Training Equips Language Teachers Across India with Invaluable Skills

By Eric House

Sadiya working with colleagues in a training-of-trainers in Kolkata.

Since its inception in 2016, the Madrassa English Language Teacher Training (MELTT) program has equipped English language teachers across India with invaluable skills. Funded by the U.S. Department of State and delivered by World Learning, MELTT (and its virtual iteration V-MELTT) aims to train English language instructors to teach at madrassas, the Arabic word for educational institutions.

A small cohort of teachers take an initial training-of-trainers course from World Learning, and then coach a group of teachers who take two online self-study courses, English for Teaching and Professional Knowledge, products of National Geographic Learning. The trainers also conduct monthly face-to-face workshops and provide online group support to help teachers get the most out of the online courses, all to increase the capacity of trainers and form a scalable teacher training model.

Over 700 teachers have completed the program, 160 have become teacher trainers, and 11 have been selected to become coaches, the most senior instructor level in the program. Rafia Ansari and Sadiya Anjum Pathan were introduced to the program by their school principal, Zaheeda Desai, one of the first trainers and coaches in the program. Ansari and Pathan became trainers for the in-person program in 2019, went on to be V-MELTT trainers in 2020, and most recently became V-MELTT coaches last year.

Before joining MELTT, Ansari concentrated her studies on religious subjects and the Urdu language. “I was always interested in studying and speaking English. Whenever I used to hear someone speaking fluent English, I always thought that someday I will also be one of them,” she says. “So, I kept reading and practicing.”

For Pathan, she was simultaneously focusing on her studies and working as a teacher in a madrassa English medium school, where English is the primary instruction language, but didn’t feel confident in using classroom language, and wasn’t aware of different teaching methodologies.

Zaheeda Desai, one of the first trainers and coaches in the program.

They were drawn to the MELTT program to enhance their own English fluency and grow their skills as English teachers. “My passion for learning, exploring, and growing brought me to the program. I was keenly interested in opportunities of learning new things to enhance my skills and to serve my community in a better way,” says Pathan.

In the program, Ansari and Pathan listened to audio content and practiced verbalizing the content themselves, strengthening their pronunciation and making them more confident. “When you are confident with the correct pronunciation of words, your confidence delivering a lecture becomes stronger, and the same energy flows to the students,” Ansari says.

Desai particularly loves the training workshop that occurs in the program’s first phase. “Each time I participated in it, I’ve gained immense knowledge and understanding of what exactly a successful training needs to have. These workshops are packed with skills, experiences, and expertise,” she says.

Pathan credits the program’s success to its accessibility and focus on time management for both teachers and students. In the Professional Knowledge course, different methodologies to meet the needs of diverse learners train teachers to be more inclusive. “It serves the purpose of capacity building of a teacher, no matter what their background is,” she says.

In addition to earning a trainer’s certificate, another significant benefit of the program is learning about their fellow teachers’ challenges and building the skills to effectively address them during their own training. Desai describes how, as a coach for a group of Afghan teachers and trainers, she was able to help build a roadmap with a struggling teacher and lead him to success.

Ansari, Pathan, and Desai each credit their World Learning trainers, Lois Scott-Conley, education advisor for global education at World Learning, and Ghazala Siddiqi, a World Learning consultant in India who has been with the program since its beginning. They set a positive and motivating example, helped solve problems, and stretched them to get the most out of the course.

Rafia explains a group poster to her peers.

“The biggest achievement for me is how this journey has taken me to a new height,” Pathan says. “Now I am working in one of the school branches where I was a teacher, but now as academic head and counselor.” She has also earned her master’s in counseling psychology, a post-graduate diploma in school leadership and management, and will be pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology.

“The fact is, this program is the foundation of my training career,” says Ansari. “Before this, I was only a teacher for four years.” Currently, she is a vice-principal at Shama Madrasa-School Shahpur, Ahmedabad, a role she has held for the past three years.

MELTT teaches us how to cater to all students at once and bring inclusive learning into the classroom where no child is left behind.

Desai sees her role as a school leader as an opportunity to conduct trainings and workshops at regular intervals for her teachers, as well as for teachers at other schools. “I anticipate and strive to give my best, and to develop and evolve as an impactful trainer for English language teachers from madrassa backgrounds,” she says.

When in the role of coach, Pathan instructs her trainees to work hard and “read, read, and reread until the language becomes part of you.” Ansari emphasizes teaching strong time management skills — and not being afraid to push out of one’s comfort zone.

“If we want to achieve more and move further, we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says. “My favorite part of coaching is when I motivate my group to stretch toward the completion of a goal. The shine that I see in their eyes while achieving something really amazes me, and I start working harder for them.”

“MELTT/V-MELTT is a pool of opportunity for those who do it at full capacity,” says Desai. “It brings great learning experiences along with opportunities to grow into a brilliant trainer or an experienced coach.”

“MELTT teaches us how to cater to all students at once and bring inclusive learning into the classroom where no child is left behind,” says Pathan. “Everybody is taken care of.”

How World Learning Pivoted to Online Training Programs During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the whole world was forced to pivot to new ways of doing things, World Learning was able to use its long-standing expertise in online and hybrid teaching and training. At the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference, World Learning staff discussed projects focused on professional development for teachers and workforce development, all of which had to abruptly pivot to online programming early in the pandemic. Their presentations reviewed the opportunities this presented to refine and improve programs as well as the challenges they faced in quickly shifting to virtual programming.

Enhancing Online Learning with Local Peer Coaching Groups

Lois Scott-Conley, education advisor for curriculum and training, presented on World Learning’s U.S. Embassy–funded Madrassa English Language Teacher Training program in India. Over the past three years, the program has offered a blended learning professional development program for traditionally underserved Madrassa teachers. The program combines self-paced, expert-designed online courses with local peer coaching groups. Scott-Conley discussed the peer coaching format, how the program is being carried out solely online, and research that was carried out to help improve the program in its third year.

Career Mentorship at a Distance: Preparing Mentors to Teach and Engage Online

Hamza Koudri, director of programs for World Learning Algeria, presented on transitioning the Bawsala Mentorship Program, which provides career training, mentorship, and networking opportunities for young Algerian women, to an online format using the Canvas learning management platform. Moving the course online required new methods for training mentors to not only manage the online course platform but also to effectively build relationships with participants and keep them engaged during a virtual course.

Preparing Teachers to Teach Online: Lessons From a Case Study

Dr. Radmila Popvic, senior education and research specialist, presented a case study that examined how a cohort of 30 English language teachers integrated technology in their teaching after completing a five-week intensive training. The study explored teacher readiness to implement what they learned, their confidence about their digital and pedagogical skills, and practical difficulties or contextual constraints they encountered in implementing course learnings.

Communities Connecting Heritage Program Kicks Off Its Second Year

A man in colorful traditional Indian dress speaks while holding an instrument as two women look on.After the Communities Connecting Heritage (CCH) exchange program’s successful first year, World Learning is pleased to announce the five new cultural heritage projects that will receive funding in its second cycle. CCH, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning, empowers youth to protect the cultural heritage of underserved communities around the world.

“Exchanges that connect and engage people from different communities are more valuable than ever,” said Christina Thomas, World Learning’s divisional vice president for youth exchange. “The Communities Connecting Heritage program offers an opportunity to do this in unique and creative ways, both at home in the U.S. and abroad. World Learning is thrilled to implement the second iteration of these cultural heritage projects and to be a part of this exciting and diverse community.”

Through virtual and in-person exchanges and exhibitions, the program supports new partnerships between U.S. and international cultural organizations and the communities they serve. CCH specifically helps these communities preserve their tangible and intangible cultural heritage, reinforce positive narratives, and advance cultural heritage through community outreach and public education.

The projects will be carried out among five U.S. organizations and five international organizations. Each organization was matched with an overseas counterpart during initial training and has been collaborating to develop engaging cultural heritage projects. The following five projects will be implemented in the next 12 months:

  • Mandala Theater (Nepal) and Creative Connections (Connecticut)
    Kalasanskriti ra Sampada: An Artistic Approach to Preserving Cultural Heritage and Community Healing will engage 30 youth from Nepal and the U.S. to capture and exchange art, audio, and video exploring their own cultural heritage, which they will use to facilitate workshops at local schools.
  • Bhasha Research and Publication Center (India) and University of Northern Colorado Anthropology Department (Colorado)
    Reclaiming Heritage: The Intercultural Heritage Exchange Project
    will train up to 30 participants from the historically marginalized Chhara community in India and the Karenni refugee community in the U.S. to use virtual reality technologies to explore and document their respective cultural heritages, including family and spiritual traditions, festivals, performances, and natural heritage.
  • Youth of Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and New York Folklore Society (New York)
    Cultural Bridge
    will challenge up to 30 youth to discover Kyrgyz and American cultural heritage by learning about oral history and cultural heritage documentation and contribute to preservation efforts by doing community service, producing media, and installing signage to support the cultural tourism industry.
  • Association MakeDox (Macedonia) and Dallas Black Dance Theater (Texas)
    Widening the Lens
    will engage 12 African-American dancers and 12 Macedonian filmmakers to create a documentary exploring and celebrating African-American culture through dance and Romani heritage through music.
  • Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (BOZAR) (Belgium) and Soul of Nations (Washington, D.C./Navajo Nation, Arizona)
    Digital Natives
    will engage 10 young Native-American women from New Mexico and 10 young Belgian women from migrant families to create group artworks and video installations, exploring equality and women’s empowerment through the lens of personal narratives and cultural backgrounds.

The 10 organizations will now receive additional training on topics such as virtual exchange, experiential education, and participant care to prepare them to carry out their projects. The virtual exchanges will commence in fall 2018, leading up to the in-person exchanges and public exhibitions throughout the spring and summer of 2019.

About ECA
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs moves people to move ideas. ECA builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships. The State Department’s cultural diplomacy programs employ the arts to advance U.S foreign policy by sharing America’s artistic excellence, demonstrating America’s respect for other cultures, creating international networks, and deepening trust.

Contact: [email protected]

About World Learning
World Learning works globally to enhance the capacity and commitment of individuals, institutions, and communities to create a more peaceful and just world through education, sustainable development, and exchange. Our programs advance leadership in more than 150 countries.

This Atlanta Teen Started His Own International Charity.

Max Rubenstein believes young people can make a difference.

He should know. The 17-year-old from Atlanta is the founder of Game Givers, an international nonprofit that donates new and used video games to children’s hospitals. Launched in 2015, Game Givers has raised more than $110,000 and, in November, won a grant from Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation. Rubenstein has also won the Georgia Youth Leadership Awardspoken at the United Nations International School’s UN Day in New York City, and, in February, he was named Georgia’s top youth volunteer by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Over the years, though, Rubenstein has faced a number of challenges due to his young age. From his initial lack of professional experience to getting adults to take him seriously, he has overcome them all. Now, in the wake of a transformative summer in India with The Experiment Leadership Institute, Rubenstein wants to help other teenagers become leaders, too. “I’m a firm believer in following your passion,” he says. “It’s been really incredible to work on this. It’s my passion.”

Learning how to solve problems with Game Givers

Rubenstein was inspired to start Game Givers in 2015, when his grandmother Sandy Goldberg started treatment for ovarian cancer. She was troubled to see sick children spending the same long hours in the hospital. Rubenstein realized that — unlike his grandmother, who often brought along her neon green Gameboy — many of those kids didn’t have anything to distract them.

So he did something about it. Rubenstein came up with the idea to not only collect and donate used games, but also host tournaments to raise money to buy new games for hospitals that do not accept used items. His grandmother helped him with start-up funds: When she passed away later that year, she arranged for her funeral donations to go to Game Givers. “She was this incredible, kind-hearted person,” Rubenstein says. “Everything that I do with the charity is for her.”

Game Givers has since helped thousands of kids in Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and even Madrid, Spain. Last year, Game Givers used its award from the Born This Way Foundation to host a major tournament at Atlanta’s Ronald McDonald house, which Game Givers had already furnished with a game room. “With the charity, we’ve been able to show that we can do more and do things that are bigger than ourselves,” he says.

Challenges to youth advocacy — and how to overcome them 

Young people often face obstacles in becoming leaders, though, which Rubenstein discovered firsthand.

Game Givers volunteers at a fundraising event.

For one, adults don’t always take them seriously. While organizing Game Givers’ first game drive, a local hospital told Rubenstein that it didn’t work with minors. So he called an Uber — he wasn’t old enough to drive — to make his pitch in person. The hospital is now one of Game Givers’ biggest partners.

Teens don’t always see themselves as leaders either, Rubenstein says. He points out that getting involved doesn’t have to be intimidating or out-of-reach. “Not everybody needs to be running an international charity,” he says. “If you feel like you’re succeeding, that’s what’s important.”

To get started, Rubenstein advises other teens to connect with youth advocacy groups. “I think [these organizations are] so important because I wouldn’t have the skills or confidence to do something like that, especially when everyone is telling you that you can’t,” he says. “I just say, ‘Well, I can.’ And then I do it.”

In 2015, when he was working to get Game Givers off the ground, Rubenstein started attending youth leadership events at GivingPoint, which works with kids to help them launch community projects and nonprofits. They helped him nail down his pitch to donors and sharpen his leadership skills. Then, last year, Rubenstein linked up with the nonprofit Peace First, which had partnered with the Born This Way Foundation, to further develop his skills using their online resources.

Max in India with The Experiment Leadership Institute.

Finally, a summer in India with The Experiment Leadership Institute opened Rubenstein’s eyes to new possibilities. During his four-week stay, Rubenstein met likeminded teens, learned about critical global issues like public health, and lived in another culture during a homestay in the foothills of the Himalayas. It inspired him to do more in his community and beyond as he enters Northeastern University this fall.

Jumpstarting a ‘revolution’ of kids taking action

In his next project, Rubenstein hopes to become a voice for teens. He’s launching a podcast that will highlight the work of young changemakers across the country, whether they’ve hosted Zumba charity fundraisers or released critically acclaimed hip-hop tracks. “There are really incredible teenagers that people need to hear about,” he says. “Teens and youth need to know that it is possible to do this stuff.”

Funded with help from The Experiment — all Experiment Leadership Institute alumni complete follow-on projects for which they can obtain small grants — the podcast will explore how these teens turned their passions into projects. When the podcast launches later this year, Rubenstein hopes it will inspire other young people. As he says, “There needs to be this revolution of kids impacting their communities and not taking no for an answer.”

New Projects Celebrate Cultural Heritage Through Exchanges

World Learning and the U.S. Department of State are pleased to announce the selection of six new cultural heritage projects to receive funding as part of its Communities Connecting HeritageSM exchange program (CCH). CCH, a State Department initiative administered by World Learning, empowers youth to protect the cultural heritage of at-risk communities around the world.

“World Learning is thrilled to support projects that celebrate diversity and foster mutual understanding through Communities Connecting Heritage,” said Lisa Posner, World Learning’s vice president for Global Exchange. “This program will also help build new global bonds to improve overall cooperation and collaboration between the US and communities in key areas of the world.”

Through virtual and in-person exchanges and exhibitions, the program supports new partnerships between U.S. and foreign cultural organizations and the communities they serve. CCH specifically helps these communities preserve their tangible and intangible cultural heritage, reinforce positive messages, and advance cultural heritage through community outreach and public education.

The projects will be carried out among six U.S. organizations from four U.S. states and Washington, D.C., and six international organizations from five countries. Each organization was matched with an overseas counterpart during initial training and has been collaborating to develop engaging cultural heritage projects. The following six projects were just selected for funding in 2017:

  • The Creative Economy Group (Serbia) and Global Ties Akron (Ohio)
    Global Threads will train up to 20 university students as citizen journalists to capture the stories of artists in their communities and use that content to launch an online publication and Food/Art Expos in both countries.
  • The Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (BOZAR; Belgium) and Gallaudet University (Washington, D.C.)
    Connecting Capitals will connect to empower up to 20 Deaf youth from the U.S. and Belgium, advocating for them to become more engaged citizens through a deeper understanding of their respective Deaf heritages.
  • Cultural Heritage without Borders (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the Cultural Heritage Alliance (Maryland)
    Saving What Matters will train up to 10 university students in the skills of digital storytelling and show them how cultural heritage preservation can be used as a tool in community development projects on a local, regional, and international scale.
  • Athar Lina (Egypt) and Avenue 50 Studio (California)
    Through Walls: A Heritage Dialogue will empower up to 10 young female artists, enlisting them in the creation of two murals celebrating the heritage of specific neighborhoods in both Los Angeles and in Cairo.
  • Khoj International Artists Association (India) and Global 1-to-1 (New Mexico)
    Voices from the Margins will connect up to 12 at-risk youth and provide opportunities for them to explore the role of their traditional languages in cultural expression, especially in music and poetry. Together, they’ll create a music video reflecting what they’ve learned.
  • Contact Base (India) and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (Washington, D.C.)
    Learning Together Toward a Brighter the Future will challenge up to 20 U.S. university students from disadvantaged backgrounds and 20 traditional artists and underserved youth from India to explore community-based cultural enterprise and heritage preservation through storytelling and folk music. The project will culminate in broad-reaching public exhibitions in each country.

The twelve organizations will now receive additional training on projects. The virtual exchanges will commence in early 2018, leading up to the in-person exchanges and public exhibitions in the spring and summer of 2018.

About ECA

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs moves people to move ideas.  ECA builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships. The State Department’s cultural diplomacy programs employ the arts to advance U.S foreign policy by sharing America’s artistic excellence, demonstrating America’s respect for other cultures, creating international networks, and deepening trust.
Contact: [email protected]

About World LearningWorld Learning is a nonprofit organization empowering people and strengthening institutions through education, sustainable development, and exchange programs in more than 60 countries.

Dialogue & Youth Empowerment Takes Center Stage in New Delhi

Aditi Rao is a writer, educator, artist, and a dreamer who wants to break down barriers between teenagers in her native India through storytelling and theatre.

She is one of six World Learningalumni to receive an Advancing Leadership Award in 2016 to support her project promoting greater social cohesion through the performing arts. As a Fellow, she has received a $5000 grant and mentorship support to help her turn Tasawwur — a volunteer collective that combines her passion for the arts, youth-work, and social justice — into a full-fledged program for positive social change in New Delhi.

“India’s political climate is increasingly polarized against minorities,” Rao says.

“There’s a lot more violence again minorities and there’s a lot less understanding and harmony amongst groups,” she explains.

Aditi (left) facilitating a small-group breakout conversation on caste based bullying.

Her bold innovative project is designed to bring teenagers together from across lines of class, caste religion, gender disability, and refugee status, in order to give them a voice.

“One of the core objectives is just to get people from these groups or identities together talking to each other about their lives, becoming friends,” she explains.

Tasawwur, which means “imagination” in Urdu, starts with activities that elicit personal stories with the teens teaching each other about their lives and the challenges they face. Next, with the help of artists and musicians, their stories are woven together to create a theatrical production. The 100-hour youth and arts program culminates in a three-night theatrical engagement open to family, friends, and the public. The performance is intended to extend the dialogue and enable youth participants to advocate for the change they wish to create.

The project is a natural fit for Rao, who is both a peace activist and a widely published writer in India. Her first book of poems, “The Fingers Remember,” won the 2015 Muse India Young Writers Award. She is also a recipient of the TFA Creative Writing in English Award and the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. In 2014, she was selected as one of the most promising emerging writers in India by Caravan Magazine.

“Growing up in New Delhi as a teenager, I realized I had no access to people who came from different income groups or different religious groups,” says Rao.

Aditi (top left) with the cast of her theatrical production, which involved 18 teenagers cutting across lines of class, caste, disability, gender, and religious minorities.

She spent the last decade working in youth development and peacebuilding across India, Mexico, and the U.S., including at Pravah, the Gandhi Fellowship, The Possibility Project, The Regional Resource Centre for Elementary Education and SEDEPAC, and World Learning’s CONTACT South Asia program.

“For me, the biggest thing I got from CONTACT South Asia was just these amazing friendships from women from Pakistan, from Kashmir, from part of the world my country is constantly in conflict with, Rao says.

“I was really moved by just how transformative those friendships are.”

She says the program’s success will lead to greater dialogue and understanding between different communities as well as the personal growth and empowerment of the participating youth. Rao already sees lasting friendships among a diverse groups of teens from the program’s first cohort.

“They are still in touch and teaching each other about the issues in their lives,” she notes. “This is the lasting impact.”

Rao adds: “For me, Advancing Leaders is really about taking what we’ve piloted and tested as an idea and growing it into a sustainable program so we can create a curriculum to work with teachers and other youth programs.”

Elevating Services for Special Needs Children in India

When Asha Asher went to India as a Fulbright Specialist at the beginning of 2017, the veteran occupational therapist and adjunct instructor from Ohio was on a mission to help children with special needs receive better education with support from rehabilitation services.

The problem, as she sees it, wasn’t a lack of skilled therapists or dedicated educators in the remote areas of Kutch district, part of Gujarat state in Western India. It was a lack of awareness and coordination among professionals.

“Therapy focuses on physical rehabilitation. The schools focus on education. But they had minimal contact with each other to understand how they could collaborate,” says Asher, who has 40 years of experience as an occupational therapist.

That’s where the Fulbright Specialist grant came in.

The Shree Bidada Sarvodaya Trust, a non-profit organization providing medical, surgical, and rehabilitation services to patients of all ages from over 1,200 villages in India, invited Asher through the Fulbright Specialist Programto help identify areas where this collaboration could be better supported. The short grant program allowed them to tap into her expertise and facilitate communication between their staff of therapists and special educators to better serve children with multiple disabilities.

During her three week Fulbright Specialist exchange, Asher consulted primarily with the Jaya Rehabilitation Institute and Research Center (JRIRC), a partner facility of the Shree Bidada Sarvodaya Trust, which offers rehabilitation services to villagers in remote areas of Kutch. Through guided discussions with educators from the neighboring areas and therapists from JRIRC, Asher explored the educators’ current needs and determined how these could be supported by the therapists. For example, the educators were often not aware of the educational implications of the various diagnoses their students received from doctors in distant cities. Asher suggested that therapy students interning at JRIRC create brochures explaining various medical conditions and how these impact education. These brochures were shared with schools and the community at large so that students with disabilities could be supported appropriately.

Asher donating a book to help visually support students with autism to the JRIC.

In addition, Asher gave a series of lectures and workshops at colleges and schools to highlight the educational needs of children beyond therapies. The result: a new awareness among physical and occupational therapists and special education teachers about what each one does and how they could work together.

The therapists realized that they couldn’t only focus on physical rehab. Their work needed to be more integrated into the child’s development.

“It’s not enough that a child learns how to walk; they need to learn how to walk to school. It’s not enough that they learn to hold something; they need to learn to hold a pencil so they can learn to write and express their thoughts, using adaptations if needed. That was the awareness I was trying to highlight,” says Asher.

She believes her recommendations will have a multiplier effect. “We started at one rehab center. Now it will snowball and go to other colleges and rehab centers,” she says. Asher observed differences in how the occupational therapists worked with children after participating in the workshops, incorporating educational concepts into therapy sessions such as counting steps and positioning the students for classroom learning.

Since her visit, JRIRC interns have continued to create and distribute educational brochures about how to support students with various disabilities, and therapists are monitoring gains made during therapy.

Asher says she also gained a number of professional insights during her work in India with the Fulbright Specialist Program which she has shared with U.S. colleagues. “To provide needed help, we must first understand the needs of the recipients before deciding what assistance we provide. I found situations where institutions had donated teaching materials which were not appropriate for the age of the population served locally,” she says.

“I also learned that low cost, low tech adaptations can be creatively used to facilitate independence of students with disabilities. Finally, I recognized the need to articulate how specific therapies assist in the education of students with disabilities and that other professionals need to understand our role before they utilize these services,” adds Asher, who shared these insights with colleagues at the American Occupational Therapy Association conference in Philadelphia two weeks after returning from India.

“We’ve got a long way to go but it’s a good start,” she adds.

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:

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).  

Communities Connecting Heritage

Communities Connecting HeritageSM  Program Impact


CCH Alumni Small Grants

At the conclusion of the program’s third year, the CCH team opened the Communities Connecting Heritage Small Grants to organizational and community member alumni from all three CCH cycles. The following projects were selected for CCH Small Grant implementation.

Kristina Llane (Albania)
Title of Project: Beekeeping Tradition as and Educative Tool

This project aims to preserve and share the importance of local beekeeping traditions in the Gjirokastra community of Albania. Kristina will work with elementary school students to cultivate youth interest in beekeeping’s cultural role in their community. Throughout the project, students and teachers will contribute to an educational book on beekeeping to that will equip teachers to continue sharing with future classrooms. The project will conclude with a panel discussion focused on protecting and preserving culture, tradition, and the environment in Albania.

Kalpana Gagdekar (India)
Title of Project: Connecting Community with Their Traditional/Heritage Cuisine

This project will explore and document the Chhara community’s traditional cuisines, which are experiencing a disappearing effect under modern global influences. Kalpana aims to document the rituals and heritage of Chhara cuisine through seven video interviews with Chhara women elders. The project combines modern technology with traditional food heritage and welcomes Chhara members of all ages to reclaim and rediscover their own heritage.

Mandala Theatre (Nepal) and Creative Connections (Connecticut, U.S.)
Title of Project: Hamro Sanskriti: Preserving Cultural Heritage through Participatory Theatre

The goal of this project is to provide youth in Connecticut and Nepal with a deeper connection to their own culture through student-led virtual workshops. The workshops – spearheaded by theater trainers in Nepal and Connecticut – will teach participatory theater techniques to 250 high school students and conclude with a model forum theater piece produced by students for the public.

Athar Lina (Egypt)
Title of Project: Rawya: The Water Women

Rawya: The Water Women is a Cairo-based project aimed at restoring the historically significant Sabil Um Abbas, a 19th century religious building and gathering place, into a usable community space once more. In addition to restoring aspects of the building, the project will connect U.S. and Egyptian women storytellers Donna Bryson and Chirine El Ansary to curate a storytelling experience of powerful 19th century women from their respective countries. Their work will culminate in a video exhibition that will be on display in the newly renovated Sabil Um Abbas for the local community to experience.

Bhasha Research and Publication Centre (India) and University of Northern Colorado (Colorado, U.S.)
Title of Project: Reclaiming Heritage II: Building Social Bonds and Bridges with Cultural Heritage

This project will utilize digital library resources at UNC to create and share cultural heritage “snapshots” with the broader community. These short videos will help immigrants and refugees in Colorado and indigenous peoples in India share their cultural heritage while building bonds with their local communities. The project will provide its participants with the ownership and platform to share their own heritage while paving a pathway for integration with others in their community.

Outside the Lens (California, U.S.)
Title of Project: Youth Tellers

Youth Tellers is a cross-cultural collaboration between Latinx youth in California and Bosnia-Herzegovina, relying on the concepts of past, present, and future to explore students’ complex cultural identities. Using digital media tools including photography, videography, and youth-facing communication forums like Discord, the project will culminate in a virtual exhibition showcasing the participants’ cultural heritage exchange with one another.

Explore the Story section on the right to learn more about the unique cultural heritage projects implemented since 2018.

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.