Diversity & Inclusion

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State strives to ensure that its programs reflect and value the diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad. The Bureau seeks and encourages the involvement of people from traditionally underrepresented audiences in all its grants, programs and other activities, as well as in its workforce and workplace. Opportunities are open to people regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Bureau is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion. 

For 75 years, the Fulbright Program has engaged passionate and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds. We believe that by living and learning together with people from different countries and cultures we can shape a more positive vision for our communities and our world. A hallmark of the Fulbright Program has been its longstanding commitment to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). We strive to ensure that Fulbright reflects and values the diversity of U.S. society and societies. Equally important to diversity is inclusion. Fulbright takes steps to ensure that the Program’s diverse participants have successful and rewarding exchange experiences. 

The Fulbright Program addresses D&I through all stages of the Fulbright exchange continuum, including general programming and administration, outreach and recruitment, selection, post-selection and orientation efforts, on-grant activities including enrichment and re-entry activities, and alumni engagement.  

In addition to the examples provided in the Fulbright diversity and inclusion fact sheet, some examples of Fulbright’s D&I-related strategies, initiatives, and procedures are detailed below. 

D&I Overall Activities and Initiatives
  • In 2019, the Fulbright Program unveiled a new brand and visual identity 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. This new, 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 the “right fit” for the program. 
  • An overarching theme of the Fulbright Program’s 75th Anniversary in 2021 is to highlight and celebrate diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the celebration. The program works to ensure that Fulbrighters from all backgrounds are represented in 75th anniversary activities and on its anniversary website fulbright75.org.  
  • In 2019, the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) re-launched and formalized its internal Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (DIWG) to address and find solutions for issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in Fulbright and other programs.  
  • Since 2017, 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 Fulbright- and/or international exchange-related conferences and activities. 
  • Specific Fulbright Programs support D&I objectives: 
    • The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program enables U.S. colleges and universities to host scholars from abroad for a semester or an academic year. Scholars teach courses and guest lecture, engage with students and faculty across campus, and interact with the community outside campus, all with the objective of promoting internationalization. Diverse institutions are encouraged to apply to the Program, including those underserved in international exchange and/or those serving minority audiences. This includes MSIs, community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, rural colleges and universities, and military academies.   
    • The Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF) enables U.S. colleges and universities to host Fulbright Visiting Scholars already on exchange in the United States for short-term (two-day to six-day) campus visits engaging with students, faculty, and staff in various ways to support campus internationalization. Priority institutions include MSIs, community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, women’s colleges, arts colleges, and geographically underrepresented institutions. OLF visits are designed to enable the host institutions to become more familiar with the Fulbright program and the ways that institutions can participate in it further. 
    • The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program facilitates engagement with community colleges through a special fund to provide additional support for community colleges seeking to host FLTAs. Through the use of this fund, the Fulbright Program has placed a number of FLTAs at community colleges that would not otherwise be able to participate in the program.
  • 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 persons with disabilities, highlighting successful exchange experiences of disabled Fulbright alumni, and helping Fulbright Program staff manage disability and exchange programming. 

D&I Throughout the Fulbright Grant Continuum 


The Fulbright Program strives to represent and amplify diverse Fulbrighters and their narratives in all public-facing materials, events, and activities, including social media, websites, promotional materials, and panels. 

  • Fulbright Program implementing partners offer recruitment resources and training to MSIs to help ensure that the Fulbright applicant pool reflects the true diversity of the United States. Since 2018, the Fulbright Program has facilitated workshops for Fulbright Program Advisers and Scholar Liaisons at MSIs to provide training for and support their campus engagement efforts to increase representation in the program. 
  • The Program’s robust diversity strategies and initiatives have included collaboration with a host of diversity-related associations and organizations. Fulbright Outreach Partners are a diverse network of leadership organizations, associations that work with underrepresented communities, and professional institutes.  
  • Representatives from the Fulbright Program annually attend conferences to promote the program and offer support and engagement opportunities to international education and higher education professionals. Of those conferences, many are related to diversity and inclusion in international exchange. Some examples include:  
    • Asian American and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Program 
    • National Indian Education Association 
    • Department of State’s HBCU Foreign Policy Conference 
    • White House Initiative Offices serving African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indian and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and HBCUs  
    • Council on Opportunity in Education  
    • Association for Higher Education and Disability  
    • Community Colleges for International Development   
  • 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 (either virtually or in-person) to U.S. classrooms, especially in rural communities, to share the value of international exchange and mutual understanding with young students. 
  • In 2019, the Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders Initiative was launched to recognize selected HBCUs for their noteworthy engagement in the Fulbright Program and to demonstrate the Program’s commitment to serving HBCUs and their students, faculty, and administrators. The HBCU Institutional Leaders campaign broadened in 2021 to include additional activities and a symposium. 

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


Review and Selection

The Fulbright Program strives to ensure that selected participants reflect the diversity of the United States 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 underrepresented in fellowship programs, and is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion in the review and selection process. 

  • 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 strives to recruit 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 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. In addition, 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 strives to recruit 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 breadth of their discipline. Approximately 20% of reviewers come from minority-serving institutions. Reviewers also represent all geographic regions of the U.S. 
    • The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program encourages Fulbright Commissions to hold a fair and equitable review process that is bi-national in nature to ensure candidates selected for awards represent the diversity of U.S. society. 




    The Fulbright Program’s pre-departure preparation, which includes orientations and digital resources, continually evolves to meet the needs of its diverse participants. 

    • To ensure the success of participants of all backgrounds in preparing for a successful Fulbright experience, Fulbright Pre-departure Orientations (PDOs) include sessions on country-specific customs and regulations, healthcare, grant logistics, and identity and allyship abroad for U.S. Students and Scholars.  
    • The Fulbright Program also provides online Pre-departure Resources (PDR), which include recommended reference materials such as websites, podcasts, articles, books, films, etc. to help grantees successfully navigate their time abroad. Many of the resources were recommended by Fulbright alumni. 
    • The Fulbright Program seeks to recruit diverse alumni to attend PDOs to discuss their country-specific experiences from their culturally-situated positions, 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 that differs from their official/legal name.
    • In 2019, Fulbright alumni from diverse backgrounds conducted a panel discussion on race and allyship abroad. The panel created a safe space that allowed the alumni to articulate how they dealt with situations specifically around race, racism, discrimination, and harassment abroad during their grants. The goal of the session was to help outbound Fulbrighters learn practical tips for interacting with their host communities and how to have difficult conversations and answer questions around race and race in America. This session also allowed participants to deepen their own self-reflection of biases and privileges as they prepare to go abroad. 
    • As part of the pre-departure process, the Fulbright Program has developed a protocol to work with disabled grantees, on a case by case basis, as requested, to provide them with reasonable accommodations to facilitate the success of their exchange experience.  
    On-grant Activities/Monitoring and Re-entry

    The Fulbright Program provides resources and opportunities for participants while on grant to ensure that they have support and assistance to ensure that they have a successful exchange experience. 

    • In 2018, diversity and inclusion experts were hired to further Fulbright’s diversity initiatives abroad and strengthen the program’s 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 are provided to support diverse U.S. Fulbright students on assignment. The webinars address different topics and are tailored to 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.   
    • ASPE Assist is a mental health and crisis support service which is a benefit for all participants in the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar Program while they are in their host countries. Accessible 24 hours a day, it is a support option for Fulbright U.S. Students in urgent and non-urgent situations. ASPE Assist services include mental health advice and crisis support, advice to grantees when they feel at risk or vulnerable, and support to those who have experienced a traumatic incident of discrimination or harassment.  
    • To assist in building community and facilitating connections across borders, the Fulbrighter online platform was created and provides opportunities to connect to participants with similar identities who are facing similar challenges. With over 22,000 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 launched a virtual Global Re-entry Workshop for U.S. and Foreign participants to support their transition as they return to their home country.  


    Events and Enrichment

    The Fulbright Program makes every effort to ensure that events and enrichment activities are representative of the diversity of the United States and the program as a whole. All Fulbright alumni and external speakers invited to program activities and events represent a wide range of backgrounds to provide audiences with the many different personal narratives of what it means to be a Fulbrighter and they provide diverse perspectives to activity participants.  



      Fulbrighters are part of a diverse and dynamic network and the Fulbright Program provides platforms and opportunities for alumni to engage. Alumni are included in Fulbright’s diversity and inclusion efforts at all stages of the exchange cycle. As part of Fulbright’s communication strategy, Fulbright alumni stories highlight the accomplishments of Fulbrighters from all backgrounds. 

      • The Fulbright Alumni Ambassador program for U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars was created in 2008 to assist with outreach and recruitment, especially to underrepresented populations. Each cohort of Alumni Ambassadors is carefully selected to represent different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, home states, fields of study, and institutions. Approximately 360 Alumni Ambassadors have participated since the program’s inception. Alumni Ambassadors have also served on Fulbright focus groups to examine various aspects of the Fulbright Program.  
      • For the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2020, Fulbright created an online platform with monthly features of Fulbrighter 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 celebrations, including, but not limited to International Education WeekBlack History MonthWomen’s History Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage 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. The Initiative reaches out to diverse Fulbright alumni and encourages them to become active members. These alumni 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), which was implemented by selected Fulbright Association chapters throughout the United States which enables young U.S. Fulbright Student alumni to confer with industry specialists, participate in mentoring activities, and build professional networks. 
      • The Fulbrighter online platform connects alumni and current participants with similar identities to network, collaborate, and share opportunities. With over 22,000 users, the network allows individuals to interact through an array of user-developed online community groups based on shared interests. This platform allows Fulbright alumni, grantees, and selectees to connect with users to build community, address challenges, and strengthen professional and personal networks. 
      Policy on Fulbright Affinity Groups

      The Bureau recognizes that affinity groups have the potential to provide valuable contributions to Fulbright grantees and their exchange experience.  While these activities are not funded by, or officially associated with, the Bureau’s Office of Academic Exchange Programs, which manages the Fulbright Program, affinity groups are currently playing an important role in:

      • helping to recruit candidates who reflect the diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad
      • helping to engage exchange program alumni as ambassadors for the program
      • serving as a forum for Fulbright participants, applicants, and alumni to ask targeted questions, seek mentorship, develop ideas, and share recommendations
      • helping to fulfill the mission of the Fulbright Program
      • helping to foster diversity and inclusion in the Fulbright Program

      We appreciate the work of those active in affinity groups and other groups that support the Fulbright experience and/or engage with program alumni, grantees, and prospective candidates, along with program stakeholders and supporters. 

      ECA recognizes these groups as being founded by, with, and for grantees and alumni.  In order to be equitable and inclusive of all such groups, ECA will maintain a policy of non-endorsement of specific affinity groups.  As always, members of affinity groups, along with all other Fulbright alumni, are encouraged to:

      • share their experiences
      • apply for open calls for funding through the International Exchange Alumni community, Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies and Consulates, and other public, private, and non-profit sources
      • form and maintain a digital presence on relevant sites such as the Fulbrighter networking platform and on social media; however, a statement must be included which explains that the group is self-governed and not officially associated with the Fulbright Program or ECA.
      • contact relevant stakeholders, including the Office of Academic Exchange Programs / Fulbright Program, Fulbright Commissions, Public Affairs Sections at U.S. Embassies and Consulates, Fulbright program implementing partners (including the Institute of International Education (IIE), World Learning, AMIDEAST, and Laspau), and the U.S. Fulbright Association and other Fulbright alumni associations, with questions, recommendations, or ideas.