Boosting Community College

When Ana Gil-Garcia arrived in Buchanan, a rural area more than two hours from the Liberian capital of Monrovia, she was committed to assisting teachers at Grand Bassa Community College (GBCC) to improve standards in the classroom.

Gil-Garcia on the Grand Bassa Community College campus in Liberia.

As the largest public community college in the country, GBCC educates many of the country’s nurses, agriculture specialists, teacher’s aides, business associates, and community organizers. As a public institution, Gil-Garcia believes it has a vital role. “It is a solution to the future of Liberia,” she explains.

GBCC decided that the first task would be for Gil-Garcia to support standardizing course syllabi across departments. “They realized they needed to orchestrate better. The syllabus needed a standard structure even though the content would be different. We went over every element that has to be included in a syllabus,” she explains.

In addition to curriculum design, Gil-Garcia, who is a tenured professor of education at Northeastern Illinois University, spent approximately 30 hours training teachers in instructional methodology and student assessment. She wanted the teachers to see that proper evaluation is not just about grading tests. So she introduced college instructors of four departments — nursing, teacher education, agriculture and business management — to other ways to assess students, such as projects, demonstrations, and presentations.

“They were attached to the traditional methods but by the end of the week they were open to introducing a little bit of change in the way they approach instruction,” she says.

Gil-Garcia at her teacher training at Grand Bassa Community College in Liberia.

As the founder of The Book Partnership, an international service project bringing books and instructional materials to socioeconomically deprived schools worldwide, Gil-Garcia, also a published author and esteemed community leader, collected books from her college in Chicago to donate to the GBCC library. In total, she donated 70 books on topics including education administration, teaching, classroom assessment, and human resources.

Born in Venezuela, Gil-Garcia has been the recipient of many accolades for her work in higher education, including four Faculty Excellence Awards for teaching, research and service as well as the Hispanic Faculty Excellence Education Award. In 2010 she was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S. by Hispanic Business magazine. She remains an advocate for Latino educators and has worked tirelessly to support public education in Chicago.

In addition, Gil-Garcia has vast international experience, having trained teachers in Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Georgia, Panama, Qatar, and Egypt and says her Fulbright experience in Liberia taught her much about resilience and teaching as she observed a lack of resources, sporadic electricity and water, and at times, excessive flooding of unpaved roads. “I never felt that I was teaching; I always thought that I was learning,” she says.

At the end of her Fulbright Specialist grant, Gil-Garcia met four Liberian women who had recently returned to the country after years in the U.S. to escape Liberia’s civil war. Now back home, they are eager to establish a teacher training center that could be a model for West African countries. Gil-Garcia hopes to work with them and is exploring potential opportunities.

The goal is to ensure more women enter the teaching profession in Liberia. “There are some female students, but they don’t see female faculty on campus,” she says, recalling how surprised she was to see so few women teachers anywhere in the country.

She believes it’s important to change that.

“These faculty are teaching future teachers of Liberia,” says Gil-Garcia. “The country’s future depends on them.”

Given the importance of GBCC to Liberia, Gil-Garcia has since met with the Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago and discussed potential collaboration with GBCC. She is working on a plan to go back.


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).  

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.

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.