Tom Healy: Morning everyone, it's a quite group. Welcome and thank you for coming this morning. I'm Tom Healy, the chair for the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and its a real pleasure to be convening this panel on Fulbright in the Americas. This is an exciting time for us to be doing this. Unfortunately the Secretary Kerry was going to be with us this morning and welcome us and we were twinning this event with his announcement of new funding for the 100,000 strong effort to engage in much more vigorous exchange between the countries of the Americas, United States, to Latin America, and the Caribbean and those countries to the United States. That effort really began when the President (Obama) made a trip to the region in 2011 and Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, a number of countries have made a concerted effort to really advance this exchange what's critical for us in language sharing, and sharing of ideas, research, engagement between what are, in one what is separate countries but one region. That's why we have called this panel, our neighbors, our family, both in terms of Spanish speaking Americans, people of heritage from Latin America who are living here and Americans who live throughout the region. Because of the close connection and trade, ideas, and culture they are so critical to the definition of our country. The Fulbright Program has really been a leader in this kind of educational exchange. We have an extraordinary panel today that is going to talk about in this effort to greatly expand the outreach and engagement of exchange, what role does Fulbright play in this program? 65 years old, throughout the Americas. Its in 26 countries, 9 of those are commissioned countries, which mean that there is a bi-lateral trade treaty that set up a commission that each country runs together so there's an independent commission. Then there's 17 countries where the United States State Department post through the embassy administers the program. About 1,700 people participate each year, two-thirds of those are coming the region to the United States and a third are Americans dispersing through the region. Those are numbers we want to increase and we want those numbers too obviously to be a beacon and catalyst for other exchange because its one way Fulbright stands out as an extraordinary brand and vision through that. I'd like to thank a number of the people who are here. There are a large group of people from the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the State Department that really runs the Fulbright Program. I'd just like to single out, since there are so many of those, one person in particular who is the branch chief for the Americas and Western Hemisphere and that is Jenny Vertiger, who is extraordinary creative, innovative person whose lead great efforts there and it's been really terrific to have her as a colleague and her help in organizing today. I'm going to turn this right over to Ambassador Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon and Ambassador Guerra is a Fulbright Board Member with me. He is a storied member of the Foreign Policy establishment; he was a Foreign Service Officer for many years who served throughout the Americas. Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, and then finally as Ambassador under President Clinton in Chile where he had a habit of antagonizing the Pinochet left over generals and advocating for human rights and open trade and Chile's transformation to the country of now is of no small part happened while he was advocating and strengthening our relations there. Gabriel the name is in many of the world's great religions a messenger and he's our messenger to the region. Born in Puerto Rico, traveled throughout this effort. He has been the messenger for Fulbright in strengthening the participation of Americans to travel and study in this region and to strengthen the program here from all the scholars joining us. So it's a great honor to have him as a colleague and he is going to lead us in a great discussion with our four panels. So thank you.
Ambassador Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon: Thank you Tom. Good Morning, good to be here at the Department of State. As chairman mentioned the Fulbright Board is composed of 12 members we are all appointed by President Obama. We divide our board among ourselves, meaning the world, we give roughly about 8,000 scholarship a year. Our principle role is to be the last approvals of the Fulbrighters, either US going outside or foreigners coming inside. And also establishing policies for the board. We thought today that we would, for the first time at least on this board, that we would dedicate this part of our board meeting to do a study, not a study but a discussion, about Fulbright in general and the relationships between the US and the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. Right now who is the most important in the world, the Europeans were the most but now the Latin Americans have surpassed the Europeans. That is in essence because three of the principal countries in the region, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico as well as Colombia, have increased their participation, their government's participation, in the Fulbright program. So that has increased the number of both, US going into the region and those countries coming to the US. This region is important. Obviously our neighbors. I think we have a very good panel here that represents knowledge about the region. We have two former alumni, Fulbrighters. To my left we have Hilda Ochoa, a very successful investment banker here in Washington DC, she is from Venezuela. She went to Harvard JFK school as an alumni as a Fulbrighter. We also have Dr. Judith Freidenberg, she is from Argentina. But she went to Argentina as a US scholar and now is a professor at the University of Maryland. We also have Dan Restrepo. Dan is from here, born in DC. He told me this morning, I always thought that the was born in Colombian but he was born here in DC. But he is Colombian, half-Colombian. He knows the region very well, because he was for four years at the White House heading the Latin America / Caribbean section of the National Security office at the White House. He is highly knowledgeable and even though he looks like he is 20, he's not 20 he's older and wiser. But anyhow.
You didn't say that about Judith and I.
Well, If there is one thing I know about my sisters and my mother, it's never to talk about age. Then Dr. Andrew Selee with the Woodrow Wilson Center. He is the Vice President of Programs and he also served in one of our binational commissions in Mexico so he is also knowledgeable about our programs. So I will stop there and what we will do is intercommunicate among ourselves here for 40 minutes and then after that we are going to open it up to questions from the audience. If I may I will start it off with our two former Fulbright members, Hilda. Will you sort of tell us what was your impression, the impact, that the first experience as a young women when you suddenly, boom, arrived in Boston.
Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg: No, I'm going to go a little earlier than that. Time me please, let me know when I am 3 and a half minutes into my talk. The most life changing, insightful experience, to this day that I have gone through my life is the Fulbright experience. I am going to take you back to 40 years ago. I had applied to Harvard. I only applied to Harvard, I did not know that you had to apply to many more places than Harvard. I figured if I got in I would find the money. I did not have the money. My parents did not have the money. No one I knew had the money. I figured you are getting into Harvard, you will the money. Got into Harvard and then started looking for scholarship. I had been working, I was divorced and a kid, no child support. Nothing, husband and a wall. I went to every place that could possibly give scholarship and there were none to be given to me. The private sector didn't have scholarship. The public sector had tons of scholarship but only for people that had work in the public sector. I was now beginning to cry, literally cry. I said, maybe I will turn into a street girl here. There has to be a way in which I raise this funds. I am a women that thinks broadly, okay, there has to be a way. And there was the day in which I had used the cultural attache at the American embassy to serve as my informant into which were the good schools. Harvard had come at her top. How do I write to them? They said the address, there was no email, there was nothing of that sort. There was barely a phone call, a phone, in which in Venezuela didn't work all that well. She had been mine kind of supporting angel through this process. And that day I was actually going to get my I-20 and she was my interpoint at the embassy. And as I was there I burst into tears. I was that stressed out. She asked, “Why are you crying?” I said, “I thought I find the money. I haven't found the money. That was two months before I had to have found money. She said, “Well I haven't told you yet anything because I wanted it to be a surprise. But I applied on your behalf for a Fulbright Scholarship and I am about to tell you, I was about to tell you two years from now but I think I can, two days from now (laughter) two years, that you have been approved for a Fulbright Scholarship. And that moment, that another country would have the brilliance, the generosity, and that an officer of that embassy would have had the foresight without telling me anything to apply on my behalf. I did not even know that there was a Fulbright, that was not one of the doors on which I have touched. I adored this country from the moment that has happened. I adored that women. I thought this was the most significant human relationship i have found in my life and to this day she is still one of three. Moving forward, I was so impressed with the brilliance of the country that would give scholarship to other students to study here when no one else would give them scholarships. That in 1973 I had been helping the campaign of Calos Andres Perez, a democratic president, remember this was the beginning of the oil crisis in the United States. I had been writing speeches for him, which were brilliant because I was at Harvard. I was the only Venezuelan at Harvard at that time, so I could write brilliant global speeches for a local leader. I could talk about the oil crisis, all of that. He wins the elections and the person, I had never met him but I liked that party, but the person who was working as his right hand man called Gumersen Rodriquez, I would go there and visit him there all the time, he says, “Hilda”. I said, “The country is going to get an enormous amount of money”. They were not fully aware of that by the way. He says, “What should we do with it?”. I said, “I'm sure you are going to find many ways to spend it, but the one brilliant idea I have for you is to create a massive scholarship program to get as many young Venezuelans as you can out of this mess. Educate them, it doesn't matter whether they are great students, bad students, or mediocre students, if they learn another language that will be progress for this country. Venezuela was at the time under threat of Cuban invasions. The universities were nests of Communism, Populism, Anarchism, anything that would be bad for any country to progress and I said this is your one chance to really make a difference as a government. Massive scholarship program get them out of the country. I gave my great dream, my great idea, and I came back to Harvard. 6 months later, Venezuela announces that are going to put in place something called “Fundayacucho” to celebrate the victory of Ayacucho, which is the one that ended up liberating the rest of Latin America, Peru in particular. But I never found out if they had been my idea. I didn't matter, it had been done. I understand there were 50,000 Venezuelans who were trained through that scholarship program. some of which have become the most brilliant Venezuelans today, because they were trained in exceptionally good universities. Years later, Carlos Andres Perez, whom I remind you I had never met, is visiting Washington DC. And I never kept my contact with Gumersen Rodriquez because he developed the reputation for being, stealing quite a bit from the administration, so you know I kind of kept the distance a bit. So Carlos Andres Perez is visiting, he is in exile now. And a friend, a mutual friend, one of his cabinet members asks why don't we take him to your farm on the eastern shore. I was delighted. We were sitting down and we were talking and said, “President Perez tell me about this because it is there in my mind. How did you ever think of that Fundacion Ayacucho. He said, “Well we were looking for things to celebrate the 200 years of the Battle of Ayacucho and Gumersen Rodriquez said, “Why don't we create a massive scholarship program?” And I thought, that was a great idea! I went to the President and said, “I want you to know it was my idea and it was my dream and I am so happy.” So thanks to Fulbright and thanks to that touching, generalist, brilliant gesture of the United States. There have been at least 50,000 other Venezuelans who have highly educated.
Do I have any time?
Hilda: There was a conduct to that. Go ahead.
Gabriel: So, Judy, why don't you give us your side of the story. Since you were born there and then you return as a Fulbright scholar.
Judy: Right. So I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and studied Anthropology there. And at one point came independently to the United States to pursue a PhD. And thought of returning when I finished the PhD but there was a military dictatorship that prevented me from making career plans in Argentina. So, instead I continued to visit both my family, and also get professionally engaged in Argentina. So continued to give lectures and teach courses and so on. And there was a lot of talk, among my anthropological colleagues about not only training students in getting anthropological knowledge but using that knowledge, applying that knowledge, for addressing human problems and issues. So there was one institution that I collaborated with, the Institucion Nacional de la Anthropologia which submitted a proposal to the Buenos Aires commission, the Buenos Aires Fulbright commission. And so they put up an announcement for somebody that would come teach applied anthropology. I submitted my application and I was selected. It was a great experience, particularly because I was able to teach the subject in my mother tongue, in Spanish. And especially because when we start putting issues for discussion on the table I'll tell you what I learned from that experience. Especially because since I continued to make personal visits to Argentina, the cadre of people that I trained and some others that they told, continued to ask me to give them workshops to update them on applied anthropology.
Gabriel: Thank you. So, Andrew from your perspective from the center and the knowledge that you have on Mexico. Mexico being such an important country to us and one of the most important binational commission we have. How do you view it from your angle and your experience in Mexico as to how both the US government and Mexico government are taking, or not taking, sufficient amount of advantage on the Fulbright program?
Andrew: Well thank you Gabriel. I have been very impressed by Fulbright. I had the pleasure of being on the US-Mexico Fulbright Board, CoMexus, for a number of years. You know, Mexico and United States are two countries, and I'll something about larger Latin America at the end, but Mexico and the United States are a nice microcosm of the broader program of the Western Hemisphere. You have two countries that are deeply integrated with each other, and have changed rapidly, were once as Alan Riding called it 'distant neighbors' didn't really interact with each other if you go back 30 years interacted the minimum necessary. In the last 20 - 25 years a rapid interdependence that's grown between these two countries that's through trade, where Mexico was the second nation for US exports. Its true in energy issues. Its true in demographics, 1 in 10 Americans is of Mexican descend, huge number, and a vast majority of recent descend actually and a majority of Mexican families have someone in the United States, or someone they know personally in the United States. We have border communities that are practically bi-national metropolitan areas which is impressive when you see some of the cities such as San Diego-Tijuana or El Paso-Juarez that are deeply integrated economically. We have problems of crime that we need to deal with together, drug addiction, that are common challenges. But in many ways this integration has gone a lot faster in economic terms, in demographic terms, in actually the issues themselves than the understanding. And I like to refer to it, I have a book tentatively titled “Intimate Strangers” mostly because it sounds like a romance novel but also because it gets to the notion of that we are, there is an incredible intimacy between Mexico and the United States. This really is a deeply personal relationship, deeply interdependent relationship. But at the same time we don't actually know each other that well. So, one of the things that I think Fulbright does well is create the social infrastructure that goes with it, that the United States and Mexico actually have to manage a lot of common issues and we don't yet have the people who have the deep knowledge of the other country who can do it. One of the things that Fulbright has been very effective at is creating that next generation of people who know the other country, who know what the issues are and who can come back whether its in education, or policy, or the arts, or wherever they are in one of the societies they can be key actors in creating the social infrastructure that allows us to manage the interdependence. This goes beyond Mexico and the United States. This is true when you talk about Brazil or Chile or Argentina and the Western Hemisphere in general. I think we have had a greater integration of the region that we've ever had before, more equal terms than we've ever had before. Many of the largest countries, particularly, but also some of the smaller countries, have grown in confidence, capacity, economic structure. This is a changed relationship from 20 - 30 years ago with the other countries in the hemisphere and Fulbright plays a role in creating that social infrastructure. I think it plays a role in a couple of other things. One is a role in developing cultural competencies that help the US catch up to what it is today. This is a country where 16 percent, going on 17 percent, of the population is of Latin descent. This is a very large number and so having the cultural capacities to be able to deal with that. For Latin American countries developing the human capital, particularly graduate education. The US has an impressive graduate education, has the best graduate education system in the world still. This is a different question but many countries like Brazil, Chile are beginning to look at how they can take advantage of this system much more aggressively. Mexico as well. I think when you look at Fulbright, just to finish, I think there's a few things that stand out on why its an important program. One is the prestige. It continues to be the most prestigious program, certainly not the only program anymore. Lots of universities have their own exchanges, there are lots of scholarship programs in the United States and in other countries for exchange. But it certainly is the most prestigious still. It is in many countries truly bi-national and one of the great things about being on the CoMexus board was that this was not the US Fulbright, it was Fulbright Garcia Robles, it was the Mexican and US governments and Mexican and US civil society, and Mexican and US business community trying to work together to figure out how to support a truly bi-national possibility of exchange. I think this is true in many places, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru where we have these truly bi-national groups running what is Fulbright. And, finally, I think Fulbright can be a catalyst more than it has been but it can continue playing a role as we expand the program. Its the only program particularly where it is bi-national that can actually convene some of the other groups trying to see how we move forward in a coordinated way thinking about educational exchange as a central pillar of our bi-national relationships with each other. Building the social infrastructure that allows us to interact between Mexico and the United States, but also Brazil and the United States, Peru and the United States. Develop the social infrastructure that needs to catch up with the real integration of the hemisphere.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you. Dan, your experience at the White House during those four years where you were able to see from that sort of privilege perch from the top the whole region and the importance you look at the demographics that the percentage of young people in the region is almost, I don't know, 30 and 40 percent in the countries. And the turmoil we are seeing in the countries first time like in Brazil, some street demonstrations against the government, and we also saw some of that in Chile, obviously in Mexico where it always had it but also in Argentina. How do Fulbright and this educational system somehow, from your perspective, can help this upsurge of young and vibrant persons that are not necessarily content in a democratic system but still see a lot of inequity and corruption in their respective countries.
Dan: I think in several ways. You've hit on something that is one of the most important dynamics that is occurring today in the Americas, its happening around the world but we'll focus on in the Americas where you have a new assertive middle class that is demanding much more of its governments than its governments are capable of delivering. You've seen it touched off by small things like bus fares in Brazil, together with the Confederation Cup and stadium building for the World Cup. You've seen it with students in the streets in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile. You've seen it one manifestation Yoso drente dos in Mexico. And one of the things that educational exchanges and I think one of the reasons that the President, although I longer speak on his behalf, but fairly familiar with his thinking on the 100,000 Strong in the Americas and the role of educational exchange in the Americas, understands is building that social capital, building that human capital that Andrew was talking about, that builds upon the reality that the Americas - everyone has a hard time figuring out the right label for our relationship with the Americas. Its our home. The third largest Hispanic population in the world lives inside the borders of the United States. The third largest Hispanic origin economy in the world lives inside the borders of the United States. After only Brazil and Mexico on both of those counts. Its the third only trillion dollar economy among the Latinos or Hispanics in the world. But building more connectivity helps bridge a lot of culture and social lack of understanding that exists in the region and Fulbright is an incredible example, and building on what Andrew was saying, and again going to the Presidents approach to the Americas being a good partner its a true partnership when it works best its a true partnership. Where countries are increasingly stepping up. Countries and civil society and private sectors are increasingly stepping up to being that partner. One of the challenges of a partnership agenda in the Americas is finding partners to work with. Some of that is a capacity issue. Some of that is a willingness issue and local politics. Some of that is a legacy of the past and the complicated relationship that the United States has had with the Americas. But Fulbright is a shining example of how this can and should be done. One of the things Gabriel asked us to do is be somewhat provocative in our comments and the joy of not serving in a government means, A, I don't have to wear a tie and, B, I can say the following. Going back to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas, originally my role on this panel was to tie the previous event to this event but when the previous event disappeared that made it a little more challenging. But going back to the President's announcement in Santiago in a speech in March of 2011 of the need to build that human and social capital and connection by increasing the amount of US students studying abroad in the Americas to a 100,000. And Latin American and Caribbean students studying here in the United States to a 100,000. Essentially doubling the numbers. When we thought about this issues in the US government and policy planning process leading to the trip there was an enormous amount of resistance. Bureaucratic resistance to the idea.
Ambassador Gabriel: Why?
Dan: A, it was misunderstood but existing educational programs thought it was a threat. And so there was this, and, its hard to do. That was the other things. There were two components. Both, was this a threat to existing programs like Fulbright and others? And where are we going to get the resources? How are we actually going to do this? Its one of those things its nice to say but hard to do. The first part was particularly interesting and missed the point. Both this is a cumulative exercise. It is an encompassing exercise of existing exchanges of Fulbright, the university driven ones, something like Science without Borders in Brazil which is in a large measure a response to the challenge laid down by the President on the same trip in a conversation he had with President Rousseff. She had a small program of sending STEM students out into the world before she heard the number and it became a big program after hearing about the 100,000 strong number from the President in the bi-national meeting. I think what was missed also was the role that Fulbright can play here because of its history, because of its success, because it is truly is a partnerships in the places where it works best. Its a best practices for increasing exchanges between the United States and the countries in Latin America. And the second part was right, this is not easy to do as Fulbright has experienced. You live in a volatile world. You live in very changing circumstances. You live in very changing commitments outside the United States and frankly inside the United States. Right now we have a President who very much understands the importance of international education. His father was an international student here in the United States. So it was an opportune moment to do it and I think as what we would have heard today is the progress we made toward implementing and making real the US side of the commitment. Which is additional resources brought to bear for international exchange that shouldn't be seen as a threat or anyone else that is in international exchange business. It should be seen as a welcome opening, a welcome opportunity to build those kinds of bridges that are of lasting import for the United States and for the countries in the region.
Last point. one of the biggest challenges in the Americas is a lack of competitiveness in the global economy. And there is a whole host of reasons for a lack of competitiveness. But among them is, and this goes with Andrew's point about the capability of US higher institutions to foster environments of innovation. That is a huge comparative advantage that the United States has in the Americas today. Its what the Brazilians, the Mexicans, the Chileans, the Colombians as they ramp up that's what they are for. They are looking for access to that. To help bridge and fill in this innovation gap which is a big part of the competitiveness gap of countries. You only have one country listed in the top 50 innovation economies in the world is Chile at #39. If you look at the competitiveness indexes that come out of the World Economic Forum, one just came out, there's three - four - countries from the Western Hemisphere in the top 50 and neither of them are Mexico or Brazil. That fall in the 54/55 or 55/56 in this year's. So filling that gap is very important for those countries of the region and then building more understanding and capacity of US folks going into the region and living the realities of today's Americas which are a far cry, quite frankly, of what gets taught to this day in our institutions of higher learning about the region, about its attitudes and about its views, about itself and the United States. So I think there is a lot of real value here that affects the policy making world when you have greater social and human capital playing in this space.
Ambassador Gabriel: Well I think that's a very important issue that you raised at the very end but I want to have a question to the panel but our chairman here would like to offer.
Tom Healy: Sorry I just had a brief note towards housekeeping. We are having participants virtually and they will be preparing to ask questions in a bit. But just for people online and, if any of you are tweeting things now, the hashtag is #fulbright. If you are online and interested in asking questions of the panel. Or if you want to Tweet about some of the things happening here. Thanks
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you. And Hilda and and I would like to open it up here for the panel. You hit something that always bothers me about, especially in Latin America, is the lack of philanthropy, the lack of interest by wealthy companies, by wealthy families to contribute to their own good in terms of nonprofit organizations. Something that, of course, is very strong here in the US culturally but doesn't necessarily happen in Latin America and I think that may be one of the reasons, among many others, of why you are beginning to see this discontent in the streets especially by the young. And so my question, maybe to all of you in the panel, but to Hilda maybe you are really involved in the private sector. Where do you see and why do you think there is tremendous lack of interest in the private sector to be much more active in philanthropy and then pushing governments, in this case you gave the example of you being with President Carlos Andres Perez. I always believe that there should much more pressure, and giving, from the private sector, and there are many areas of course we are here talking about higher education. So what do you think this occurs?
Hilda: I thought a lot about that because I founded the Youth Orchestra of Americas, which is a training program for high level musicians across the Americas and we need to raise scholarship from each of the countries to support their children, their musicians. So I thought a lot about that. I think there are three reasons. One is typically Latin America has suffered from extreme commodity cycles. It is very hard to build and retain wealth. There a few families that have built and retained it, its a challenge. Unlike the United States' economy, which is a lot more diversified and people can built and retain larger portions of wealth, in Latin America it is a little bit more common gold. That's changing. And I think philanthropic giving will, is, beginning to change. So the cyclicality of the economy is a problem. There are no huge wealth that have been created. There are no Rockefeller's yet, or no Carnegie's, or not Gate's at that level that have been created. And those set an example for the rest.
Second reason is that Latin America gives a lot to charity. There are a lot of people who are very poor and very sick. There is a great tradition of charitable giving, saving someone from dying or giving them their next meal or something like that. There is a general perception of people that are talented are born lucky and don't need that much help. I am doing as much as I can to change that perception because what distinguishes the success of the United States is we identify, and in Europe and in Asia, we identify highly skilled people and support them. Because if you do not support them they will not reach the heights that they are supposed to. If I didn't come to Harvard I would probably be singing in Morocco at a nightclub
Because I have a voice, I can sing.
And the third reason is that the governments have not encouraged philanthropic giving. In most countries it is not tax deductible. In those countries in which foundations have been allowed to be created the government tries to control them. That is Venezuela, Costa Rica, I know because I've gone through that route to try to create foundations in one of these countries. So its one its a combination of those three things.
Ambassador Gabriel: Well we have a couple more minutes but I would like on this issue comments from the rest of the panel. Please.
Dan: Very briefly, I think one of the things you are seeing is beginning of generational change. In terms of those families who do have the resources and there are those that do have the resources if one looks at a list of the world's billionaires you will find people above Mr. Gates on that list. There is some generational change that is starting to take place and I think as the region globalizes. I think part of this is a certain insularity that it has existed is among, even the wealthy in the region, of not seeing the example and understanding the example of global philanthropy in the United States and elsewhere, particularly in the United States. That is starting to break down because their children were educated here in the United States and have a different perspective on the world, again going on on this point on the importance of this kind of educational opportunity. The other thing that I think is interesting here and what governments have done, you seen this particularly with Science without Borders in Brazil, is they have aligned the corporate interests in the sense that you have major economic players who need human capital that does not exist in their economy today and the government has established a mechanism to help solve that problem. To make them a partner in helping to solve that problem. So they are doing it not out of the goodness of their heart. They are doing this because it is in their narrow and broad economic interest to do so. That is a step along the road to getting a kind of higher functioning part of the economy and the politic and the national psyche of the country. So I think that's an important step we've seen, really just in the last few years with Science without Borders being the best example of that.
Ambassador Gabriel: You're very true, especially about Brazil. Judy, you wanted to have a point you wanted to raise?
Judy: Andrew, perhaps you have a point you wanted to raise?
Andrew: Just a very quick one. I would say one of the things you are seeing is a huge investment by the private sector in private education institutions in Latin America. Some countries more than others but its one of the areas where the private sector and wealthy individuals have gotten more engaged in philanthropy. And I think there is a huge opportunity for Fulbright, where we saw this with CoMexus, where a number of people in the private sector and wealthy individuals beginning to contribute to international exchange specifically. As an extension of what they are already doing of investing human capital in their countries and I think that is something to the extent that the private sector is one of the partners with civil society and with government. There is a huge potential to tap there because they're very aware of the needs, particularly in graduate education often in business, technology fields, and in innovation that they expect often for their business. They're looking at this as an opportunity as well and I think that's a way to go into the future.
Judy: If this is the right moment I wanted to provide some ideas or topics for discussion based on my experience and my understanding of this wonderful Fulbright, bi-national commissions Fulbrights, in the Americas. One issues that I am concerned about and would everybody to discuss to make it better is that of sustainability. Often people like me are chosen are to represent the United States and go to, in my case, Argentina and teach a course. But then after I teach the course that's the end of it. Unless I put my personal resources, and interests, in furthering through the initial contacts made training students, uhm, it stops right there. Often I don't know who preceded me or who will come after me so I would encourage, and this is one of three points that I wanted to bring to discussion. I wanted to encourage the Fulbright programs through their national commissions or offices to actually put all of us together so that collectively we can all help the US in creating more long-term assessments about the countries and what people in those countries are saying, thinking, perceiving. In my case I got a teaching Fulbright. Put us together so that we could learn from one another, build on our collected knowledge, provide some sort to people in the United States, not only Latinos but other people, and lecture what we learned about these countries. That would also help recruit people who might not perceive academically sound enough to apply for a Fulbright. Also, think of other mechanism to involve people, both in the countries we go to and in the US. Not only this one time, three month, teaching assignment for example. I think that would provide, in other words I am speaking against myself, I am encouraging us to make better use of our efforts and to keep us engaged beyond the time that we're asked.
Ambassador Gabriel: I think we are reaching, looking here at the watch, that I would like now to open up questions from the audience. I'm sorry. The chairman can always ask any question he wants.
Chairman Healy: So one of the reasons we do this panel on a range of subjects is to look at the policy of Fulbright. We've talked about the dramatic exchange and the possibility of exchange and whether there are issues of competition, where does it grow and happen and such. This is a two-part question. One is, in that dramatic expansion exchange and development of higher education in the region should Fulbright grow in size or should it stay small, highly competitive and prestigious? For example if you look at Mexico, Colombia, a number of countries if you look at the top group of ministers and elected officials in those countries often a majority of them are Fulbright scholars. The question is should we play a much larger role, change standards, is that a false choice? Is there a growth potential still at the elite level? How should Fulbright explicitly play a role in expansion with 100,000 strong and the rest? And then there is the second part to this. In answering, if you were given the role of heading the Fulbright program tomorrow, what is the recommended change you would implement for the region?
Ambassador Gabriel: Okay would you like to start Hilda?
Hilda: The answer to the first question is yes to the all of the above. What does that mean? Should Fulbright expand? Yes. Its hard to fight for resources but whatever resources you can get get, you should get them. Should you have more participants in Fulbright? Yes. Should you diminish the value of exceptionalism or excellence or intellectual achievement brand? No, absolutely no. Latin America is the region that needs to begin to think thoroughly in excellence as the most important ingredient for growth. We don't have enough of the concept of excellence. I'm trying to insert it into the psyche of the people. And Fulbright should continue financing not elites - in the sense of high net worth people or people who are already in situations of power - but elites in every level, poor. We've found incredible excellence in the most poor places, in the favelas in Brazil. Thank goodness the revolution takes a random shape and you can find brilliant dedicated, disciplined, people in the poorest of communities. So that you should not give up on. What would I do? Well that's a tall order because I want to feel fair and grand and continue doing a lot of what Fulbright is doing? We're training 700 exceptional musicians all over the Americas and they're transforming the places. We're creating leaders - community leaders. Its so fascinating because right now there are a 150 open positions for musicians between Mexico and Costa Rica that many of the graduates of conservatories are applying for because there are no positions for high level musicians in the United States. That's another discussion. So there is an enormous amount of interchange that I know of in the field that I happen to know a lot about which is highest level musical achievement. There is a lot and very cheaply. It would cost that much to get many of those people to a Fulbright and eventually earn what would allow them to make that transfer.
Andrew: I'd say a couple of things. One is I think Fulbright should continue to be prestigious, be exclusive but yes it should expand. But increasingly, and this is joining with what Hilda said, that elites - the definition of what elites is has changed - at one point the capital cities were the breeding grounds for national politicians and national business leaders. Increasingly, and this is true in Latin America, its true in China, India (I have a book coming out next week looking at how regions and provinces matter in those states, in India and China) but the same is true in Mexico and Brazil. Quite often the future business leaders, the future cultural figures, the future politicians more than ever are going to come out of regions. They often and, this is the challenge though because if you go to a regional institution in many of the countries in Latin America. Your chance at good English is less. Your chance at scoring the same on a SAT or GRE is less. Part of the challenge there is how to create the infrastructure, you have to think creatively about this for some places. We've had this discussion at CoMexus for a little bit. If you wanted indigenous applicants whose Spanish is their second language and English is their language in some cases but it turns out that indigenous regions in some countries really matter and are increasingly political influential then you have to figure out how to get people up to speed on English language skills and some of the cultural competencies to go into a US university. So that may change the model a little bit in some ways.
The second thing I would say is Fulbright should definitely expand and the fact that partner governments are putting in money is really helpful and the fact that private sector may want to put in money, I think there's innovative ways of expanding this. There's always limit to this. So I think the other place that Fulbright may think about going, particularly in some countries, is being a convener and a catalyst. Which is no other institutions, the University of Nebraska or Harvard or UNAM in Mexico or University Buenos Aires, are not going to convene educational exchange institutions to talk about this because its all a piece of what they do. For Fulbright it is what it does. Being the catalyst that convenes the different actors, looks at how is putting in the money where and thinking strategically what the needs are for the future, I think Fulbright can play a much bigger role in that in not only doing its own great work but for others to do even greater work in creating a community that really think about educational exchange as a strategic enterprise.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you.
Judy: So you know the issue of expansion is something that I understand President Obama has already approved, I mean, we are expanding right. So that's not a question for us to address its already happening. But I'm not as concerned about numerical growth as about impact and sustainability. I think that in addition to growing numerically we should look very seriously at expanding and diversifying the mechanisms by which we impart education not only in universities but research institutes but how do we get to the grassroots levels and other regions of the country? Maybe even a region by itself? I would have liked to have my Fulbright contribute to the southern cone, would have liked to responded to numerous visits that I got because the Fulbright commission in the host country advertises visits and anybody invited can lecture. But by the time I was leaving that's when the invitations were coming. So figure out mechanisms that would be better used so its not a three month, or one month, impact and only among 30 students but it diversifies and stays longer beyond a persons stay. That's what I would use if I were President of the Fulbright Commission.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you. So we will now open the forum. So do we have a microphone that will go around? Oh I'm sorry. You will have go up to the microphone and ask a question to any of those. So please state your name, what you do, and state your question.
Thank you. My name is Dan Ericson, I work here at the State Department. I'm a former Fulbrighter in Mexico, 1998-1999. I think that its a great program and I congratulate on putting together this panel. At the very beginning Mr. Healy mentioned that Fulbright is active in 26 countries in the Americas which made me think, right off the bat, well we are missing a few? I imagine some of them are the small Caribbean countries but another one would be Cuba. In the last few years there have been some changes in the educational space between the United States and Cuba with a lot more students traveling down there. Recently the Cuban government lifted restrictions on the ability for people to leave for more Cubans to be able to come up here. And Fulbright isn't really playing at all in that space. So I was curious to know your perspectives on whether there are opportunities present today that aren't true five or ten years ago and how you think about this? Its open to the panel. Thank you
Ambassador Gabriel: Well Cuba is an important, controversial, country in the region, at least from my perspective. Its going to take time for that to happen, even though this administration has opened up the region, not the region I mean the policy between Cuba and the US. So I don't know if any in the panel. Maybe Dan. You were part of this discussion when you were at the White House. Maybe you want to comment on that.
Dan: I won't go to the policies and procedures of Fulbright itself because I can't speak on that. The notion of enhanced educational exchange between the United States and Cuba is a good idea. It is administratively much easier today that it was not even 5 to 10 years ago. As of January 2011 you have general licenses for educational purposes and that makes life a whole lot simpler and then there are other things that probably need to be refined to make it work as best as it could. So I think that the notion of, and this goes with the broader point that all of us have been making, the connectivity that comes from educational exchanges and quite frankly educational exchanges from both directions. It would be good if the Cubans would let folks out to study in the United States and quite frankly, elsewhere in the regions in ways that have not recently - by recently I mean the last 60 years. To be able to enhance that, I think, is a net benefit for the United States, for Cuba, and for the desired end state in Cuba which is, to sound like the broke record like I've been the whole time, a Cuba where the Cuban people get to decide whose in charge at their own free will. I think it can contribute to that it doesn't have to champion that way. I think it contributes that way because it creates that greater social and human capital and connectivity.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you. Yes please.
Hi, my name is Lana Allman and I've had the great honor of being a Fulbright scholar in Chile where I studied migration affairs, internal migration affairs. Being an immigrant myself, a refugee from the former Soviet Union, I never imagined studying these issues in South America. So thank you for Fulbright for letting me do that.
My question is I've always wondered about the differences about the programs for when foreign scholars come to the US, they come to obtain a master's degree oftentimes. When US scholars go to Latin America we primarily are there for teaching or we do research. I wonder if there is a reason for this? Also looking at sustainable issues. The structure that is provided for foreign scholars to come to the US is much greater, I think, there's educational institutions, they have advisers, they do very focused research here and they take courses. When we go abroad we are sometimes just out of undergrad or there's PhD students doing research. And being thrown as an undergrad into research can be overwhelming and what happens afterwards. What do we do with the research? Do we publish it? Do we share it with others? I did migration affairs so I was ready to come back and explore so I was very curious about the differences about both sides of Fulbright.
Ambassador Gabriel: This is a good question a complex question and I am going to have the chairman. Jenny can you come up here and answer?
Chairman Healy: Jenny is the director for Western Hemisphere so she will answer more of the factual things. I would like to answer one part of that which also gets to something that Judith was asking about - sustainability and investment longer term for people who have been Fulbright Scholars. Its been over 300,000 people since the beginning of the program. Probably two-thirds of them are still actively living or engaged in professional cultural lives around the world, 155 countries. There are often localized committees or alumni associations. And the person with the next question runs the alumni here in the United States and some of them are more active than others. One of the things we've been seeing in the last 5 years is the dramatic transformation of the engagement and breadth of those organizations, partly because of social media. Its informal and the ability of Fulbright alumni, whether because of country engagement, field of study, their professional work engagement, some kind of project they're working on, its possible for people to gather and find each other far more easily then it had been. But it is an ongoing question for us. In limited resources how much do you put in giving the new person the next opportunity in feeling you've invested something in a lot of smart, ambitious people, and they'll go find other opportunities and they'll make those connections, a lot of funds and efforts to continue to strengthen those relationships. Obviously we try not to do an either or. I think we are starting to do much better in the connectiveness. But I do think that there is much more opportunity for Fulbright Alumni to do that themselves without the government or any commission driving, spending funds, to do that. And I think we rely on those associations and their growth. In fact, the State Department does fund innovation and new efforts that a lot of these groups do to develop their infrastructure and projects, that does happen. I would Jenny to answer some of the specifics about.
Jenny: Good morning. Let me try to answer your question. You were a US student going to Chile, right? Okay, well you know the Fulbright program is very diverse. We don't have a one size fits all situation but let me just say that the way our program is structured in the Americas is that in general our US students go to the region and they go, as you mentioned for about 9 months approximately - depending on the type of grant because you can be a traditional student, you can be an English Teaching Assistant - so it depends on where you are. And you are right visiting students come to the United States and they engage in, for the most part, degree seeking programs whether master level or doctor level programs. That being said because of this whole issue of huge diverse and complex structure of programs in the region, we do have some countries we our students do engage in some degree programs in Mexico for example. Students go there for over a year, actually two years, to complete a masters. Now as a US student when you go to the region you will have been affiliated to a research institution or a university that should have provided you support, I hope. So I just wanted to give you some answer to your question.
I will be very brief. My name is Steve Riley. As Tom said I am the executive director of the Fulbright Association here in the US. We are the largest of those alumni associations worldwide of which there is about 70 of us. We are about 6,000 strong. Hilda knows us very well, she was part of our leadership on our national board for a long time.
A lot of what you've talked about, and Judy you've touched on it quite a bit, is resonating with me quite a bit because I'm having a lot of conversations with our alumni community. A lot of what we can do in the name of Fulbright of course lies in the alumni community and not necessarily in the program itself. Now Tom, Gabriela, and the FSB can put together policies and approve grants that would certainly move us in the right direction, whatever direction that may be. But the reality is we have 65 years of alumni totaling 350,000 that are probably still alive and active. There are little silos or pockets of them either here or abroad but there is so much more we can do with that. So, I'm kind of new to my role this year, but I'm starting to look at all of these technologies and all of those pockets of relationships and areas of interest, not just in the government but certainly in the private sector. And as a private 501(c) trying to find its way in a community that really hasn't been developed yet I'm curious what the panel thinks about how we could leverage this large community that I actually have access to continue to build to what you've talked about? And, I guess I would like to hear from Tom and Gabriel, of how we can keep that connected to the program itself so that public-private partnership can really help us move forward a lot in a more accelerated manner.
Ambassador Gabriel: Ever since I've been appointed to this board and, I think all of the members of the board are in the agreement one of the things we learned fairly quickly when we were appointed, is that we thought the alumni association in the US could be doing much more that it actually does. I am very happy to see that you are actually in charge and, the little bit that I have been talking to you, I see that someone like you is what was needed. Someone that has, is aggressive, has vision vision and knows how to move. I believe we have a tremendous wasted opportunity with the thousands of Fulbrighters we have in the US that we could be using much more effectively. Not only for the Fulbright in general, but for example, one of the things we have, not do legally, is go to congress. The Fulbrighters they can go and lobby on behalf of Fulbright. Especially those committees that have jurisdiction over the Fulbright program. I believe that is the case here in the US. From our experience in other countries of the world, some alumni are stronger than others. Every time I visit an alumni commission I urge to get them stronger. For example Mexico is a good example of that. Now Tom I do not know if you have anything to add something to that? Or anyone? Hilda do you want to say something to that?
Hilda: I will be very brief. I think this is great news for the association to know that they can go and lobby in Congress. From what I remember, and very little, I remember there was always a problem trying to get information from the State Department. So for us at the association to even find out who were the Fulbright Alumni in other countries was impossible. That ought to change. We don't even have a list of the Fulbright graduates except for the ones we painstakingly tried to put together.
Andrew: It strikes me that the future of the Fulbright program is, we've always thought of it as a government program in some countries. Its actually thinking of it as a public-private partnerships in which the governments are the driver continues to be - gives it enormous prestige as well. Increasingly the alumni, and other interested parties in the private sector and individuals who care about education are really important actors in this. I've seen this in some of the bi-national commissions particularly Mexico we are moving in that direction. Its a huge asset in terms of funding and getting the word out to other people. In terms of the political and, uhm, Mexico was fundamental in getting Fulbrighters involved in “why does this matter as governments change?” “Why does Fulbright matter in national programs?” I think that public-private conexus is the future of Fulbright in a way that wasn't to the outside. Outside it was private, a government program. Increasingly I think its a public-private effort. That's wonderful.
My name is Jessica Schlesinger. I am with George Washington University right up to the street and Fulbright is near and dear to us because of Senator Fulbright. I was also a Watson fellow in Argentina many many years ago and I worked for the Institute for Foreign Education managing the Foreign Fulbright Program for Latin America through the Institute for International Education in New York. I'm currently with the Office of International Programs track all of our programs worldwide. I would like to add a couple of comments and a small question.
First, we have the Carlos-Slims Scholarship at GW and of course there is one entrepreneur in Mexico who is contributing great amount of money to bringing Mexican scholars to the US. Its a new program and I'm interested in watching their progress. We have 5 scholars now who are doing very much and I'm curious about this idea of where does it go and how do we evaluate it? What do they do with what they have learned?
Secondly, I track all of our international education programs across our university and I find, in answer to some of the questions raised, that former Fulbrighters go on to create linkages and these linkages become partnerships sometimes - formal partnerships across universities worldwide. Even though I don't have scientific evidence I have anecdotal evidence that the tradition continues and that the connections are important. I watch those names. I report on them and track them throughout school and that has become important. My question is about the sustainability and the continuity and the reach of this type of scholarship program because what I find is generally, may not be the intent but sometimes the more privileged students hear about Fulbright, so how across Latin America could we reach those scholars may not have a connection at the embassy (and I love that women and the story. I will take it back in case I see her around). But, uhm, how do they get there from here? How do they get to the point in their own country? Maybe they don't have a parent who is educated, maybe they don't have the language ability. How do they get to the next step?
Ambassador Gabriel: Well that is a good question. I can just give you from my own personal experience when I was US Ambassador to Chile. I, obviously, became very interested in the program the minute I arrived. When I arrived I perceived that the people that were members of the bi-national commission I did not think they were necessarily doing the correct job. Especially they were not reaching the level of people that we needed to get. Meaning it was very centrically viewed, people from Santiago but nobody from the rest of the country. One. Two, they were going to, at least most of the attention was going to the elite universities in Santiago. I was able to, and sometimes one of the nice things of being a US Ambassador one has the power, I was able to eliminate all of the members of the commission and we were able to have a new commission of both US and Chileans. And as a requisite to get appointed we needed to revamp the commission, which we do. And now we can see the results in many ways. From the Chilean commission today, which happens to be one of the most active, most varied, and most wide in terms of reaching areas that before there were no members of, say, the southern part of Chile - where there are indigenous communities - or the northern parts of Chile. So, I think, it behooves the State Department and because this because this really is a grassroots, you know down-up organization, really also one has to push the - the ambassador plays a major role and the commission plays a major role. Jenny why don't you go ahead and.
Jenny: Yes, I actually wanted to speak to that if I may. You know, diversifying the Fulbright program has been a top priority for us in the bureau, I would say, in the last decade. You know we are very committed to that and we actually put funds towards that. The way we do that, particularly from the Western Hemisphere branch, is that we every year fund what we call “Pre-Academic English”. Which allows students that come from less privileged backgrounds who may not have the necessary level of English that would allow to take international educational opportunities such as Fulbright to actually come to the United States, anywhere from 3 to 6 months, to undertake English language training so they can be more competitive and successful. We want to make sure these students are set up for success in their Fulbright experience. So we do that. We have a dedicated amount of money for that. In addition to that, sometimes we have even funded specialized workshops that target, sorry I am a sociologist by training so sometimes I have this sociologist language creeping in, not vulnerable populations but you know we have specialized targeting workshops for that try to bring in indigenous students from Mexico, for example. Or Afro-Caribbeans. Or others that partake on a five day training so that they get familiarized with US higher education institutions. What it takes for them to be be successful and develop the skills that will make them “Fulbrighteable” so to speak. So we did that for a long time. So those are some of things we do and we press our commissions and our posts to try to make sure they recruit the most diverse pool of candidates that they can recruit. We push hard on that.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you for that answer. We have one more question.
My name is Sergio Fernandez I come from Bolivia. I can also say I have the honor of being a Fulbright grantee, thank you very much for the opportunity. My question is regarding the objective results of the program. Since we are talking about creating dialogue and mutual understandings between peoples I think this gives us the opportunity to exercise citizen diplomacy, you know, to counter statements or political frictions between countries. This is the situation between the Bolivian-US relationship currently, cause as you know, we now have a kind of left wing radical administration in office. And, uhm, instead of statements and positions have caused for example USAID not to be present in Bolivia anymore so there is a possibility in the future, I hope it doesn't happen, that both countries break diplomatic relations. We don't have ambassadors we only have Charge d'Affairs. So there is this possibility. I am concerned and very worried and as I said there is a way to counter these situations between both countries. So if in the event that Bolivia and the United States break diplomatic relations would there be a possibility, and a will, of the program, of the board, to keep this program running in Bolivia? And if yes, which I really hope the answer is, how would you do it?
Ambassador Gabriel: Well that is a very good question and the short answer is no. As I mentioned before, Fulbright program only exists if there happens to be bi-lateral relations between our countries even if sometimes are tense like with Bolivia. Hopefully we won't get to break relations with Bolivia but we are not there. I know we haven't had ambassadors for a number of years on both sides but, uhm, at least we're there. The Fulbright program exists in Bolivia. So to your question, no. If relations break, we break. Now we have one question. Yes.
Yes, Hello. I'm Katherine Sterns with the Fulbright Board Staff and we're giving voice to our Twitter audience today also. We have several comments from Sarah Ferguson at US Embassy Panama who says, “I really appreciate this kind of feedback from the Fulbright Program. I'm new to Panama post in charge of this program.” In a separate Tweet she adds, “I think the Fulbright should grow because its sad to receive over 100 applications and to only select 3 or 5”. Any comment?
Ambassador Gabriel: Well that's always a problem. That we all have to confront, especially in this difficult moments we were in a sequester period where the budget has, fortunately for us we haven't been affected by it. We have to see what happens in Congress at the end of this month. But that's always a major problem, how do allocate resources? Jenny do you want to comment?
Jenny: What I would say on a note of optimism is that the region is very successful at raising funds. Actually I would say the region is possibly the top, or second in the world, in terms of its ability to bring in partner governments co-shares in improving our program. Our program has grown tremendously last 10 years in many thanks to partner government co-shares. We are growing. The region is growing in terms of programming, despite our finances right now.
Ambassador Gabriel: Thank you. We have our last question please.
Good Morning from Mexico. My question is basically what do you think about increase the Fulbright Scholarship? In my country I basically walk the same way that Hilda walks. I didn't find any other scholarship for law. Even if I work in the intellectual property field that Mexico says that want to work in this area about innovation, about protecting ideas, about those kinds of things. But at the end of the day the Council of Science and Technology didn't consider this area as an important area to support. So to come here, live in Washington, to buy two beers here I can buy 24 in Mexico. So you immediately feel the difference. But Fulbright scholarship are given those $24,000 per all the year but the tuition fees we are talking about $45,000. To live here we are talking about, I don't know depends on where you are living at, it can be $10,000 a year and the metro all those expenses. You were talking about increasing number of people, increasing tuition, increase scholarship. In my case I would like to consider increasing the scholarship than the people. But what do you think about this specific kind of case for people that didn't receive all they can for scholarships? Thank you
Ambassador Gabriel: Well that's a good question and again that's an issue that always we continually face. Especially knowing that there's some areas of the United States that are more expensive to live than others. If you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma or Des Moines, Iowa if you live Washington, DC or New York City. So that's always a problem but, uhm, Tom you want to address that issue.
Chairman Healy: I would like to say its a great question and a complicated one we face. Perhaps a good way to thread all of the things people have been saying because I think the way we address that better is that the United States government funding is not going to jump dramatically. The issue we face is increasing the participation for other governments and finding private support. One of the ways we can make the scholarships further is if we have tuition reduction from schools that participate in the program and if we find private support. So we work very hard. The State Department staff does. Our partner organizations do to see how we can ring more blood out of the existing relationships and then create new opportunities where people didn't think there ways of participating in Fulbright. So we are constantly expanding that and we are very well aware of how expensive it and how much people sacrifice to do the Fulbright and we're grateful to you for it and its more about growing the pie through new partners.
Ambassador Gabriel: I think we are unfortunately reaching our, the end, so I would like to most important thank our four members of the panel. I do hope that the four members, I believe and I hope you do also, that we had a very good four persons with knowledge and experience in the region and from own personal experience in the program. I want to thank all of you for being here today. I hope that this was fruitful and interesting as you learn, I did, more everyday about our Fulbright program. I want thank our chairman. I want thank members of our staffing in putting this up. I want to thank them for their work. So I hope you had a fruitful morning with us and thank you very much for coming.