled to Birmingham,  the city that was at the heart of the Civil Rights movement to learn about its history and importance today. At Samford University, Dr. Brannon Denning, Dean at the School of Law, spoke about the relationship between human rights and civil rights. A panel of historians, attorneys and judges gave scholars a background on the Civil Rights Movement.

A wheelchair basketball game at the Lakeshore Foundation.

A wheelchair basketball game at the Lakeshore Foundation.

In the afternoon speakers addressed issues of civil rights today. Scholars then toured the Lakeshore Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to improve the fitness of people with disabilities. Scholars learned about the organization’s work providing athletic opportunities in rugby, basketball and swimming to individuals with disabilities, as well as its role as a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site. In the last part of the trip, scholars visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where they learned about the events, struggles and voices of the Civil Rights Movement through a tour and exhibits.

The Birmingham Institute for Civil Rights.

Exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The next day, Alabama Senator Arthur Orr, addressed scholars on “Transparency in a Democratic Government.” Following this scholars had the chance to attend several breakout sessions on topics including immigration, youth leadership, economic empowerment and minority participation in governments.

Senator Arthur Orr chats with Scholars.

Senator Arthur Orr chats with scholars.

The seminar ended with a discussion on what scholars learned. Scholars appreciated the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of passionate speakers and gain a more in-depth understanding of human rights and democracy in American society.

Greetings from Huntsville, Alabama!

Greetings from Huntsville, Alabama!


Ideas Bloom in D.C. at the Japanese Stone Lantern Ceremony

Springtime in D.C. means one thing for residents and tourists alike: cherry blossoms! These beautiful trees were a gift to the U.S. from the people of Japan as a symbol of friendship, and they bloom along the Tidal Basin every spring. A lesser known aspect of this historical gift was the Japanese Stone Lantern that later accompanied it. Standing at a monumental 8.5 feet tall, this lantern was carved in Japan nearly four thousand years ago during the Tokugawa period.

Once a year during the Cherry Blossom Festival, there is a ceremony to light the lantern, which scholars had the opportunity to attend. The ceremony is highlighted with music, including the American and Japanese national anthems, and a keynote by His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, the Ambassador of Japan to the United States. The lantern was then lit by the Cherry Blossom Princess representing the Embassy of Japan.

After the ceremony, scholars were given a brief overview of the cherry blossoms by a CIES staff member and local Washingtonian, and even got tips on the best spots to visit during the season. For scholars and their families, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about Japanese American culture in the United States, and a picturesque way to spend a warm spring day.

Scholars and CIES staff pose in front of the Tidal Basin after the Ceremonial Lighting of the Japanese Stone Lantern

Scholars and CIES staff pose in front of the Tidal Basin after the Ceremonial Lighting of the Japanese Stone Lantern

Climate Change and the Plight of the Oceans

How does climate change impact a community’s resources, industries and wildlife? How can communities respond to these challenges? Over 60 scholars gathered in St. Petersburg, Florida to answer these questions in a 5 day seminar entitled “Climate Change and the Plight of the Oceans.” The waterfront community of St. Petersburg, located along the Tampa Bay estuary, is home to oil, maritime trade, tourism and fishing industries. The estuary houses an incredibly diverse ecosystem. In addition to this, the area hosts a world-class marine science cluster. This made it the ideal place for scholars to explore these questions. Through hearing from experts, visiting local research centers and volunteering, scholars gained a better understanding of the complex issues facing this community and their connections to the global challenge of climate change.

Tampa Bay

Port Tampa Bay

The seminar began with a reception where representatives from the Fulbright Program, U.S. Department of State and University of Southern Florida warmly welcomed scholars.

Dr. Maria De Los Angeles Crummett, excutive director of CIES welcomes Scholars.

Dr. Maria De Los Angeles Crummett, excutive director of CIES welcomes Scholars.

Next, scholars dove into these issues through a jam-packed day of panels and trips. First scholars visited the University of Southern Florida College of Marine Science  where they heard from several experts about the climate change and the Gulf Coast after the BP oil spill. Following the visit, scholars enjoyed a boat tour of Tampa Bay and heard from local officials about the impact of climate change and maritime transportation on the ecology of Port Tampa Bay as well as steps the port is taking to make transportation greener. The day ended with a viewing of marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle’s documentary film, Mission Blue, which chronicles her work to protect marine sanctuaries.

Dr. Sylvia Earle speaks about her film, Mission Blue.

Dr. Sylvia Earle speaks about her film, Mission Blue.

On the next day scholars learned about several different aspects of marine life. At University of Southern Florida Dr. William Hogarth, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, addressed scholars regarding public policy on fisheries. A panel discussed the discovery and preservation of deep sea shipwrecks in the area. At Eckerd College scholars met with college representatives and learned about the institution’s work and research in marine biology. They also toured the Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory, where undergraduates can conduct research on the local marine plant and animal life. In the afternoon local activists and government representatives spoke on the politics of protecting seas and coastlines.

Scholars bike across the Eckerd College campus.

Scholars bike across the Eckerd College campus.

The following day, scholars got a chance to help in the preservation of the coastline through volunteering with Tampa Bay Watch. Scholars joined with community members in planting over 8,000 sea oats in Fort DeSoto County Park. The sea oats will help protect the coastline from the effects of hurricanes, waves and high tides. They also help protect endangered sea turtles through providing a nest for their eggs beneath the sand.

Scholars plant sea oats with Tampa Bay Watch.

Scholars plant sea oats with Tampa Bay Watch.

Later in the day, scholars visited the Canterbury School of Florida, an independent P-12 day school with its own marine science program. There they enjoyed a tour of the Cousteau Center for Marine Studies and also had the opportunity to have dinner with students and their families.

A student shows Scholars a star fish at the Cousteau Center.

A Canterbury School student shows scholars a star fish at the Cousteau Center.

The seminar ended with a chance for scholars to reflect on what they had learned about climate change over the past few days, how it would impact them when they returned to their home countries, and what they could do to work together on these issues. Scholars enjoyed the chance to learn about the topic from economic, political social and scientific angles. They also appreciated understanding both the role local communities can play in protecting the environment and how environmental concerns are a global issue shared across cultures.

Greetings from St. Peterburg, Florida.

Greetings from St. Peterburg, Florida.



Traversing Tulsa: The Role of Land in American History

Earlier this month, Fulbright Visiting Scholars had the opportunity to learn about the “Wild West” through the lens of history and diversity in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa offers a variety of cultural resources that scholars experienced during their four-day stay in the state.

The seminar started with a riveting keynote on “Finding the American West,” led by Dr. James Ronda of the University of Tulsa, who discussed the landscape and the impact of humans on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. This address was followed by a western swing band performance that showed the lively and upbeat side of the Americana style.

Wild Bison at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

Wild bison at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

The following day was filled with exploration around the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Scholars travelled the Prairie by bus with guides who covered relevant topics such as the ecosystem at the preserve and hydraulic fracturing. During lunch, Dr. Bob Pickering delivered a riveting talk on the importance of bison as an icon of the West. Scholars also visited the Osage Tribal Museum to learn about the lifestyle, history, and traditions of the Osage Nation.

Lou Brock addressing scholars at the Osage Tribal Museum

Mr. Lou Brock addressing scholars at the Osage Tribal Museum

With an early morning the next day at the Gilcrease Museum, scholars attended panels on topics ranging from the experience of minority groups in the area, to the influence of land on popular music, to the future of the West and what it holds. Between panels, volunteer docents also provided tours for participants to see the art and artifacts on display at this fascinating museum.

The final day of the seminar started with a volunteer activity at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Scholars got their hands dirty for a good cause by planting herbs and repackaging food items for the community. It was a valuable activity, and shortly after Dr. Doug Price and Dr. Cheryl Mather led the scholars in a closing discussion on the impact of what they had learned the past four days. Scholars departed with a new, nuanced understanding of the American West, as well as fun photos of the people (and bison!) they’d met at the seminar.

Scholars volunteer with a local community food bank

Scholars volunteer with a local community food bank

Toe-Tapping Scholars Attend the International Folk Music Festival

It’s been said that music can bridge all divides, and Fulbright Visiting Scholars recently saw this theme in action at the Berklee College of Music’s International Folk Music Festival.

Scholars began the evening with a casual dinner at the local King’s Bowl where they talked over pizza and appetizers, then headed to the Berklee Performance Center for the concert.

Berklee Performance Center

The Berklee Performance Center hosted the lively festival.

At this spectacular festival, international students performed music from across the globe to a lively audience. The concert was a wonderful way for scholars to hear music from their home countries and experience new genres, and showed the value of music in bringing people closer together.

Tackling Public Health in Charm City

Baltimore is a city with a unique history of handling public health, and this past month scholars had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the topic. Kicking off with a diversity tour of Baltimore city, scholars were introduced to the health challenges that come with urbanization.


Mary Kirk from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs welcomes scholars to Baltimore

Day two brought panel discussions with leading members of the Baltimore City Health Department, who addressed topics such as youth violence prevention, substance abuse, and the impact on housing and food policies. Scholars were also treated to site visits with local nonprofits, where they got to see firsthand the impact that Catholic Relief Services and Chase Brexton Health Services have on crucial health issues in the city.

Scholars continued this immersive introduction by volunteering with Paul’s Place, Franciscan Center, and A Can Can Make a Difference, three local organizations that support their community through food, clothing, and health services. They were then welcomed to dinner with local hosts to experience the warm hospitality that Baltimore has to offer.

Fulbright Scholars attend a talk on International Public Health at the Enoch Pratt Free Librar

Fulbright Scholars attend a talk on International Public Health at the Enoch Pratt Free Library

The following day kicked off with thought-provoking panels on ideas for international health efforts and violence prevention, then later led into an exercise in creative thinking and collaboration among teams—with marshmallows as tools! Scholars then broke into groups for in-depth discussions on case studies such as patient safety, obesity, and mental health.

Scholars collaborate in an exercise on creative thinking

Scholars collaborate in an exercise on creative thinking

The fourth and final day was filled with reflection on the topics scholars had discussed and people they had met. After hearing from speakers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, scholars were left with the thought-provoking question of how to move forward with all they had learned.

Celebrity Sighting at LA Clippers Game

Fulbright Visiting Scholars in Los Angeles were treated to a night to remember at the Los Angeles Clippers game last week. The game came down to the final seconds as the Clippers battled the Golden State Warriors (the ultimate winners), and scholars were thrilled to witness the rush of professional American sports first-hand.

The highlight of the night was being allowed to watch warm-up from the second row, and meeting Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors! One scholar from China remarked, “I am so honored to meet Steve Kerr, he has a huge group of Chinese fans!”

Scholars with Steve Kerr

Fulbright Visiting Scholars meet Steve Kerr before the Clippers v Warriors game