In 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed legislation into law to establish the US Department of State’s flagship international exchange program creating connections in a complex and changing world: the Fulbright Program. The program is led by the US government in partnership with 160 countries around the globe; it issues approximately 8,000 fellowships annually. To date, over 400,000 passionate and accomplished students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds and in all fields have had the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to complex global challenges.
The numbers behind this worldwide flagship program speak for themselves. Alums have made their mark and include not only 40 heads of state or government, but also 61 Nobel laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 76 MacArthur Foundation fellows. Arguably more important, Fulbright fellows live and learn with people of different cultures to build mutual understanding between nations, advancing knowledge across communities and improving lives around the world.
Between 1948 and 1953, a unique requirement of the Fulbright Act called for the establishment of binational commissions with binational boards in the 28 countries in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific where revenues from the sale of wartime surpluses were available. These commissions were entrusted with managing the revenues earmarked for the program and responsible for decision-making and on-site management. The US Educational Commission in Austria—popularly called the “Fulbright commission” at that time—was set up in 1950. “Fulbright Austria is proud to be among the first generation of binational Fulbright commissions that form the philosophical, historical, institutional, and financial core of the program,” states Mario Mesquita, chargé d'affaires a.i. of the US embassy in Austria.
Funding for the program is based on annual appropriation by the US Congress to the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Participating governments, host institutions, corporation, and foundations outside and within the US also provide generous support to the program. “Fulbright Austria is fortunate to work with a wide variety of governmental and nongovernmental institutions as well as colleges, universities, and private foundations in Austria and the United States. Since 1997, Fulbright Austria has established a broad range of strategic partnerships with 23 different institutions in Austria and three institutions and foundations in the US and has thus been able to launch additional programs and expand the financial framework for existing ones. I am glad that my ministry was again able to strengthen Fulbright fundraising activities last year by providing 150,000 EUR as ‘matching funds’ to double future donations,” explains Dr. Heinz Faßmann, the Austrian minister of education and an alum of the Fulbright Program.
Fulbright Austria is one of the ten largest US Fulbright Scholar Programs globally and is a pioneer within the Fulbright Student Program. In 2016, Fulbright Austria created one of the first service learning–focused awards in the Fulbright Program known as the Community-Based Combined Grant. This grant is part of the US Fulbright Student Program and provides US students with opportunities for social engagement, service learning, and volunteering in Austrian civil-society institutions while simultaneously working as teaching assistants in Austrian secondary-education schools. In addition, the Fulbright programs for Austrians are also worth mentioning: the Austrian Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program, the Austrian Fulbright Student Program, and the Austrian Fulbright Scholar Program. These programs allow grantees to research, teach, and study in the US.
Fulbright Austria executive director Hermann Agis, PhD, states: “Since the program’s inception in 1950, over 6,000 Fulbright alums and 4,000 US teaching assistant alums have continued to promote knowledge, peace and empathy even after they have returned from their journey. Together, they form the core of the Fulbright Austria community of cultural ambassadors—a community ‘full of bright minds.’ In 2017, Fulbright Austria made the strategic decision to energetically pursue fundraising and development in order to give Austrian and US alums the chance to ensure that future generations of Fulbrighters will have the same kinds of life-changing opportunities that they enjoyed in the past.”
Since July 2021, Fulbright Austria, alongside the global Fulbright Program, has celebrated “75 Years of Fulbright.” A highlight of the festivities in Austria was a podium discussion that took place online on 3 November 2021. On this GivingTuesday, 30 November 2021, two festivities’ culminations will take place: The global Fulbright Program will livestream their 75th-anniversary celebration on their website from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, at 19:00 ET/01:00 CET, and at 18:30 CET/10:30 ET, Fulbright Austria will celebrate its annual Thanksgiving donation drive and Thank #Fulbright75 – Thanksgiving event.
Join Fulbright Austria online to celebrate the Thanksgiving season and the 75th anniversary of the global Fulbright Program and to raise donations to support future young students, teaching assistants, and scholars under the title of “Full Of Support: Thank #Fulbright75 – Thanksgiving.”