The words “representation matters” open the second episode of Fulbright Forward, a podcast created by Susanne Hamscha, the Fulbright Diversity Coordinator for Europe and Eurasia. To underscore the Fulbright Program’s goal of reflecting the diversity of American society in the students and scholars it sends abroad, Susanne was selected in 2019 to be the first Fulbright regional diversity and inclusion coordinator. In 2020, D&I coordinator positions were created in two additional regions: East Asia and the Pacific and the Western Hemisphere. Kelli Swazey holds the position for East Asia and the Pacific, and Jeremy Gombin-Sperling serves as the Fulbright Americas (WHA) D&I Liaison.
The three experts compose the Regional D&I team for the Fulbright Program. Together they work to further Fulbright’s diversity initiatives and strengthen the program’s institutional capacity to support the success of Fulbrighters from traditionally underrepresented communities. They engage in staff trainings, orientations, events, outreach and communication activities, and strategic planning initiatives in their respective regions. They also collaborate on global projects that aim to achieve D&I goals. For example, in addition to the Fulbright Forward podcast, one of their other projects is a panel series titled “Unmasking Inequalities.” The first panel, which discussed the global impact of COVID-19 on marginalized and minoritized communities, took place on International Human Rights Day, and the second happening on February 25, 2021 will focus on a Feminist Disability Response to COVID. As the team carries out these projects, they continue to communicate and collaborate with Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies, and Fulbright Program colleagues at the U.S. Department of State.
The Regional D&I team members all have their own relationships with Fulbright, either as former staff and/or program participants, and believe in the program’s mission to foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange. As such, they know that true understanding cannot be achieved unless Fulbrighters represent the full diversity of participating countries in terms of identities, backgrounds, and disciplines.
Diversity and inclusion as concepts mean different things in different regions and cultural contexts, and the team is dedicated to fostering a dialogue space that allows all associated with Fulbright to embrace and discuss these differences. Through the worldwide Fulbright Program’s collective teamwork, the Regional D&I leads hope to continue to make the Fulbright Program a more inclusive space where diversity thrives, is understood, and is celebrated.
Dr. Kelli Swazey is the Diversity and Inclusion Liaison for the Fulbright Program in East Asia and the Pacific. Her academic background is in Anthropology with a focus on identity in the public sphere, representation and the media, and the rights of minority communities in Southeast Asia. She has served as a faculty member in a multi-disciplinary graduate program focused on public advocacy for diversity and social justice initiatives, and designed numerous programs for students and educators on Southeast Asian diversities in Indonesia, where she has resided since 2010.
Dr. Susanne Hamscha is the Regional Diversity Coordinator for the Fulbright Program in Europe and Eurasia. Her academic background is in North American Studies, with a research focus on the intersections between gender studies, disability studies, and queer theory. She is currently based in Berlin.
Jeremy Gombin-Sperling is the Diversity and Inclusion Liaison for the Fulbright Americas Program. In addition to his work in Fulbright, Jeremy is a Ph.D. Candidate in the International Education Policy program at the University of Maryland-College Park. His research and teaching focus on reshaping student learning on international educational experiences through the integration of pedagogies informed by social justice theory and praxis. He holds an M.A. in International Education Policy from University of Maryland-College Park, and a B.A. in Religious Studies and Psychology from New York University.