Over 150 Fulbright and Humphrey alumni travelled to Karachi, to celebrate 70 years of friendship between Pakistan and United States, as part of the 14th Annual Fulbright and Humphrey Conference, which took place between March 2 and March 4, 2018.
The three-day conference was hosted at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), featuring alumni networking, academic presentations, and addresses by notable representatives from the governments of Pakistan and the U.S., academia, civil society, the non-profit sector, and the private business community.
On Friday evening, USEFP invited the alumni to dinner at one of Karachi’s most famed waterfront eateries, Kolachi, on Do Darya. Conversation flowed, as the alumni, accompanied by their friends and family, spent a memorable night engaging with their peers and members of USEFP, against a picturesque backdrop of the Arabian Sea.
The conference was formally inaugurated on Saturday, with addresses by Executive Director USEFP, Ms. Rita Bruun Akhtar, Dean and Director IBA, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination, Mr. Syed Abu Ahmed Akif, and Acting Consul General, U.S. Consulate General, Karachi, Mr. John E. Warner. During their addresses, all the speakers unanimously stressed the immense contribution higher education exchange opportunities have created for talented young Pakistanis. Mr. Akif echoed the same thought, drawing attention to the role of scholarship programs in the creation of a better future. “It was through Senator Fulbright’s belief and vision,” he said, “that programs like Fulbright are building connections between institutions and future leaders.’’
While addressing the conference, Mr. Warner lauded USEFP’s contribution towards promoting educational exchange between Pakistan and the United States. He emphasized the special relationship both countries have shared through their collaboration on higher education, saying that, “Exchange programs have been critical in the foundation of our relationship. We could not have achieved such success without USEFP. Through these exchange programs, the alumni, foster tolerance in the society and contribute to socio-economic development and cultural exchanges across Pakistan.”
A Fulbright scholar herself, Ms. Rita Bruun Akhtar talked about the profound impact exchange programs can have on recipients. “The Fulbright and Humphrey Programs represent so much more than an opportunity to study abroad; an opportunity to understand a world beyond our own and in the process to understand ourselves much better. These exchanges are also about building long-lasting friendships, sharing stories, and developing ideas that strengthen mutual understanding between Pakistan and the United States.”
The Institute of Business Administration (IBA), led by its dynamic Dean and Director, Mr. Farrukh Iqbal, was instrumental in providing USEFP a platform to host its first conference in Karachi. A U.S. graduate himself, Mr. Iqbal confessed he would have applied for a Fulbright to pursue his higher education in the U.S., had he not already completed both his Master’s and PhD on his own. He also proudly noted that several IBA graduates were Fulbright Master’s and PhD alumni. One such Fulbright and IBA alumnus, Mr. Syed Zeeshan Ali, played a pivotal role in connecting USEFP with IBA to host the conference in Karachi. More power to our alumni for fostering such collaborations.
The conference had its fair share of memorable speakers, but none more so than Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali. Her keynote address was a lesson in diplomacy and U.S.-Pakistan history. “The goodwill relationship that the United States builds through these exchange programs is priceless”, said Ms. Wazir Ali. “This conference is a manifestation of this leadership and reflects the amazing vision of Senator Fulbright and U.S. Vice President Humphrey.”
Currently, the Fulbright and Humphrey alumni community consists of over 3,000 members in Pakistan. They represent a diverse and dynamic pool of professionals working in higher education, business, health, energy, media, arts, sports, the development sector, and the public sector. At the 14th conference, 21 alumni spoke on topics including health, low-income educational opportunities, disability inclusion, access to information and public libraries, district administration, and personal journeys of self-exploration and cultural exchange.
The conference concluded on Sunday with a special guest appearance by Pakistani musician and humanitarian Mr. Shehzad Roy, followed by a city tour arranged by prominent Fulbright alumnus Dr. Muhammad Ali Shaikh. The tour featured exclusive visits to Quaid-e-Azam’s Mausoleum, Sindh Medressatul Islam University’s Jinnah Museum, and a hi-tea at Port Grande.
Those who could not attend the conference can go through USEFP’s Flickr page to see the highlights of all the sessions.