New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
The Fulbright Foundation in Greece, the oldest Fulbright Program in Europe and the second oldest continuously operating Program in the world, has enhanced Greek and American relationships since 1948, when it was established.
In the spirit of bi-nationalism that is central to the Fulbright Foundation, Fulbright grants have been awarded to approximately 5,000 Greeks and United States citizens in almost every field and discipline: the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Business and Finance, Science and Technology, the Environment, Education, Media, and Government.
The Fulbright Foundation programs in Greece would not be possible without the financial support of the U.S. and Greek governments, and corporations, foundations, institutions, and individuals. Due to the current financial environment, however, it is extremely difficult for the Fulbright Foundation to secure funds for the award of its scholarships to deserving Greek and U.S. students, teachers, artists, and scholars, except through the generosity and philanthropy of donors who share common values and the belief in the importance of the advancement of education in Greece.
And for the future of Greece, there is something “beyond donations”, as well, says Artemis Zenetou, Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, “It is important to spread the word about GREECE as an educational destination….Fulbright Greece and opportunities for educational exchanges between the two countries….We need to utilize the academics of Greek origin who teach in U.S. universities, and highlight Greece/Fulbright as a great resource!”
In an interview with the GN Ms. Zenetou re-introduces the Greek American community to the Fulbright Foundation Program, the matchless opportunity for students, scholars, teachers and artists to study abroad though scholarships.
GN: Is the Fulbright Foundation placing special focus on finding solutions for problems Greece is experiencing during the economic crisis?
AZ: For the next three academic years, the Foundation will place emphasis on scholarship programs that have immediate impact for Greece. Currently Fulbright is making every effort to award short-term grants that will have immediate impact on the Greek educational system. Such as programs for: a) educators and b) scholars as these grants are for a shorter duration and participants, who have established careers and hold professional positions in universities, research centers and schools in Greece, return to the country to apply the expertise they have acquired and benefit from establishing international networks and linkages.
These two programs share common traits as they are both addressed to professionals and are of a short duration. These traits allow an “immediate” transfer of expertise to Greece to the benefit of the institutions, research output, students and pupils in a much-needed time.
GN: Some Greek officials have praised the educational and cultural exchanges that Fulbright scholarships bring about.
AZ: Speaking about the educational and cultural exchanges between Greece and the United States, Antonis Samaras, the current Prime Minister of Greece recently said, “. . . Senator Fulbright saw ‘beyond the horizon’ of his time. He didn’t remedy the tensions of the Cold War. But he helped build a world, able to live and prosper despite great differences among nations. He helped build a necessary common context for the survival of mankind: a culture of coexistence, communication, understanding and mutual trust. Now the Cold War is over for 24 years. But the Senator’s vision is not outmoded. We probably need it now as much as we did 65 years ago….People are different. We cannot become the same. Probably, we should not become the same. But this is all the more a good reason to keep building bridges among ourselves.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed by other Greek officials. Athanassios Kyriazis Secretary General, Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, for example, has noted, “Fulbright’s work is exemplary and makes everyone optimistic about the future; it is a solid Program that delivers results.”
GN: What keeps the Fulbright Foundation programs going?
AZ: The continuity and growth of programs offered through the Fulbright Foundation in Greece would not be possible without the support of the U.S. and Greek governments and the generosity and philanthropy of corporations, foundations, institutions and individuals.
Due to the current financial environment, however, it is extremely difficult for the Fulbright Foundation to secure funds. We are therefore reaching out to donors with whom we share common values and the belief in the importance of the advancement of education in Greece.
The Foundation relies on the support of its donors to safeguard educational opportunities through its scholarship program and continue offering as many scholarships as possible to promising Greek and American students and scholars. The donors have the ability to select the field of study of the scholarships they support, and can support one or multiple scholarships depending on the funds they are willing to commit. The Fulbright Foundation maintains a 501(c) (3) account for the deposit of donations with tax benefit for its United States–based donors.
GN: How have some Fulbright scholars helped Greece?
AZ: Two examples of the long-term impact of the Fulbright Program on the crisis in Greece is evident in statements by Fulbright recipients Emmanuela Truli and Aphroditi Veloudaki.
Emmanuela Truli, Commissioner-Rapporteur, Hellenic Competition Commission-Lecturer of Civil Law, Athens University of Economics and Business and a 2001-2002 Greek Fulbright Graduate Student in Law at Columbia University, observes that, “More than ten years after my LL.M. Studies at Columbia University, made possible thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, I am still very conscious of the benefits of my excellent education, and hence, the responsibility that goes with it. In this time of crisis which my country is going through, I remain committed to the public sector and I have the confidence that my skills, put to use either in the forefront of public administration striving for economic development or as a teacher of the next generation of managers, add to the collective efforts of many in Greek society working toward a brighter future.”
Aphroditi Veloudaki, Programme Director of Prolepsis, Institute of Preventive Medicine Environmental and Occupational Health, emphasizes the Fulbright Program’s impact on public health issues. A Fulbright graduate student in 2004-05 who studied Communication & Mass Media at Emerson College in Massachusetts, Ms. Veloudaki writes, “When asked, ‘What exactly is health communication?’ the Fulbright Foundation in Greece knew exactly how to respond: They believed in me and provided me with a unique opportunity to pursue my postgraduate studies. Six years later, having graduated from an MA program at Emerson College and Tufts Medical School, I am leading the Food Aid and Promotion of Healthy Nutrition Program which provides free, daily meals and nutritional education to more than 300 schools located in Greece’s most underprivileged areas.”
GN: How are Fulbright recipients chosen?
AZ: Grantees are selected on the basis of academic excellence, educational and professional achievements, civic engagement and leadership potential.
Fulbright grants are highly competitive, merit/need based grants, offered to graduate students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists, and artists of Greek and American citizenship to study, lecture, or conduct research in the United States and Greece.
GN: In what form are Fulbright grants given?
AZ: The Fulbright grants are financial stipends that allow students, scholars, teachers, and artists to study, lecture, and conduct independent research in the U.S. and Greece respectively.
GN: Under what program do Greek Fulbright recipients come to the United States?
AZ: Greek citizens that are awarded a Fulbright grant are placed under the Exchange visitor program of the U.S. Department of State, which fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. All exchange visitors under the program are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.
GN: Who have been some prominent Fulbright recipients?
AZ: Some of our distinguished alumni are Karolos Koun, Kimon Friar, Michael Dertouzos, Dimitri Tselos (father of George Tselos, Ellis Island Archives), Leslie Fielder, Eleni Vakalo, Speros Vryonis, Theodore Saloutos, George Seferis, Nikiforos Dianandouros, Olga Broumas, Theodore Antoniou, Constantine Dimaras, George Theotokas, Costas Varotsos, Loukas Papademos, Thanasis Valtinos, Fotis Kafatos, William Spanos, Dan Georgakas, Timos Christodoulou, Spyridon Marinatos, Eva Katafygiotou-Topping, John Sarbanes, Lee Breuer, Edmund Keeley, Eleni Andoniadou (NASA)
GN: How else can the Greek American community help promote Greece through the Fulbright Foundation?
AZ: Beyond donations it is important to spread the word about GREECE as an educational destination….Fulbright Greece and opportunities for educational exchanges between the two countries.
Important: academics in U.S. Universities can pitch in their schools and ask for Modern Greek language, history, and culture to be included and offered to students – promote Greece in the US through education. Last month the Institute of international Education–New York announced a 5-year initiative titled, GENERATION STUDY ABROAD, which has as its goal to increase the number of American students who study abroad. Greece and Fulbright Greece welcome study abroad students!
We need to utilize the academics of Greek origin who teach in U.S. universities, and highlight Greece/Fulbright as a great resource! We need to create more linkages between U.S. and Greek educational institutions, and to share resources!