The German-American Fulbright Commission was instrumental in the conception of the European Fulbright Diversity Initiative and hosted a conference in Berlin on September 22-23 with the generous support of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the US Department of State. ECA as well as Fulbright commissions worldwide strive to ensure that the Fulbright Program reflects the diversity of US society and societies abroad, and they are committed to providing exchange opportunities for all segments of society under the auspices of the Fulbright Program. This event created a unique multinational forum for the various constituencies involved in European Fulbright programs to address a wide range of issues related to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Fulbright programming.
The EFDI conference provided an important opportunity to reflect on the social and political challenges of promoting diversity in an array of different cross-cultural and institutional settings on a day-by-day basis. It also created a forum for the executive directors and staff members of European Fulbright commissions to discuss these challenges together with Fulbright grantees and alumni as well as the representatives of ECA and the Institute of International Education (IIE). Discussions ranged from the front-end issues of recruitment and selection to the back-end issues of managing diversity on site in a cross-cultural setting. More than 180 participants from all over Europe, the US, Brazil, and Egypt discussed diversity and inclusion in the context of international education and exchange from a transatlantic and an intercultural perspective. Susanne Hamscha, US and Austrian Scholar Program Officer, and Arwa Elabd, who was an FLTA in 2017-18 at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, represented Fulbright Austria in Berlin and will continue to be involved in the diversity initiative.
The program was a mix of plenary sessions and task force working groups. The plenary sessions, which featured distinguished speakers such as Prof. Gökçe Yurdakul (Georg Simmel Professor of Diversity and Social Conflict, Humboldt University Berlin), Dr. Priscilla Layne (assistant professor of German Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill), and Dr. P. Carl (writer and Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, Emerson College) provided valuable input for the task force working sessions. During the working sessions, executive directors, staff members, alumni, and grantees developed strategies to inform actionable practices in the future, and the commissions will follow up on this initiative online and at meetings in the coming months.