The recently concluded 2017 Mid-year Enrichment Conference for US Fulbrighters in Southeast Asia and Timor-Leste that was held in Makati Shangri-La brought together forty-four (44) American Fulbright Scholars. Concurrent and plenary presentations covered a variety of disciplines— Global Issues; Business; Agriculture; Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (S.T.E.M.); Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities; and Teaching, Education, & Leadership —all relevant to the region.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in his keynote message during the opening ceremonies on March 15, 2017 remarked that it is an “exciting time to be in Asia.” He added, “if you look at any sets of statistics, demographics, economic opportunities, investment opportunities it is easy to see the many compelling reasons why the United States should be made closely engaged with the Asia-Pacific region including Southeast Asia, including our close ally, the Philippines.”
Assistant Secretary of the Office of American Affairs of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Andrelita Austria who also serves as a PAEF Board member closed the opening ceremonies. She challenged the US Fulbrighters in SE Asia and Timor-Leste to make use of their talents and Fulbright education in the path of service. She remarked, “You have been privileged to be granted a Fulbright scholarship and it has brought significant changes in your life. It is my sincere hope that you will commit this achievement to a great ideal and together with your fellow Fulbright scholars lead a life of service to you community and your country.”
Eight concurrent panels on the major discipline clusters were spread from March 15-16 during the conference. A plenary panel on Teaching, Educations, and Leadership concluded the presentations of the on-going research of the US Fulbright conference participants. The sessions became avenues for scholarly/academic discourse and for US Fulbrighters in the region to know, understand, and appreciate projects and research of their peers based in other SE Asian countries.
A welcome dinner was hosted by the U.S. State Department in the evening of March 15, 2017, with Ms. Carolyn Glassman, PAEF Board Chairperson who expressed “…I believe strongly that cultural and educational exchange of which the Fulbright Program is the most well-known representative is an ongoing priority for all of us. Needless to say, we live in challenging times right now and I believe that we need Fulbright more than ever to help develop future leaders.” Ms. Glassman encouraged the mid-year conference participants to be instruments in mentoring future scholars to support the program’s sustainability.
In the afternoon of March 16th, the scholars engaged in cultural immersion trips to the Ayala Museum, the National Museum and a visit to the House of Balikbayan Handicrafts. The conference ended in a farewell reception honoring the US Fulbrighters in Southeast Asia and Timor Leste that was attended by Filipino alumni, partners, guests and supporters. Mr. Michael Klecheski, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Manila delivered the closing message. He enthusiastically encouraged the US Fulbright scholars to sustain connections they made during the conference. He pointed out that multilateral and multidisciplinary approach of educational exchange initiatives like the Fulbright program help strengthen linkages between countries involved in all aspects.
The 2017 Midyear Enrichment Conference was capped by a cultural show. Guests were treated to an array of performances by the Central Luzon State University Maestro Singers, with Dr. Florante Ibarra, Filipino Fulbright alumnus, as choir master and Gintong Ani Philippines, Central Luzon State University, with Prof. Adonis Voltaire Villanueva as artistic director.