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Embracing innovation – 2018 Fulbright Alumni Conference revamped

Over 200 Fulbright alumni from across Pakistan attended the 15th annual Fulbright Alumni Conference

Almost 250 Fulbright alumni from across Pakistan attended the 15th annual Fulbright Alumni Conference

 

For the past 15 years, USEFP has hosted the Fulbright Alumni Conference in a format modeled around academic papers and presentations. This year, we decided to shake things up by changing our approach to celebrating the achievements of Fulbright alumni and sharing the impact of the Fulbright Program with our audiences and stakeholders in Pakistan and the United States. The revamp combined technology and creativity to mirror the changing landscape of higher education and employment in the 21st century and drove home the immense impact the program has in Pakistan.

The 15th annual Fulbright Alumni Conference was held in Islamabad at Serena Hotel from November 30 to December 2, 2018, featuring live, recorded talks, masterclass workshops, a stand-up comedy show, and a PUAN-sponsored alumni dinner. The conference hosted 249 Fulbright alumni from across Pakistan.

Guest of honor, Christopher Fitzgerald, Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Mission to Pakistan, congratulated the alumni on their accomplishments and urged them to continue applying the skills and connections they developed in the United States to their professional and personal pursuits in Pakistan.

“For almost 70 years, the United States has brought future leaders from Pakistan for study in America under the Fulbright program, and Americans have come to Pakistan for study and research. This year, 800 Pakistanis are in the United States on a variety of academic and professional development programs. Alumni of these exchange programs become leaders in Pakistan and bridge-builders between our countries. We’re very proud of them,” Fitzgerald said at the event.

 

Theme: “Fulbright Pakistan – Emerging Leaders”

The theme for this year was chosen to reflect the impact of long-term investment in degree programs, where young beneficiaries in their 20s and 30s have had time to mature and grow into career-oriented professionals.

The Fulbright Program has undergone a major evolution since 2004; from being a purely academic program featuring pre and post-doctoral research grants, it has evolved into a degree-awarding scholarship program supporting both master’s and doctoral programs for Pakistani citizens at U.S. universities. The new wave of alumni are entrepreneurs, artists, comedians, lawyers, inventors, designers, architects, teachers, professional sports players, philanthropists, economists, public servants, and, of course, engineers. As such, we thought it was time to look at a new way of celebrating their achievements and highlighting their impact in Pakistan.

 

New and Improved Format

Concurrent with the theme this year, USEFP aimed to provide the “emerging leaders” with a platform, which, like them, was contemporary, innovative and dynamic. As such, the conference showcased 10-minute-long talks delivered by Fulbright alumni in front of a live Fulbright audience. The supporting setup also featured a customized stage, HD 4K cameras, and specialized lighting and sound. Twenty-three alumni speakers participated in rehearsals for two months leading up to the conference. The talks covered a diverse range of themes including cutting edge, technology-based interventions in the fields of agriculture, economics, and data science; the impact of design thinking and human centered design; mental health interventions and mindfulness; compelling personal stories about battling drug addiction, poverty, and cultural practices; critiques on challenging social norms on issues including gender, disability inclusion, and accessibility to public spaces; and some powerful talks on the need for ethics and sensitivity in news reporting, and the need for long form storytelling through documentary filmmaking.

The revamped conference was hosted by Fulbright alumni who volunteered as emcees to moderate the conference program; conducted masterclass workshops on yoga and stress management, and brought out a lot of laughs during a Friday night stand-up comedy show.

The conference has also been given a new website, which launched on October 24, 2018. The website will soon feature all the recorded individual talks and in time become a permanent repository of Fulbright Pakistan alumni achievements, captured on film and in written story format, showcasing the immense impact and talent of Fulbrighters.

Those who could not attend the conference can go through USEFP’s Flickr page to see the highlights of all the sessions. For more information on USEFP alumni activities and the annual Fulbright Alumni Conferences, please visit our website.

Questions or clarifications about any aspect of the conference can be directed to: alumni@usefpakistan.org.

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