In Ethiopia, a Fulbright Specialist Helps Math Educators Keep Students Engaged

When Fulbright Specialist Jenny McNulty went to Ethiopia in 2018 at the request of the University of Gondar, she was committed to fulfilling the host institution’s goal of introducing more active teaching and learning methods to math educators.

McNulty also knew that she wanted to work to strengthen the University of Gondar’s relationship with the University of Montana, where she is a math professor and dean of the College of Humanities and Science. While in Ethiopia, McNulty helped renew a memorandum of understanding in the hopes that it would open the door to more exchange between the two universities.

As a Fulbright Specialist in Gondar — a historical city in Northern Ethiopia that was once the seat of 12th century emperors — McNulty’s day-to-day work included observing a variety of math classes, conducting workshops with university faculty, and consulting with them on curriculum design.

In Ethiopia, teachers at the K-12 and university levels typically rely heavily on lecturing, and they expect students to memorize lessons. Visiting an undergraduate class, she recalls, “You could hear a pin drop. It’s a very serious and formal setting.”

Through a series of workshops, McNulty modeled active learning techniques to faculty members. She taught math faculty new ways to engage students and help them remember concepts — such as writing a one-minute paper, creating a graphic illustration, or even making up a song. During class, she sang an impromptu song to highlight a key point.

“By the end we were all laughing and joking,” she said. “The faculty enjoyed my teaching style and learned quite a bit in a short amount of time.”

She also taught combinatorics, a branch of math that is important to computer science. Combinatorial algorithms and techniques are used in internet searches, route planning, and scheduling.

“Only a couple of faculty members have master’s degrees in this area… and they don’t have colleagues with direct experience in the field to ask opinions about the subject,” she adds.

About a year before McNulty traveled to Ethiopia as a Fulbright Specialist, the University of Gondar hired a large number of new female faculty in an effort to improve gender balance — doubling the number of women teaching at the university across many disciplines. McNulty observed that many of them had only bachelor’s degrees and not much prior teaching experience.

As a result, McNulty met with female faculty, leading a three-day faculty development workshop for recent hires.

“When I gave my presentation, I thought maybe 20 people would come,” McNulty recalls. “Two hundred women attended! There was an auditorium full of people. I was very surprised.”

Encouraged by the turnout, she and her counterpart at the University of Gondar, Tsega Hagos, began working together to launch the Gondar Montana Mentorship (GMM) Program, matching both new and more experienced female faculty at the University of Gondar with mid- and senior-level female faculty at the University of Montana.

The concept of mentorship was unfamiliar to many of the faculty in Gondar and generated much excitement among hopeful participants. Out of 70 applicants, McNulty and a small committee selected 30 women to take part in the first cohort of mentees.

Nearly a year later, the mentorship program has taken off. Mentees and mentors alternate writing emails around topics such as creating a professional bio and C.V., preparing for the TOEFL exam and studying for the GRE before applying to graduate school.

“There is quite a need for faculty development,” McNulty adds.

She eventually wants to work with her colleagues in Gondar to create a homegrown mentorship program for students. In the meantime, McNulty and her Ethiopian counterparts hope the faculty program they have established continues for years to come. They will be evaluating its first year in the spring of 2019, to better understand how the mentor program benefits not just the University of Gondar, but faculty at the University of Montana as well.

“This is not meant to be a one-way street,” says McNulty. “Mentors have much to learn from their mentees.”

McNulty says the Fulbright Specialist Program was an incredible opportunity to learn more about Ethiopia and share her expertise in mathematics and mentoring

She adds: “I look forward to continuing this collaboration with my colleagues in Gondar.”

Advice for the Future Girls of WiSci

Next week, girls from the United States and Ethiopia will be gathering in Addis Ababa for the 2019 Women in Science Girls’ STEAM Camp, where they’ll explore how to use technology to build a safer, more secure world, all while developing their leadership skills and making new friends from other cultures.

Also known as WiSci, the camp brings together teen girls from the U.S. and around the world to explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) subjects under the mentorship of professionals. WiSci is a private-public partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, the UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel, Google, Microsoft, NASA, and the American Society for Microbiology. The WiSci camp in Ethiopia is implemented by World Learning.

What can this year’s campers expect from their WiSci experience? We turned to the experts for advice: Girls — and an adult mentor — from last year’s camp in Namibia with high school girls from Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, eSwatini, and the U.S. (Check out stories from last year’s camp). Read ahead and get inspired!

Samkay (left) poses for a selfie with a fellow WiSci camper Nokwanda (left).

Samkay, 16, eSwatini

This camp is the best thing that has ever happened to me. To any girl who would want to join this camp, let me just say to you that it would be a great opportunity for you to see this camp, experience all that I’ve seen, and learn a lot of new things because these people right here are bringing opportunities to us that we couldn’t get back home. So please come.

Abby, 16, Kenya

I would tell girls that WiSci is not anything you would expect. It’s actually much better. And bring snacks.

Hildana, 16, Ethiopia

My advice would be to not be afraid and to start socializing because there’s a lot you can learn from your peers, just as much as you can learn from your teachers. I got to experience that here.

Jennifer (right) with fellow WiSci camper Iyambo (left).

Jennifer, 17, U.S.

Take risks. Speak to as many people as you can. Take advantage of every opportunity that faces you at WiSci — even leaving home. It’s a great opportunity to span our wings so don’t be afraid to go. And have fun!

Nokwanda, 16, eSwatini

Today I heard this very inspirational quote that says, “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” So, as the quote says, don’t set the limit for yourself.

I’d rather that [a future WiSci camper] failed trying rather than fail without trying at all. If you don’t think your application is good enough, that’s fine. Try it out because you never know what’s ahead. Everything happens for a reason. It’s going to work out. Persevere because we need more strong women in the world. If a girl from Swaziland, one of the smallest countries in the entire world, could make it to Namibia and showcase who she really is then there’s no reason why you can’t.

Jo-Ann poses with her Wall-E bot.

Jo-Ann, 16, Namibia

Girls should know that when someone introduces the word STEAM to them, it doesn’t necessarily mean male. It means female, too. Whatever a man can do, a woman can do, and they can do it even better.

So, I would advise girls to join the camp because at the camp it’s not just about STEAM. It’s about STEAM and about building yourself as a person. For example, in the Girl Up classes, we were taught how to see yourself with a positive body image. And those things help you grow as a person.

Bethany, 17, Ethiopia

I would tell girls that there’s nothing to be shy of. They can do it. We can lead. Go girls!

Zoe (second from right) sings the Namibian national anthem at culture night.

Zoe, 17, Namibia

I’m a very confident person, but this camp boosted my confidence even more, like over the border. There are a lot of shy girls here, but during the course of the camp, these classes helped them to speak up more, to say what they feel, to express themselves in the way that they are most comfortable.

In some villages, girls are not allowed to speak up on anything. So I feel like this camp teaches us how to advocate, where to advocate, and when, and it teaches us how to be confident. I feel like this was a really uplifting program, so I would advise girls to attend so they can benefit as we benefited.

Bezawit G., 16, Ethiopia

Don’t stress much because nobody really knows what they’re doing before they’re here. People may say, “I’m not good enough” or they’re afraid to face other cultures or something. Be open-minded. Don’t be afraid to try.

Anele (right) poses with a fellow WiSci camper Nokwanda (left) on the NUST campus.

Anele, 16, eSwatini

Be open. I mean open. Come here and make long relationships. Make relationships that matter. Make relationships where you can say, “I was at camp and we created this app” or “I was at camp and we created this particular project which, now that I’m successful, I can actually implement it outside of just my village or my school.” Those are the kinds of relationships I’m glad I’m making right now. Make friends but make significant friendships that can go on forever.

Renata, 16, U.S.

This is the most amazing experience and you need to take every opportunity that you can because they’re worth more than you can imagine. Even the flight! Make as many friends as you can. Don’t be afraid to switch tables to be with different people. Eat the food. Try to be as happy as you can and don’t focus on the little things that are bothering you because it’s just so big picture what we’re doing here. We’re advancing women in STEAM, which is so cool. It’s such an amazing program.

Onome Ofoman, Software Engineer, Google

Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp is a private public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, the UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel, Google, Microsoft, NASA, and the American Society for Microbiology. In 2018, the camp brought approximately 100 high school girls from the African continent and the U.S. together for 13 days in Namibia to explore the STEAM fields and access mentorship opportunities and leadership training.

Meet Bezawit: A WiSci Camper Who is Empowering Women in Ethiopia

Bezawit Getachew has been determined to help women in her country cope with injuries from childbirth ever since she first saw the 2007 documentary A Walk to Beautiful.

The film tells the story of five Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistulas, small holes between the vagina and rectum or bladder caused by prolonged labor. Fistulas are painful, uncomfortable, and highly stigmatized as they result in incontinence. In some cultures, they are considered a sign that a woman is cursed. In the documentary, all five women are ostracized by their communities and relocate to the capital city Addis Ababa to receive care at a special hospital.

Getachew was moved when she saw the film and realized the hospital was founded by aid workers from Australia. “Those foreigners have done these things for our country,” she says. “As long as I’m here, I have the moral obligation to do something for my own country and make a change.” But while the 17-year-old wanted to help, she didn’t know where to begin, nor did she have the resources to fund a project supporting women with obstetric fistulas.

That has changed. In September, Getachew launched an initiative called She Can, a series of workshops on topics from entrepreneurship to empowerment for women and girls at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. Getachew credits an unforgettable experience at the 2018 Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp with helping her make her project a reality.

A Transformative Summer in STEAM

Robots whizzed across the classroom floor at the Namibia University of Science and Technology last summer. The WiSci camp had taken over the university’s campus for nearly two weeks, bringing together about 100 girls from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, eSwatini, and the United States to discover science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics (STEAM).

Implemented by World Learning, the camp is a private-public partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. Those organizations — and others such as NASA — came to Namibia to teach the girls how to use technology to improve their world and mentor them as they embark on careers in STEAM.

Getachew applied to WiSci last year because she wanted to be part of something real. She shared her culture with fellow campers and learned about their lives in the U.S. and other African countries. She learned how to design apps to serve people with disabilities. And she learned how to dream up, carry out, and fund projects that would serve her community.

“WiSci really taught me that we girls must help each other to be greater,” Getachew says. “I have learned more about being a leader, a team player, and how to do these things together.”

Translating Knowledge into Action

Getachew returned home from WiSci ready to use her new skills to accomplish her long-held goal to support and empower women suffering from obstetric fistulas. This time, she had the resources she needed.

Among those resources was a newly expanded network of like-minded girls from her hometown. Understanding the importance of collaboration, Getachew reached out to her fellow WiSci alumnae from Addis Ababa about her idea to host women’s empowerment workshops at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. Hildana Workija and Medlot Berihun loved the idea and joined her in carrying out the project.

Now a team, the girls of She Can looked to their experiences at WiSci for inspiration as they developed workshops covering a different theme each week over the course of two months. They borrowed icebreakers and empowerment-building exercises from the daily Girl Up classes, and developed workshops about career and entrepreneurship opportunities based on what they’d learned from the U.S. Department of State and World Learning. And the team set aside time for mentorship, just as they had prized the mentorship of professionals from Google, Intel, NASA, and other organizations.

“I was the one being taught and now I get to be the mentor,” Getachew says. “I wanted to give that experience [from WiSci] to those people who are in the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. We wanted to show them that they can do anything.”

To make all of these plans a reality, though, the She Can team would need funding — and, again, WiSci was there to help. With the support of the Lewy Family Foundation, World Learning offered mini-grants to 12 alumnae from the 2018 WiSci camp to carry out projects in their communities. Getachew, Workija, and Berihun submitted their proposal and won a $1,400 grant to buy T-shirts and personal hygiene care packages for participants, as well as workshop supplies like pens, paper, and snacks. With that, they were ready to get started.

Passing it on

She Can launched at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in September and, over the course of two months, made great strides in supporting and empowering its residents.

As Getachew had learned from the A Walk to Beautiful documentary, many women with obstetric fistulas have suicidal thoughts and withdraw from their communities and each other. So, the three group leaders from She Can took every opportunity to remind their participants — women and girls ages 14 to 65 — that they deserve all the same rights and opportunities as men. “They may have the capability to do something greater, but society doesn’t tell them that,” Getachew says. “Society has turned their backs on them.”

The She Can team encouraged participants to get an education or develop their careers so they are able to live independently. They shared resources for online and other learning opportunities, helped women register for identification cards and create bank accounts, and taught them how to develop and pitch their business ideas. They also brought in female mentors to share their experiences in the fields of engineering, banking, the law, and women’s rights advocacy.

It had an impact. While many women were shy at first, they soon began to share their stories with one another. As the She Can team noted in their final project report, participants “started to be more confident, interactive, motivated, and active each day.” The workshops were so well-received that attendance ballooned from 32 to 84 women and girls by the end of the series. “I was amazed and a little inspired,” Getachew says.

But Getachew found it particularly rewarding to have had the opportunity to meet and inspire a 16-year-old girl named Chaltu. Hailing from the southern region of Ethiopia, Chaltu at first struggled to participate in the workshops as she was the only patient in the hospital who spoke her regional dialect. Getachew and her partners had vowed to make the workshops accessible to everyone, though, so they added visual aids and even a new workshop theme focused on painting and the arts.

“It was hard to see her struggle to connect socially with the other patients during our group discussion and we didn’t want her to miss out just because no one really speaks her language,” Getachew wrote in the final report. “But when we introduced painting this whole thing was turned around.” Chaltu discovered a passion for painting. Through a hospital translator, she told the She Can girls that it was her first experience with the arts, which were frowned upon in her community. Inspired, the girls put together a bag full of art paper, a paint brush, and watercolors so that she could continue her artistic journey. “We want her to think that the world also cares about her abilities,” Getachew says.


A Lifelong Commitment to Making a Difference

She Can has made a difference not only in the lives of the participants but for Getachew, too. “I never thought I would be capable of leading such a project,” she says. She now knows that she’ll be able to take on any projects or opportunities that present themselves.

Getachew is also more determined than ever to dedicate her life to uplifting women and girls. Beyond continuing to pursue her passion for STEAM subjects — Getachew loves biochemistry and physics and hopes to become a gynecologist or pediatrician one day — she now plans to pursue humanitarian work at the global level when she graduates from high school. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless,” she says.

Why is Mentorship Critical in STEAM Fields? Pros from Google, Intel, and NASA Weigh In

It can be daunting to imagine the future if you’re a girl pursuing a career in a field where there are few, if any, other women to look up to as role models and mentors.

As World Learning Inc. President and CEO Carol Jenkins noted in an op-ed for the Council on Foreign Relations, women are entering bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at the same levels as men, but there are leaks in the pipeline: women are far less likely to pursue doctoral degrees and other advanced opportunities.

But recent studies show that having female mentors — and more female peers — can turn that phenomenon around.

Creating those mentorship opportunities is one of the many goals of WiSci, the Women in Science Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp. Implemented by World Learning, the camp brings together high school girls to develop their leadership potential and engage in an intensive STEAM curriculum devised and taught by professionals from WiSci partner organizations Google, Intel, and NASA. During nightly mentor hours, those professionals also advise the girls on their academic paths and careers.

At this year’s camp, hosted in Namibia, World Learning spoke with these mentors to find out why they believe mentorship helps girls stay in STEAM fields. Check out what they had to say in the following video clips and Q&As:

Jennifer Francis
Technology Development Environmental Health and Safety Engineer
Intel Corporation

How have your experiences been with the girls?
They are really cool. They give us energy when we are tired. It’s exciting to see them excited about learning. I also think it’s really exciting to see those who have that basic interest in chemistry or biology. It is that drive of being interested in science and learning and problem solving that really engages them in the other parts of STEAM. So that’s been really cool.

Why do you think that mentorship is important, especially for girls in STEAM fields?
Mentorship is really important because although you go to school, to actually go from sitting in a classroom getting that information to now meeting and talking to someone who does that as a part of their day-to-day life is really important. It factors into something I wholeheartedly believe in, a concept that I’ve been doing for many many years, called SEE: Science and Everyday Experiences.

By being a mentor, I represent SEE because this [camp] is an application of [the STEAM subjects] you may be interested in. And the girls may not get that. And even if they do get it from their teachers or from other professors, it’s always good to diversify and get that same experience and exposure from other people.

Onome Ofoman
Software Engineer

What was your experience of mentorship when you were coming up in this field?
I didn’t have too much exposure to engineering in high school. I had lots of math and science classes, but I didn’t really know what engineering was. I just knew it was a prestigious career. But I had a lot of teachers who encouraged me to apply to different competitions and would help me study after school to make sure I was prepared. That really stayed with me.

I think one of the reasons that I’ve been able to get to where I am today is because of the access and opportunity I had through those competitions, as a result of these teachers spending extra time to prepare me. I can see the direct connection between mentorship and success in my life, so I try to to give back as much as possible.

What have your impressions been of the girls so far?
They are just great. I have not taught this age group before. I usually teach either younger students, middle schoolers, or developers that are already working. So I thought they would be really rowdy. But they’ve been really, really excited to be here and excited to learn.

A lot of them are focused on what they want to study in the future, what they want to do with their life, and how they can help bring change to the world. So they’re asking really interesting questions like “How did you get to Google?” or “What should I be doing to get to a university or to figure out what I want my career to be?” or “What kind of access to scholarships are there?”

I went to the U.S. on a scholarship, so I got a lot of questions about the whole application process to schools in the U.S. A lot of the girls are very future-focused, and I’m very very happy to see that.

Do you think that there is a connection between mentoring and being able to retain women in the industry?
I definitely think there is. And one of the most important things that companies do — and those that don’t should be doing — is have resource groups. At Google, we have a women engineers group. These resource groups are very useful for helping share knowledge that people who have gone through the ranks have accumulated and can share with junior engineers.

What final advice would you give girls?
What I say all the time is just don’t limit yourself. Never think that something is out of reach. Just always try. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had is because I tried. And at first it was other people telling me to try — mentors, my parents, saying, “Apply for this,” or “Go to this competition.”

And as you try things, you see that you’re good at some things [and] maybe not so good at other things. All that information is useful. It’s useful to know what you’re good at. It’s also useful to know what you’re not good. But also just trying things [is useful]. It’s a muscle so the more you do it the easier it is. So just always try, never limit yourself.

Emily Adams
Regional Science Coordination Lead for the Eastern Southern Africa Hub
NASA SERVIR Science Coordination Office

NASA’s Emily Adams joins mentor night at WiSci Namibia.

What interested you in coming to the camp?
It’s become even more obvious over the past couple of years, even six or eight months really, how women have been discriminated against in STEM fields. I mean, it’s obvious that it’s a male-dominated field, but the discrimination is a much bigger problem than I think anybody had really realized.

I didn’t necessarily face a lot of the same problems that some other women have faced, but I did have a little bit of discrimination through my master’s degree and it really empowered me to want to make the science fields better for the next generation of young women. I had so many opportunities thanks to my parents and things like that, and I think this camp is a great opportunity to expose young women to new science opportunities and empower them to pursue STEM careers if that’s what they choose to do.

What was the discrimination you faced?
It was not anything aggressive by any means. I give the benefit of the doubt that it was unconscious, but in a lot of cases I was the only woman in my lab and it was my job to clean, always. So there’s just small things like that where I was being pushed toward fulfilling a stereotype rather than being treated as an equal. It’s not necessarily a huge thing, but even something like that can be really detrimental to a woman’s career. Cleaning takes away from my studies, takes away from my research, etcetera. It can build up.

What was important to you to impart to the girls at mentor hours?
I think what’s amazing right now is we’re so connected. The world is so connected and there are so many resources available to young women online and through different projects like this. I really encourage them to seek out these opportunities and build their repertoire of experiences.

One of the big reasons why I am here today is because I took a lot of chances on experiences that maybe were a little bit outside of my comfort zone — sometimes a lot of outside of my comfort zone — but they exposed me to new skills and new things that I was so excited to keep exploring. It’s a huge deal for a lot of these girls to come all the way to Namibia to learn about STEM. It’s an experience like nothing else. And so I really encourage them to use their online platforms and communities to continue learning.

Why are mentorship opportunities important in your field?
Obviously there are very few women in STEM fields, which means we have very few people to look up to and that we could easily learn from. There are a lot of male allies that have been in my life as well, but sometimes you feel most comfortable looking up to somebody like you. I would like to continue to pass that relationship down to the next generation and encourage women to continue to pursue STEM and at least give them a positive role model to look up to throughout their career.


Robert O’Connor
IT Factory Automation Engineer
Intel Corporation

You’ve been participating in mentor nights. What kind of questions are you getting?
Before this week, we did mentoring with the counselors rather than the girls. We had them in for two sessions, we went through our projects with them in the first session and then they asked us if we could have a second one where we talk about our careers, how we started — I was a swimming teacher and a lifeguard — and how we progressed in each step along the way to where we are now and where we want to go in the future and the roadblocks [we faced]. And [they also asked for] recommendations for how they could potentially get jobs both in their own countries and abroad. So that was very interesting.

Now in week two, the girls are all very focused on their final week project. They want to win. So they’re all coming up to us and are like, “Here’s my idea,” and they’re really pushing it and want all the tweaks they can get. And then they’re like, “Now how can we present this so it comes across well to the judges?” So essentially our mentor hours for this week are focused around their camp projects and how they’re merging our work, Google’s, and NASA’s together for the final project.

What has been your overall experience at WiSci?
I just think it’s been brilliant. A lot of people in Ireland that I spoke to when I told them I was going on it said, “Oh, I never applied for it because I didn’t think I’d get it.” I’m male, so I saw this as women in science and I knew straight away that it would have to have a heavy female-weighted team just so the girls could see themselves in it.

But that didn’t turn me off it because I thought you also have to have men there so that it’s not it’s not a divide. Theresa (another Intel mentor) has years of experience, she’s a brilliant manager, so now she’s leading a team of both men and women, and I just think that comes across a bit better than a woman leading a female team. It shows that are all working together. It’s not men holding women back — maybe one day it was — but we’re all trying to drive together into the future. [These girls] can have support no matter where they are and no matter what jobs they go into.

Jackie Rajuai
Geoprogram Manager

Google’s Jackie Rajuai at NUST’s Windhoek campus.

Why is it important to teach STEAM skills to girls?
I grew up in Kenya, and no one ever came to speak to me about what kind of options there are in life career-wise. My parents always said you can do anything you want to do as long as it’s engineering or science, but I didn’t have a grasp of what those things were. So when I was selecting what I was going to do in university, it was just based on what my parents said.

At that age, given how impressionable you are, sometimes you select things based on what your friends say, but if I had the opportunity to talk to people who actually work in the industry, that could have changed a whole lot of things. Luckily I ended up somewhere I really love, but it’s important to me that these girls meet people who actually work in these industries and get a sense of what opportunities are available to them in life.

Did you participate in mentor hours?
I did. That’s been interesting as well. One girl said she always had a passion for structural engineering and construction, but now that she’s met us she’s like, “Okay, I never thought this would be considered engineering as well” — because it’s not things you physically see. So it was interesting to see how options have opened up [for her]. She has a few years to think about it. And the benefit is that in the first two or three years of engineering, the basics are the same. It’s very math-heavy. So I asked her to focus on building the foundation, be comfortable with math and things around that, that’s going to help build you up in the future.

[I also spoke] to girls who really enjoyed the camp and want to be able to do this in the future but they don’t have the monetary ability. So I was talking to them about scholarships. Some girls didn’t know those things would be available to them. That’s been really cool.

What are your thoughts on how to break down the barriers for women entering STEAM fields and where this camp fits in with that?
I think a big chunk of it is funneling as many people as you possibly can into those fields. Because being one of the few women in the industry is difficult, but you find solace in groups, right? Even if you’re like five [women], you know you’re not in this by yourself. So having more women come into the field is going to change the work environment.

We know from the top to the bottom there’s lots of males in leadership, so even how these companies are run or basic things like benefits or even the terms we use are all very male-oriented. So if there’s more females in the company, people are like, “Oh, that’s something we never thought about.” But then still sometimes companies struggle because it’s like, “Even if we change all this, we still have very few women, so why are we changing this existing structure that’s been working for just 1 percent?”

Right? So the more we funnel people into the industry, the more it’s also going to change the work environment.

With initiatives like this one, do you see a difference in how they funnel people into the industry?
Definitely. At the end of the day yesterday, I was talking to some of my colleagues who happen to be from Kenya as well. We were saying it would be really good to keep tabs on these girls because it would be nice to ensure that bond carries on. We don’t want to have passed on all this knowledge and opened up their eyes and then just drop it. So just keep tabs on them if they get into a university. For example, in Google we have a university outreach team. If some of these students end up in a STEAM field, how do we get them to be interns in the company and maintain that relationship?

[We want to] just keep holding their hands because it’s tough. As I mentioned, I went to school in Kenya. In my engineering class, we were four girls out of like 35 guys. So before they even get into the field, [when they’re] studying it in school, we just have to try and keep holding their hand and telling them it’s fine, it keeps getting better. We’d like to keep that pipeline going.

Any final advice?
I think just go for your dreams, right? At the end of the day, I understand we have lots of barriers, whether it could be economic barriers or access to opportunities or things like that. I never thought going to school in Kenya that I would get hired by Google and be on the same team as people who went to Stanford and different places, but you’re on the same team and you’re working on the same product for users for the same goal. Sometimes we are our own challenge. You say like, ‘yeah, but I don’t have this, but I don’t have this.’ But just go for what you want in life. Anytime an opportunity comes up, take it because you never know. You never know where it’s going to lead, you never know who you’ll meet, so just follow your dreams. It can be hard sometimes, but at least you know at the end of life, I gave it my best. I tried.

Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp is a private public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. In 2018, the camp brought approximately 100 high school girls from the African continent and the U.S. together for 13 days in Namibia to explore the STEAM fields and access mentorship opportunities and leadership training.

WiSci Campers Look to the Future

Over the last two weeks, the 2018 WiSci STEAM Camp brought together nearly 100 high school girls from five countries to learn about coding, robotics, leadership and more. They had some incredible experiences discovering new fields and innovative technologies with the help of trainers and mentors from Intel, Google, NASA, and more.

Now that the girls have returned home — including the U.S., Kenya, eSwatini, Ethiopia, and all over Namibia — we asked a few of them to share with us their hopes and visions for the future:

15 years old

Natalie has attended school in three countries due to her mother’s job with the UN Development Programme. Though some in her community believe girls should stay at home, Natalie’s mother was a role model for pursuing a career.

“My dream would be to graduate from Harvard Law School and then work in the U.S. as a forensic detective because my favorite show growing up was NCIS.”

17 years old

Iyambo has loved science since primary school. She has always been a curious person and relishes discovering everything from how the human body is composed of cells to building apps that are accessible to people in all communities. She says that the Google classes at WiSci confirmed her love for her chosen STEAM field:

“They taught us many things, how to develop apps and how you can use them to help people in our communities. It actually made me love computer science much more, which is why I’d like to pursue it as a future career.

I would like to complete my high school and go to university at least. If I can get a scholarship then I’ll go abroad. If not, I’ll come to this university, the Namibia University of Science and Technology, and do computer science. That’s what has been interesting to me so far and I think it’s the best career I can ever opt for.”

17 years old

Beza’s love for challenge is what got her interested in pursuing STEAM: “In the 9th grade, I was listening to BBC News and they were saying how there’s really less involvement in girls in the STEAM fields,” she says. “I thought, ‘That’s not true. I love physics and math.’ I tried to push myself more into those fields. And then I fell so in love with them.”

In fact, Beza loves physics and math — plus her technical drawing classes back in Ethiopia — so much that she’s still debating her future career options. “I haven’t decided yet but I’m thinking about studying computer science and architecture, and software engineering,” she says.

16 years old

Samkay loves writing poetry — a skill she demonstrated during the WiSci Talent Show — but she wants to pursue a career as a scientist and medical doctor. “My mom is a nurse and growing up alongside her just made me want to help people the way she does.”

Through WiSci’s NASA classes, Samkay has become more interested in the geospatial mapping tools that allow you to track changes in the environment. She also made other great discoveries: “When this opportunity came, it just landed on my lap and I had to take it because I saw it as an opportunity for a young woman like me to prove myself, for me to see my options and try my best to achieve the best for myself. So WiSci is like the greatest thing that has ever happened to me because I got to learn a lot of things, and I believe I’m still going to learn a lot of things.”

16 years old
United States

Renata has had a passion for STEAM for years, especially mathematics. Though she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do for a career, spending time at WiSci has given Renata a chance to explore new fields and possibilities:

“I really want to advocate for something and do something on behalf of others when I’m working. So I could try to do something for accessibility like the people at Google or I could work for a nonprofit like my mom. I don’t know. I’m just so excited to get out there. One of our Google teachers, she worked for like five different industries. So I’m thinking why not just do that and try out every bit of your dreams?”

Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp is a private public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. In 2018, the camp will bring approximately 100 high school girls from the African continent and the U.S. together for 13 days in Namibia to explore the STEAM fields and access mentorship opportunities and leadership training.

5 Amazing Innovations From the WiSci STEAM Camp

After two weeks of learning how to code, build autonomous robot cars, create accessible apps, and live together with girls from five different countries, the 2018 Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp drew to an innovative end yesterday.

Teams of WiSci campers have spent the past week designing creative solutions to problems in their communities, ranging from waste and environmental degradation to everyday problems in girls’ lives. Their ideas were astounding. They’ve come up with ways to make cars cleaner and keep girls safer.

At the closing ceremony, esteemed judges from the U.S. Department of State, Intel, Girl Up, and the Namibia University of Science and Technology presented four WiSci teams with awards, which were also made possible with the support of Cheryl Lewy, vice chair of World Learning’s Board of Trustees, and her husband Glen. These were given out in the categories of most innovative, best presentation/pitch, most technical rigor, and best all-around projects.

Want to learn more about how these campers are going to change the world? Here’s a look at five amazing projects that reveal the diverse possibilities of STEAM:

The Jeng Jacket Project
Elisa, Noelia, Grace, Johanna

What if your jacket could keep you warm and safe? That’s what these four girls from the U.S. and Namibia asked themselves when they started to work on their final WiSci projects. While brainstorming ideas, they discovered they all had a common problem: whether they were staying late for clubs or walking long ways to school in early hours, they all had to walk alone in the dark sometimes. So they designed the Jeng Jacket.

This jacket comes outfitted with heating pads that activate as you move to keep you warm, reflective velcro (which can be removed for washing), and an alarm that sounds when you pull a string. In their presentation, the girls explained that the alarm — which sounds like a siren — is designed to scare off anyone who might try to attack a girl. They had a lot of fun building it together and plan to keep working on it even after WiSci. “We really hope we can make this into a reality,” Grace said.

lJ!6 (“Girl” Upside-Down)
Jo-Ann, Leslie M., Leslie D., Hendrina
(Winners of “Best All-Around” project)

Team IJ!6 set out to solve a problem that was very close to their hearts: they wanted to provide service dogs to people who can’t see — and do so at a low cost. As Leslie M. explained during her presentation, years ago she and her brother were in a car accident that left him blind. Her mother wasn’t able to afford a service dog, as they can cost more than $15,000.

So IJ!6 created a robotic service dog made of cheap materials such as plywood and silicone as their WiSci project. “We invented what I personally wish had been invented,” Leslie M. said. They named the robot IJ!6 — the word “girl” written upside-down — to challenge the idea that only men can become engineers. And, to this team, there was no question as to their motivation. “The reason why this is important is because we care,” Jo-Ann said.

Flat Heels
Emily, Bezawit, Marye, Tatiana
(Winners of “Most Innovative” project)

“Do you wear heels?” Emily asked the judges and other onlookers during her presentation. “Do you feel uncomfortable wearing them the whole day? Do you wish there was an easier way to change from flats to heels?” Team Flat Heels had a solution to this problem that most women will find familiar. Their project was a high heel that can convert into flats at the touch of a button.

Bezawit and Marye said the inspiration for the Flat Heel came from their performance in Ethiopia’s culture night at WiSci. They were both pulling double-duty as presenters and dancers and needed to quickly change out of their heels.

In their pretotype design for Flat Heels, the team envisions the shoes will come outfitted with a gas spring in the heel that can rise into a high heel or compress into a flat. The mechanism would be operated by a tiny arduino computer that a user could activate from a cell phone app. They’re hoping to turn this design into a reality when they get home — and judging from the responses from their fellow WiSci participants, there’s certainly a market for it. “Everyone said they would buy it,” Marye said.

Future Pack
Daniella, Rakkel, Marina, Faith

Backpacks can be hard on your back — as the girls from this WiSci project team know well from years of commuting to their schools in eSwatini, Kenya, and Namibia. They wanted to build a better, more lightweight, backpack that will not only make for easy wearing but also prevent back pain for years to come.

They designed the Future Pack, a backpack outfitted with a system that distributes helium evenly throughout to reduce the bag’s weight by up to 25 percent. As with all the projects, the team faced significant challenges: “We were aiming to reduce the weight of the bag, but had to use a heavy helium canister,” Faith explains. But the team worked to find a way to compensate for that weight and are proud of their end result. “I feel like a scientist,” Faith said.

Just Expressing Artistic Motives (J.E.A.M.)
Joysy, Evandra, Angela, Miracle

Miracle was disappointed when the funding for her school’s art program was cut. She and her fellow art students had started working on a mural but ran out of paint and couldn’t afford more to finish it. But it turned out they weren’t done with art: instead, her teacher came in with magazines and other recyclable materials to transform into bowls and other forms of art..

Team J.E.A.M. — which also represents the girls’ initials — love both art and the environment and were excited to combine their passions into this upcycling project that transforms recyclable materials into art. When they return to their homes in the U.S. and Namibia, they’re planning to create dropboxes in their communities where they can leave recyclable materials for others to use. They’re also creating a Facebook page offering tutorials on how to turn cardboard, water bottles, and spoons into dollhouses, toy monsters, and windchimes.

The girls said they were inspired by their time at WiSci: “We’re here to express ourselves as well as learn, so we used our technology to allow people to express their artistic forms and share it with other people,” Miracle said.

Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp is a private public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. In 2018, the camp will bring approximately 100 high school girls from the African continent and the U.S. together for 13 days in Namibia to explore the STEAM fields and access mentorship opportunities and leadership training.

A Day in the Life of a WiSci Camper

Every day is a busy — and fun — one for the campers at the 2018 Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp. Beyond learning how to code, build apps, and design tools to help solve problems in their communities, this group of girls are learning about leadership, women’s empowerment, and each other.

Take a peek into the daily life of our campers through the eyes of Cori, a 16-year-old from Atlanta who came to WiSci because she’s interested in studying chemistry and eventuallypursuing a career as a forensic scientist.

6:35 a.m.: Wake up!

For Cori, being at WiSci — where she’s surrounded by dozens of girls from the U.S., Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and eSwatini (the former Swaziland) — has not only taught her how to wait her turn for the shower. She’s also learned a lot about herself:

“I know I’m African American, but I never realized my roots. This might not be the part of Africa I’m from and I might not have met anyone from the part of Africa that I’m really from, but I never learned about Africa in history classes. For some reason they skip over that. I feel closer to myself now.”

8:00 a.m.: Breakfast

On the menu today: Weet-Bix, ham, cheese, and bread.

9:00 a.m.: Class with Girl Up 

As a WiSci partner, the United Nation Foundation’s Girl Up has been leading leadership and empowerment classes each morning. Today, Cori and her classmates learned about public speaking and practiced interviews and elevator pitches.

Cori plans to start a Girl Up club when she gets back to her high school, where she says there aren’t many outlets for girls. “I learned that there’s more than one way to be a leader, that anyone can be a leader,” she says.

10:30 a.m.: Final project planning

For this last week of WiSci, the campers will be working on projects using their STEAM skills to find innovative solutions to problems in their communities. Cori and her classmates Elena, Ntsikelelo, and Shakyra are devising a way to use the kinetic energy that girls in rural areas create while biking to school — sometimes several hours each way — to charge their cell phones, which can be a lifeline in their daily lives.

12 p.m.: Lunchtime

1:00 p.m.: Intel classes begin

Today, a team of trainers from Intel — a WiSci partner — kicked off their week of classes. Cori and the other campers learned coding for artificial intelligence, built CurieBots, and designed prototypes of tools that can assist in disaster scenarios from alien invasions to sharknados.

WiSci partners have been leading classes since the camp began. Last week, trainers from Google and NASA taught the girls how to build apps and use geospatial mapping tools. Even though Cori is primarily interested in chemistry, she realized that she enjoys making apps and hopes to continue trying to do so when she gets home.

3:30 p.m.: Snack break 

Snack choices today: apples, bananas, or cheddar popcorn.

4 p.m. Back to class 

Having learned the basics of the Python programming language, Cori and her classmates began testing the Smart Animal Surveillance System — also called SASSY — that can recognize pictures of animals held in front of a webcam. Cori says she enjoyed learning from the Intel trainers:

“They’re really fun. You could tell that they’re really invested and they really enjoy this experience. It feels like they’re in it with us. It’s not just classes. They bond with us.”

6:30 p.m. Dinner

7:30 p.m. Talent show

Though there was lots of amazing dancing and singing on display, Cori’s favorite performance of the night was a public speaking demonstration from Iyambo, one of the girls from Namibia. Iyambo spoke passionately about how her fellow WiSci campers should not be afraid to pursue careers in science as they are all strong and intelligent women.

“It was really empowering,” Cori says. “You could tell she meant what she said. It spoke to me.”

10:00 p.m. Lights out!

Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) Camp is a private public partnership (PPP) between the U.S. Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, UN Foundation’s Girl Up Initiative, Intel Corporation, and Google. In 2018, the camp will bring approximately 100 high school girls from the African continent and the U.S. together for 13 days in Namibia to explore the STEAM fields and access mentorship opportunities and leadership training.

The 2018 WiSci STEAM Camp Kicks Off with NASA, Google, and Teen Girls From Five Countries

This week, nearly 100 high school girls from across the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa have arrived in Windhoek, Namibia, where they’re learning how to say hello to Harry Potter through code, design apps for painting pictures on their tablets, build lights out of tiny computers — and so much more.

These teenagers are taking part in the 2018 Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM Camp, which has brought together girls from the United States, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and eSwatini (the former Swaziland) for two weeks to learn about one another’s cultures and develop their skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics (STEAM).

U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson with WiSci 2018 participants.
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson with WiSci 2018 participants.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the girls in terms of broadening their world and making them stronger and realizing what opportunities and potential is out there, particularly in the STEAM fields,” said U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson, who has attended a number of WiSci sessions this week.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State and run by World Learning, WiSci operates through a public-private partnership with Google, NASA, Intel, and the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up. Representatives from these partner organizations are leading classes introducing teens to the STEAM fields and mentoring the girls on their potential academic and career paths.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State and run by World Learning, WiSci operates through a public-private partnership with Google, NASA, Intel, and the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up. Representatives from these partner organizations are leading classes introducing teens to the STEAM fields and mentoring the girls on their potential academic and career paths.

NASA and Google kicked off the academic components of WiSci this week, offering hands-on classes and activities.

With the help of NASA instructors, the girls tried their hands at Javascript programming using satellite data visualization tools like the Google Earth Engine. “It was fun to see the girls start putting things into the computer and then get that a-ha moment when they pressed the ‘run’ button and it did what they had instructed it to do,” Ambassador Johnson said. “You see it light up in their eyes. It was definitely having an impact.”

WiSci 2018 participants in their Google classroom.
WiSci 2018 participants in their Google classroom.

Google employees also highlighted how they use technology to make a difference in people’s lives. They demonstrated some of that technology — including theTalkBack app for vision-impaired Android users and a smart spoon designed for people with hand tremors — and helped girls build their own apps that take accessibility into account.

“I challenge you to go out into your classrooms today and build something great,” said Eve Andersson, director of accessibility engineering at Google.

WiSci also focuses on leadership development and cultural exchange. Camp counselors are hosting daily leadership development and empowerment workshops with the campers with the support of Girl Up and, in the evenings, the campers are putting on performances exploring the music, dance, customs, and more from their home countries.

“You can see how excited they are to be here,” Ambassador Johnson said. “They’re not hesitant at all to ask questions, they want to learn, they’re super engaged. That’s really awesome to see.”

Next week, the girls of WiSci will turn their focus to robotics and AI as Intel takes over classroom duty, and they’ll also begin to develop their own projects to explore firsthand how STEAM education can make a difference in the world.

Furthering the Use of New Media in Africa

When Gary Kebbel was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant in 2007 to help a university journalism department in Pretoria, South Africa advance its digital media curriculum, he never imagined it would change the focus of his career. But one encounter at Tshwane University of Technology in Soshanguve, a resource-poor satellite campus in Gauteng, about 25-miles outside the city, gave him a glimpse into the future of media.

“I was teaching the students how to blog and about blogging software,” recalls Kebbel. “Everyone was excited except one kid who wasn’t paying attention. He was looking down and pushing buttons on his flip phone. I asked him what was up.”

The student replied he was doing his banking.

“A kid in the middle of the boonies in South Africa doing his banking via SMS. It suddenly struck me — the future of the world is mobile and the U.S. is behind,” he says.

“It changed the entire direction of my career,” Kebbel adds.

Since then, he’s produced two national conferences called MobileMe&You, designed to advance new initiatives and innovations in newsgathering, storytelling and distribution using mobile media.

Kebbel was well placed to be at the forefront of new media. During his time as program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, Florida, from 2006–2010, he helped create and run the Knight News Challenge, a $25 million contest to find digital news innovations to be used to improve digital communication and community engagement.

“I spent four years talking to people at the cutting edge about what worked and what didn’t work,” Kebbel says about the contest.

He also helped create the Knight Citizen News Network and the Knight Digital Media Center.

The Fulbright Specialist Program was established in 2001 to connect U.S scholars and professionals with their counterparts at host institutions overseas for short-term collaborative projects.

As Kebbel says, “I could have never gotten off for a semester. This was a game-changer.”

Following the Knight Foundation, Kebbel served as dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and during his tenure from July 2010 to June 2012 his college created the nation’s first Drone Journalism Lab. He left that post to work on creating the university’s Center for Mobile Media.

He received another Fulbright Specialist grant in 2014, this time working with the U.S. Mission to the African Union (AU), a cooperative organization made up of 54 African nations. He advised the AU’s Communications Directorate in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on a strategy to incorporate social media into crisis communications.

“I like the idea of mobile media for developing countries. They are leap-frogging developed countries in this area,” he says.

“Anybody not focusing on mobile media is truly doing so at his or her peril,” he adds.

The power of mobile media — which he’s seen first-hand in Africa as a consultant for the U.S. Department of State in regards to elections in Kenya in 2012 and Nigeria in 2014 — is the way it’s changing power structures.

“By its very nature, mobile media takes power away from power structures and gives it to the people,” observes Kebbel, who also did stints in Tunisia, Taiwan and Russia as a U.S. Department of State trainer.

Kebbel was named a national peer reviewer of Fulbright applications for the Specialist Program, serving one year from spring 2015 -2016.

He has also worked with the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, D.C training public affairs officers.

A veteran newsman, Kebbel served as a founding editor of and, the home page editor of the and news director at AOL. These days, however, he sees the growth of media through the lens of his Fulbright Specialist experience.

And for that reason he says, “I would encourage other people to do it,” referring to the program, because “doing this kind of work helps you understand other people. Academics pass that learning along to their students.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to enable U.S. professionals and scholars to work on short-term projects overseas in conjunction with local host institutions.

For more information about the Fulbright Specialist Program or to apply, please go to:

Grandmother Helps Share a Load, Reaps Reward

53-year-old Beletu was barely surviving on the wages she earned from selling clay lids in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. With a sick daughter and five grandchildren under her care, Beletu could just afford to buy bread and cover a few household expenses.

Things changed when Beletu was invited to join a self-help group targeting parents and guardians of at-risk children, after school officials noticed her granddaughter struggling in class. One of the objectives of the group is to encourage members to collaborate on a business plan that would advance them both socially and financially, while stressing the values of shared responsibility and self-reliance. In addition to training, the program offers start-up capital of up to $1,000, and support to help the group follow through with their business plan.

Beletu’s group of 14 women decided to build a small store on a plot of land they were able to secure from an Ethiopian government office that supports micro-enterprise. The endeavor turned into a community-wide project, with a nearby agricultural college supplying building materials, and friends and family helping with construction. The store is now a fully operating enterprise in which the women resell grain they buy in bulk from farmers for a small profit. Outside of work, the women forged a tight bond, and lend each other an extra hand when someone is sick or in need.

Beletu continues to work to support her family, and with the help of the program she is now earning three times what she used to make in a month. With the income from harvesting cabbage and potatoes, Beletu was able to open a bank account in her daughter’s name to pay it forward and invest in her future.

The groups are part of World Learning’s Grants Solicitation and Management Program and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars

Participant Profile

Participants are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs and vary in age and level of expertise, but all will be engaged in the seminar topic and highly motivated to create change in their communities.

Please consult the list of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs below.

Participant Selection

Alumni TIES participants who are not U.S. citizens are nominated by the U.S. Embassies or Consulates in their countries. Please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country to learn how you can participate in Alumni TIES. Potential Alumni TIES participants who are living in the United States can apply for specific seminars managed by World Learning. The web link to the online application will be distributed widely by the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

All participants for Alumni TIES seminars are selected by the U.S. Department of State.

Program Design

Alumni TIES seminars take place in six world regions and the U.S.; each seminar is three to four days for small groups of alumni. The seminars include speakers, capacity development trainings, and alumni networking activities. Through the small grants initiative, alumni have the opportunity to take action and make a positive difference in their communities.

Learn More

Watch more videos about the Alumni TIES program.

Read stories from past participants about their experiences at the seminars or with their small grant projects on the Alumni TIES blog.

For information on programs for U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni visit the International Exchange Alumni website.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  

Digital Communication Network

Examples of Past Digital Communication Network Projects

  • Internet vs. Democracy Forum
  • Roaring 20s #Digital Forum
  • Combatting Disinformation Training Program
  • Digital and Media Literacy for NGOs Training Program
  • Tolerance and Coexistence 2.0 Forum
  • Montenegro Digital Influencers Hub
  • Humor and Games for Social Good Forum

Fulbright Specialist Program


Link U.S. Experts and International Institutions

A program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Specialist Program is a unique opportunity for U.S. academics and established professionals to engage in two- to six-week consultancies at host institutions across the globe. Host institutions, including universities, non-profits, and other organizations, develop and submit projects for approval by the U.S. Embassy or Fulbright Commission in their country in wide-ranging academic and professional fields that build capacity and promote long-lasting linkages between individuals and institutions in the U.S. and abroad.


Address Priorities and Build Institutional Capacity at Institutions Around the World

An important companion to the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, the Fulbright Specialist Program differs by providing short-term exchange experiences that tackle discrete, sometimes rapid response, projects. The Fulbright Specialist Program encourages participation of both university faculty and highly experienced non-academics, including legal experts, business professionals, public health practitioners, scientists, IT professionals, artists, and journalists. The program is a mutually beneficial opportunity for the Specialist who may not be available to leave their position for an extended period of time and the host institution which needs an experienced partner to jointly tackle a problem or examine an issue on a short-term basis.


Become a Fulbright Specialist: Apply to Join the Roster

Fulbright Specialists are a diverse group of highly experienced, well-established faculty members and professionals who represent a wide variety of academic disciplines and professions.  In order to be eligible to serve as a Fulbright Specialist, candidates must have significant experience in their respective professional field and be a U.S. citizen at time of application. Eligible disciplines and professional fields supported by the Fulbright Specialist Program are listed below.

  • Agriculture
  • American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Biology Education
  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry Education
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Science and Information Technology
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Law
  • Library Science
  • Math Education
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
  • Physics Education
  • Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Public/Global Health
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Urban Planning

Interested candidates can find more information about the Fulbright Specialist Program and apply to serve as a Specialist at Candidates who meet all eligibility requirements will have their full applications reviewed by a panel of their professional peers. Candidates who are approved by the peer review panels will then join the Fulbright Specialist Roster. Individuals remain on the Specialist Roster for a three-year term and are eligible to be matched with a host institution’s project abroad during that tenure.

The following costs are covered for those Fulbright Specialists who are matched to a project: international and domestic airfare, ground transportation, visa fees, lodging, meals, and incidentals. A daily honorarium is also provided.

Become a Host: Bring a Fulbright Specialist to Your Institution

The Fulbright Specialist Program allows universities, cultural centers, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions abroad to host a leading U.S. academic or professional to work on diverse, short-term collaborative projects where the Specialist conducts activities which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Delivering a seminar or workshop
  • Consulting on faculty or workforce development
  • Developing academic or training curricula and materials
  • Lecturing at the graduate or undergraduate level
  • Conducting needs assessments or evaluations for a program or institution

Institutions interested in hosting a Fulbright Specialist should contact their local Fulbright Commission or U.S. Embassy for country-specific requirements and deadlines.

Contact information for all participating countries is available on the website.

For more information or questions about the Fulbright Specialist Program, please email [email protected].

The Fulbright Specialist Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

International Visitor Leadership Program

End of Year Report

Chosen by U.S. embassies worldwide to participate, distinguished professionals include:

  • parliamentarians
  • government officials
  • entrepreneurs
  • NGO leaders
  • journalists
  • academics
  • arts administrators
  • mid-career professionals

Programs focus on policy issues in areas such as:

  • government
  • international security
  • foreign policy
  • entrepreneurship
  • economics and trade
  • media
  • women’s leadership
  • education
  • public health
  • arts
  • agriculture
  • disability rights and inclusion

World Learning staff members design national itineraries, arrange logistics, set up meetings in Washington, DC, and coordinate the collaboration of U.S. Department of State program officers, interpreters and International Visitor Liaisons, and more than 85 community-based member organizations from the Global Ties U.S. Network who arrange local programs nationwide.


Most participants are mid-career professionals and emerging leaders, and for many, this is their first visit to the U.S. Groups are of varying sizes, from single visitors to groups of 25 or more. World Learning program staff work closely with their State Department counterparts to design a program customized to the project objectives and the visitors’ interests.


Participant Selection

IVLP candidates are selected solely by U.S. embassy personnel in each country. There is no application form. World Learning is a private sector partner of the U.S. Department of State; our role is limited to designing programs for participants once they arrive in the U.S. For further information regarding the program, please consult the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Program Design

A typical project includes up to a week of meetings in Washington, DC, to provide an orientation and overview of the theme and to introduce visitors to federal officials and agencies, national organizations, academics and think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, and professionals in their specific field of interest. All projects include a briefing on the US federal system of government. Meetings may include panel discussions, site visits, workshops, individual interlocutors, job shadowing, or service opportunities. Visitors typically travel to an additional three or four cities in geographically diverse regions of the country; the itinerary may include a state capital and a small town to provide first-hand exposure to the great diversity that exists in the U.S. Also included in the program design are hospitality dinners, school visits, community service activities, and cultural events such as rodeos, state fairs, festivals, visits to national parks, or events that highlight some unique aspect of the region visited.

Participant Experience

“My recent experience in the IVLP program is so far the deepest ever for me to see and understand the full picture of what America as a country is like. I strongly believe this program will have a very long-term impact on my views about America and the world and to some extent it has already helped me to understand many long-time questions.” – Journalist from China

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

Special Programs to Address the Needs of Survivors

Grantees of the program included: 

Albanian Disability Rights Foundation, Al Hussein Society, Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya, Buckner International, Catholic Relief Services, The Center for Victims of Torture, Christian Blind Mission International, Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, CURE International, EveryChild, Friends International, Global Communities, Handicap International, Health Volunteers Overseas, International Nepal Fellowship, International Rescue Committee, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mobility India, Motivation Charitable Trust, Motivation Romania Foundation, St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy Wheels for Humanity, University of Iowa, University of Pittsburgh – International Society of Wheelchair Professionals, Whirlwind Wheelchair International, World Institute on Disability, and World Vision.