The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which has a mission of promoting mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange. ECA strives to build diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in all aspects of its work. In September 2022, the Bureau released an updated statement on DEIA to reflect the overarching importance that the Bureau and Department place on DEIA.
The Fulbright Program
For over 75 years, the Fulbright Program has engaged diverse students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds. The Program believes that people from different countries and cultures living and learning together will foster mutual understanding among peoples and nations, helping to shape a more positive vision for all communities around the world. A hallmark of the Fulbright Program has been its longstanding commitment to DEIA. The Fulbright Program actively engages and supports individuals from all backgrounds and identities throughout their experience with the program. Fulbright takes concerted steps to ensure that the Program’s diverse participants have successful and rewarding experiences by incorporating DEIA principles and practices before, during, and after their exchange, including into general programming and administration, outreach and recruitment, selection, placement, post-selection and orientation efforts, on-grant activities (including enrichment and reentry activities), and alumni engagement. In addition to the examples provided in the Fulbright Program Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Fact Sheet, some specific examples of Fulbright’s DEIA-related strategies, initiatives, practices, and procedures are detailed below.
- D&I Overall Activities and Initiatives
- The Fulbright Program unveiled a new brand and visual identity in 2019 to better communicate the Fulbright Program’s core value — that the program is for talented, committed individuals from all backgrounds who wish to build mutual understanding that leads to positive change. The refreshed Fulbright narrative was a result of extensive interviews and analysis that concluded that some potential applicants saw Fulbright’s “prestige” as a barrier to entry and that they did not feel that they were a match for the program.
- Reflecting DEIA in all of its forms was identified as the organizing framework for the Fulbright Program’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 2021. Throughout the year, the Program highlighted diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the celebration — representing Fulbrighters from all backgrounds on global platforms; at celebratory events, panels, and activities; and through inspiring stories, videos, features, and alumni biographies.
- In 2018, following increased success in recruitment from underrepresented communities, the program recommitted itself to ensuring that increased diversity be accompanied by inclusion initiatives. The Fulbright Program has continued to take concerted steps to ensure that diverse Fulbrighters have successful and rewarding exchange experiences abroad by hiring regional Diversity Coordinators.
- In 2019, the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) relaunched and formalized its internal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Working Group to share best practices and to address and find solutions for issues surrounding DEIA in Fulbright and other academic exchange programs.
- The Fulbright Program has had a long-standing partnership with Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and the State Department-funded National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), which MIUSA administers. Joint efforts have included promoting Fulbright Program opportunities for people with disabilities, highlighting successful exchange experiences of disabled Fulbright alumni, and providing trainings to Fulbright Program staff to aid them in effectively managing and promoting disability and exchange programming.
- In keeping with federal and Program policy and practice, the Fulbright Program is committed to working with grantees with disabilities, on a case-by-case basis, as requested, to provide reasonable accommodations to help ensure the grantees have a successful and rewarding exchange experience. The Program has developed a Reasonable Accommodations protocol for use in assessing and funding accommodations.
- The Fulbright Program cultivates collaborations with many entities, including the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; Diversity Abroad; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU); and Watch the Yard, among others. The annual Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders and Fulbright HSI Leaders initiatives are unique collaborations that celebrate Fulbright’s relationships with HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).
- Fulbright alumni and participants have formed several affinity groups with the intention of supporting individuals from different backgrounds throughout the exchange program cycle. While not officially affiliated with the Fulbright Program, they are active on social media, and their members take part in conferences and activities related to Fulbright and other international exchanges and offer support, advice, and networks for Fulbright applicants, participants, and alumni.
D&I Throughout the Fulbright Grant Continuum
The Fulbright Program strives to represent and amplify the experiences and narratives of diverse Fulbrighters in all public-facing outreach and recruitment materials, events, and activities, including social media, websites, promotional materials, and panels.
- Fulbright Program implementing partners offer recruitment resources and training to Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to help ensure that the Fulbright applicant pool reflects the true diversity of the United States. For close to a decade, the Fulbright Program has facilitated workshops for Fulbright Program Advisers and Scholar Liaisons at MSIs to provide training and support for their campus engagement efforts to increase representation in the Program.
- The Program’s robust diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives include collaboration with a host of Fulbright Outreach Partners, a diverse network of leadership organizations, professional institutions, and associations that work with underrepresented communities.
- Representatives from the Fulbright Program regularly participate in diversity and inclusion-related conferences to promote the program and offer support and engagement opportunities to international education and higher education professionals. Some examples include:
- Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions Educators
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium
- Asian American and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Program
- Association for Higher Education and Disability
- Community Colleges for International Development
- Council on Opportunity in Education
- Department of State’s MSI Foreign Policy Conference
- Diversity Abroad
- Faculty Women of Color in the Academy
- HBCU Faculty Development Network
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
- National Indian Education Association
- Rutgers University Center for Minority-Serving Institutions
- Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science
- Student Veterans of America
- White House Initiative Offices serving African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indian and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and HBCUs
- The Fulbright Program’s collaborative activities with Reach the World and the Fulbright Association alumni organization’s Fulbright in the Classroom program seek to bring Fulbrighters to U.S. classrooms either virtually or in person, especially in rural communities, to share the value of international exchange and mutual understanding with young students from a wide range of backgrounds.
- Fulbright launched the Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders Initiative in 2019 to recognize selected HBCUs for their noteworthy engagement in the Fulbright Program and to encourage all HBCUs and their students, faculty, and staff to engage with Fulbright. The annual Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders campaign was expanded to include additional recognition activities, a Symposium (2021), and an interactive Workshop (2022) to help more HBCUs engage with different components of the Fulbright Program.
- In 2021, Fulbright recognized an inaugural group of 35 Hispanic Serving Institutions as Fulbright HSI Leaders to encourage other HSIs to participate in different aspects of the Fulbright Program. In 2022, the Fulbright HSI initiative was continued and expanded, culminating in a Fulbright HSI Workshop to provide advice and best practices to other HSIs.
- In 2021, the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at ECA began collaborating with the Rutgers Center for Minority-Serving Institutions to amplify and extend the Fulbright Program’s focus on diversity and inclusion by highlighting diversity and inclusion-related Fulbright activities, opportunities, resources, and alumni through social media. Read more about this collaboration here.
- The Fulbright Specialist Program is a roster-based program whereby U.S. academics and professionals from a broad range of disciplines may apply to be a part of the Fulbright Specialist roster for a three-year period and be eligible to be matched to host institution-driven projects. The Fulbright Specialist Program strives to ensure a diverse roster that includes efforts to promote gender parity and inclusion of individuals from underrepresented groups and from a wide range of home institutions. The Fulbright Specialist Outreach team recently promoted the program at conferences and workshops focused on reaching diverse and underrepresented audiences.
- Review and Selection
The Fulbright Program strives to ensure that selected participants reflect the diversity of the United States and partner countries in keeping with the Program’s objectives and guiding principles. The Program encourages participation of people from institutions and disciplines considered underrepresented, as well as from individuals who have traditionally been underserved in exchange programs. The Program is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion in the review and selection process.
In 2022, Fulbright engaged DEIA experts to assess the application and selection processes for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs with the goal of ensuring these processes are as fair and equitable as possible.
- U.S. Student Program
- The ECA Diversity Statement is incorporated into reviewer instructions and guidelines and is discussed and displayed to reviewers at both the beginning and the end of each review committee meeting.
- Reviewers for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program are instructed to evaluate applications holistically against posted review criteria while adhering to the Program’s nondiscrimination and diversity policies.
- The Fulbright U.S. Student Program recruits National Screening Committee (NSC) reviewers to represent the diversity of U.S. higher education institutions. Reviewers come from all institutional classifications and geographic regions of the United States. Approximately 21% of reviewers come from Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).
- The Fulbright U.S. Student Program encourages Fulbright Commissions abroad to host fair, equitable, and inclusive review processes that ensure participants represent the diversity of the United States.
- U.S. Scholar Program
- Reviewers for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program are instructed to evaluate applications holistically against posted review criteria, assessing each application alongside the review criteria rather than comparing candidates against one another. The discipline-based peer review process utilizes a rating system rather than a ranking system, which encourages reviewers to identify the unique strengths of each application and aims to prevent comparison of applications as an anti-bias measure. ECA’s diversity statement is included in the reviewer guidelines and discussed at the beginning of each peer review meeting.
- The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program recruits diverse panels of peer reviewers to evaluate and recommend applications for further consideration in the selection process. Reviewers come from all institution types and include both academics and professionals representing the breadths of their disciplines. Approximately 20% of reviewers come from MSIs. Reviewers also represent all geographic regions of the U.S.
- The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program encourages Fulbright Commissions abroad to hold a fair and equitable review process that is binational in nature to ensure candidates selected for awards represent the diversity of U.S. society.
- Fulbright Specialist Program
- The Fulbright Specialist Program recruits a diverse panel of peer reviewers to evaluate and recommend applications for further consideration in the selection process. Reviewers come from all institution types and include both academics and professionals.
- U.S. Student Program
The Fulbright Program’s pre-departure preparation, which includes orientations and digital resources, continually evolves to meet the needs of its diverse participants.
- Each Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) includes a key session entitled “Your Identity Abroad.” In this session, participants and alumni engage in a conversation about how their identities inform and shape their exchange experiences. Alumni and grantees discuss their own multifaceted identities and consider how they may change when encountering cultural expectations in their host countries, drawing examples from personal experiences. Through small-group discussion, a panel, and short presentations, grantees and alumni look at how to cope with potential scenarios of identity conflicts and challenges to themselves, other members of their cohorts, and their host countries. The grantees examine how their experiences of their identities can shift while abroad, and how they can interact with their host culture with respect and humility while remaining true to themselves. Among the issues discussed are those of power and privilege, the difference between expectations and reality when living abroad in a new culture and environment, and how awareness of culture, identity, and one’s own expectations can contribute to a successful Fulbright experience.
- To ensure the success of participants of all backgrounds in preparing for a successful Fulbright experience, Fulbright PDOs also include sessions on country-specific customs and regulations, health care, grant logistics, and identity and allyship abroad for U.S. Students and Scholars.
- The Fulbright Program provides online Pre-Departure Resources, which include reference materials such as websites, podcasts, articles, books, and films to help grantees successfully navigate their time abroad. Many of the resources were recommended by Fulbright alumni.
- The Fulbright Program recruits diverse alumni to attend PDOs to discuss their country-specific experiences from their perspectives of intersectional identities, using strengths-based approaches to discuss issues of marginalization, privilege, and discrimination.
- At PDOs, the Fulbright Program has standardized its use of pronouns and names throughout the orientation. The Program recognizes that participants may identify themselves within the Fulbright community using a name or pronouns that differ from their official/legal name or gender identity.
- As part of the pre-departure process, the Fulbright Program provides grantees with disabilities, on a case-by-case basis, as requested, with reasonable accommodations to facilitate their participation in the orientation experience.
- On-grant Activities/Monitoring and Re-entry
The Fulbright Program provides resources and opportunities for participants while they are on their Fulbright exchange programs to ensure that they have the support and assistance needed to have a successful exchange experience.
- In 2018, Fulbright hired diversity and inclusion experts to further the Program’s diversity initiatives abroad and strengthen its institutional capacity to support the success of Fulbrighters from traditionally underrepresented communities. These positions exist in three regions: Europe and Eurasia, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Western Hemisphere. Learn more about the diversity and inclusion experts.
- The regional diversity and inclusion coordinators host a podcast called Fulbright Forward, which features interviews with program alumni on regional and local ramifications of global diversity-related issues.
- U.S.-based webinars on race, ethnicity, identity, and inclusion support diverse U.S. Fulbright students while they are abroad. The webinars address different topics and are tailored to each phase of the grant experience (as participants begin their grants, mid-year, and prior to returning to the United States) and feature diverse Fulbright U.S. Student alumni who have successfully navigated challenges during their Fulbright exchange experiences.
- The State Department provides ASPE Assist, a mental health and crisis support service, as a benefit for all exchange participants, including Fulbright U.S. Students and Scholars, while they are in their host countries. Accessible 24 hours a day, it is a support option for participants in urgent and non-urgent situations. ASPE Assist services include advice to grantees when they feel at risk or vulnerable, and support to those who have experienced a traumatic incident of discrimination or harassment, in addition to mental health crisis support.
- Fulbright provides updated safety, health, and security webpages for U.S. Scholars and U.S. Students, with links to helpful materials for participants from all backgrounds, and specifically highlights resources for women travelers, information on international laws affecting the LGBTQIA+ community, resources for mobility and accessibility, and advice on navigating identity and diversity abroad. These include Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Safety, Health, and Security and Fulbright U.S. Student Program Staying Safe and Secure.
- To assist in building community and facilitating connections across borders, the Fulbrighter Network, created in 2019, provides opportunities to connect to participants with similar identities who are facing similar challenges. With nearly 30,000 users, the network allows individuals to interact through online community groups based on shared interests.
- Fulbright affinity groups often provide opportunities for Fulbright participants on grant to connect with others who share the same identity and to educate those of other identities.
- In 2021, the Fulbright Program held a virtual Global Reentry Workshop for U.S. and Foreign Student participants to support their transition as they return to their home country. Online resources for returning U.S. Students cover topics such as coping with readjustment, staying connected to Fulbright, and professional development.
- Activities, Enrichment, and Events
The Fulbright Program works to ensure our events, orientations, and enrichment activities reflect the diversity of the United States and of the program as a whole. Speakers, panelists, and invited alumni represent a wide range of backgrounds to provide audiences with diverse perspectives on the topic being highlighted at each event. We seek to partner with Minority-Serving Institutions to host and implement events at locations that represent the diversity of American life. We also work to ensure that all virtual and in-person activities are accessible to audience members with disabilities by employing learning management systems, websites, and other content that is ADA compliant.
The Fulbright Program holds events for the general public that address topics highlighting the diversity of the United States. Some examples include:
- Fulbright Impact in the Field: Race, Justice, and the Global Civil Rights Struggle
- Fulbright Impact in the Field: Disability Rights, Inclusion, and the International Legacy of the ADA
- John Hope Franklin: Redefining the American Story – Exploring a Life & Legacy Through Family & Fulbright
- A Conversation with Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart
- The Fulbright Program Presents: An Evening of Poetry with Rita Dove
- National Park Week: Explore Crater Lake National Parks featuring Klamath Tribal Elders
- Sasha Velour: Trailblazer. Artist. Fulbrighter
- Disabilities Across Distance: Navigating a Fulbright With a Disability
Fulbright Visiting Scholar and Foreign Student Enrichment Seminars
The Fulbright Program organizes enrichment seminars each year for international Fulbright students and scholars in the United States, often on DEIA-focused or DEIA-related topics. Some examples of seminar themes include:
- “From Equity to Equality in Education: Beyond the Civil Rights Movement” (Atlanta, GA)
- “Women’s Economic Empowerment, Challenges and Opportunities” (Washington, DC)
- “Diversity: A Chicago Work in Progress” (Chicago, IL)
- “Strengthening Communities Through Diversity and Action” (Louisville, KY)
- “Rights and Responsibilities in a Civil Society: the American Indian Perspective” (Denver, CO)
- “Political Processes and the Challenges of Diversity” (Austin, TX)
- “Building a Society that Reflects Human Rights and Celebrates Ethnicity” (Birmingham, AL)
- “Remote but Connected: Transformation of American Rural Communities Through Technology” (Lincoln, NE)
- “Leveraging Diversity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation for Economic Growth” (Atlanta, GA)
- “Combating Addiction and Addressing the Opioid Crisis” (Buffalo, NY)
Seminar speakers, panelists, and alumni are invited and selected based on their expertise and on their ability to provide diverse perspectives on each seminar topic.
The Anchor City Program
The Anchor City Program connects Fulbright Visiting Scholars in the Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles areas with diverse groups, including minority communities and community colleges, to enable the Scholars and their families to deepen their understanding of life in the United States while often giving back through service work and volunteering.
The Fulbright Program provides platforms and opportunities for diverse alumni to engage with the broad and dynamic network of Fulbrighters, alumni, and stakeholders around the world. Alumni are included in Fulbright’s diversity and inclusion efforts at all stages of the exchange cycle.
- As part of Fulbright’s strategic communication strategy, Fulbright creates and shares a curated selection of alumni videos and stories for its websites and social media to highlight the accomplishments of Fulbrighters from all backgrounds. Interviews with diverse Fulbright Students and Scholars are used to produce videos compilations such as “I am Fulbright” and brief videos of interviews with individual alumni.
- The Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Programs for U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars, created in 2008, assist with outreach and recruitment, especially to underrepresented populations. Each cohort of Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors is carefully selected to represent different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, home states, fields of study, and institutions. Approximately 360 Alumni Ambassadors have participated since the programs’ inception. Alumni Ambassadors have also served on Fulbright focus groups to examine various aspects of the Fulbright Program, sharing their unique Program experiences and perspectives.
- The Fulbright Program annually promotes stories of and events with alumni with disabilities to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the 30th anniversary of the ADA in 2020, the Program created an online platform with monthly features of Fulbright alumni with disabilities as well as Fulbrighters who work with communities of people with disabilities.
- The Fulbright Outreach team conducts interviews with diverse Fulbright alumni to celebrate specific activities and heritage commemorations, including International Education Week, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. These stories are highlighted on social media to provide prospective applicants with a glimpse into the personal Fulbright experience of representative alumni.
- In 2012, with support from ECA, the Fulbright Association (FA), the United States’ largest Fulbright alumni organization, launched a Diversity Initiative to encourage diverse alumni to become active members. These alumni, in turn, serve as role models, helping diverse audiences become more aware of Fulbright Program opportunities. In that same year, the FA developed a Young Professionals Network (YPN), implemented by selected Fulbright Association chapters throughout the United States, to enable young U.S. Fulbright Student alumni to confer with industry specialists, participate in mentoring activities, and build professional networks. More recently, the FA created Fulbright in the Classroom to bring Fulbrighters into diverse primary and secondary school classrooms to foster the exchange of international and intercultural perspectives.
- The Fulbrighter Network connects alumni and current participants from all backgrounds to network, collaborate, and share opportunities. With nearly 30,000 users globally, the network allows individuals with diverse interests and backgrounds to interact through an array of user-developed online community groups based on shared interests and shared challenges. This platform allows Fulbright alumni, participants, and selectees to connect with users to build their own unique and supportive community and strengthen professional and personal networks.
- The Fulbright Specialist Program highlights the achievements and impact of the wide breadth of diverse Fulbright Specialist alumni. One example is through celebrating engagement with HBCUs. Another is the inclusion of specific alumni like Alito Alessi — a dancer, choreographer, founder of DanceAbility International — in the Fulbright 75th Anniversary celebration at the Kennedy Center, where he created an inclusive dance presentation that challenged disability stereotypes.