Every Fulbright year is a year of transition and a year full of change. Our new cohorts have successfully started their program year in the US and Austria. You, our alumni and friends, make these experiences possible. Thanks to your contribution and the support of the US and the Austrian governments and our excellent partners, we sent 15 students, 15 foreign language teaching assistants, and six scholars to the USA. We are also hosting 27 US students, 24 US scholars, and 150 USTAs here in Austria. With the help of our partner institutes, Fulbright Austria can proudly lay claim to managing the 4th-largest US scholar program in the Fulbright universe in 2018–19.
When I took over the leadership from my predecessor, Dr. Lonnie R. Johnson, in September, I was very impressed by the enormously positive impact Fulbright Austria had had on so many lives. Over the past years, we have been able to give over 3,500 Austrians the opportunity to have an unforgettable experience in the USA and 2,600 Americans a life-changing time in Austria. We also administer the US Teaching Assistantship program on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), with over 4,000 participants since 1962. Overall, Fulbright Austria’s success is based on Senator Fulbright’s bright idea and the hard work of the commission’s previous executive directors—including Dr. Johnson—and the entire Fulbright Austria team. Sitting here on October 26, Austria’s national holiday, writing this editorial, it is time to meditate on the past and the emerging future and the role we will have as a Fulbright commission. There is much we, the new generation at Fulbright Austria, can learn from the past when walking “bravely towards the new ages,”(1) and there is much we must learn by experimenting to align Fulbright Austria with the needs of a new generation of grantees.
One of my priorities will be “to encourage attitudes of personal empathy, the rare and wonderful ability to perceive the world as others see it”(2)—as it was presented by Senator Fulbright and emphasized in our 2017–18 annual report. Our mission statement emphasizes promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the USA and Austria by sponsoring educational exchange. This allows real interactions between real people. Thus, Fulbright Austria creates opportunities by opening doors to enable connections and discussions on a personal level. This kind of cultural understanding is of significant relevance to our future. We want to promote this kind of mindfulness and empathy, which promotes multifaceted interaction between people from Austria and America. As in the past, Fulbright Austria will need to adapt to societal and generational changes while remaining true to its original purpose and longstanding tradition.
The Fulbright experience starts abroad, and it does not stop after the program ends; rather, the experience serves as an initiation into a broader community of people who share an enthusiasm for cooperation between the USA and Austria and want to bring a little more understanding, peace, and knowledge into this world. Thanks to the binational and bilateral nature of Fulbright Austria, we have alumni and alumnae in both the USA and Austria. It is our responsibility to stay in touch with our friends on both sides on the Atlantic to foster the Fulbright Austria community—you can expect us to be reaching out to you so that we can build these bridges together. To widen this community, we rely on your help as ambassadors and mentors. I kindly ask you to help us connect with your Fulbright friends. Please tell them about our newsletters, our social-media channels and the Fulbrighter App. Invite them to come to our events. We are happy to connect with all of you.
One important focus for us at Fulbright Austria will be to promote the program’s impact on the professional and personal lives of the students, scholars, and teaching assistants who have participated in our programs over the years. The world needs to know what you did as a member of the Fulbright community, and we aim to highlight our program participants’ academic output to showcase their work and impact on academia. To do this, we need you to send us your publications so that we can promote them via our social-media channels. However, the Fulbright Program’s impact is not limited to publications and projects—it goes far beyond this as you see in our Fulbright stories. So many students have profited from US scholars and US teaching assistants teaching in Austria. Please share your story with us so that we can advocate for the program’s relevance of the program. As the new executive director, I look forward to you new stories and publications.
I also look forward to talking with you in person and learning about the special moments during your Fulbright experience, and our annual “Thank Fulbright – Thanksgiving” event would be a perfect occasion. You can register online. With your donation of €100, you will help us provide the same opportunities you had to the next generation of Fulbrighters while simultaneously enjoying a wonderful, traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the Fulbright community.
Hermann Agis, PhD
(1) Paula von Preradović, “National Anthem of the Republic of Austria”
(2) J. William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power