For Fulbrighters across the world, storytelling serves as an important tool for advancing diplomacy and fostering cross-cultural communication. On June 18th, 2020, the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the World Affairs Council of Maine (WACM) partnered to celebrate stories that showcased the impact and value of international education programs, people to people diplomacy, and global outreach in Maine and internationally. The event “A Celebration of the Legacy of International Exchanges: A Storytelling Event,” highlighted the impact and value of the Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership Programs. Speakers at the event included a number of Fulbright alumni, representatives from the U.S. State Department, and FA’s own Shaz Akram. Although the program was originally organized as an in-person event, the Maine chapter quickly adapted to the COVID-19 circumstances and managed to hold an engaging and well attended online event.
WACM and the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association represent the two flagship programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, making this a natural partnership for a storytelling event. The main goal of this event was to showcase the impact and value of both programs to nurture and advance mutual understanding between people, globally. A favorite refrain of the Maine Chapter is, “the shortest distance between two Fulbrighters is a story.” This event not only brought Fulbrighters and other internationally minded individuals together, but it also served as a way to support and advocate for Fulbright and IVLP. The partnership between the two organizations demonstrates the importance of intercultural communication and mutual exchange.
This was the Maine Chapter’s first virtual event, and Elaine Potoker, Maine’s chapter president, referred to it as a great success. While their preference was to hold it at DiMilio’s on the Water in Portland, she says “The fact that 82 Fulbright alumni & Friends and WACM members actually attended a virtual event on a beautiful 75 degree, dry (no humidity) day in Maine was quite impressive.” The Maine Chapter is committed to providing excellent programming for chapter members and plans on holding other virtual events in the future. The Maine Chapter also hopes to continue to grow its membership in Maine, expand their local advocacy initiatives, as well as establish outreach with other educational institutions, regional chapters, and outside organizations. Ultimately, Elaine’s vision for the chapter “is that of a holographic organization (as management consultant & organizational designer, Gareth Morgan, described it.) We are no longer a model of governance where the President does everything! The idea is to create a team where each part can re-generate the whole.”1
While we are hopeful that we will soon see an end to the current public health crisis, the Fulbright Association is proud to see that our alumni community remains strong. We are inspired and in awe of the ways that our chapters continue to find ways to gather virtually and stand in solidarity with each other during these difficult times. The Maine chapter reminds us that sometimes the simplest way we can support each other is through a story.
To view a recording of the event, please click here. If your chapter is interested in holding an online event and would like support from the Fulbright Association, please send an email to email@example.com.
— Lisa Bochey
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016
- Morgan, Gareth (1986, 1997, 2006). Images of organization. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.