Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State strives to embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in all aspects of its work. Public diplomacy is most effective when people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives participate in people-to-people exchanges and programs to promote mutual understanding. ECA is committed to addressing barriers based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, geographic location, education, income, socio-economic status, and other diversity dimensions, that may hinder inclusion in the organization. The Bureau’s commitment to DEIA strengthens U.S. foreign policy and is vital to building trust and partnerships here at home and around the world.
For more than 75 years, the Fulbright Program has engaged passionate and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds. We believe that by living and learning together with people from different countries and cultures we can shape a more positive vision for our communities and our world. A hallmark of the Fulbright Program has been its longstanding commitment to DEIA. The Fulbright Program actively engages and supports individuals from all backgrounds and identities throughout their experience with the program. We strive to ensure that Fulbright reflects and values the diversity of U.S. society and societies. Equally important to diversity are equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Fulbright takes steps to ensure that the Program’s diverse participants have successful and rewarding exchange experiences.
Fulbright takes concerted steps to ensure that the Program’s diverse participants have successful and rewarding experiences by incorporating DEIA principles and practices before, during, and after their exchange, including into general programming and administration, outreach and recruitment, selection, placement, post-selection and orientation efforts, on-grant activities (including enrichment and reentry activities), and alumni engagement.
In addition to the examples provided in the Fulbright Program Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Fact Sheet, some specific examples of Fulbright’s DEIA-related strategies, initiatives, practices, and procedures are detailed below.
- The Fulbright Program unveiled a new brand and visual identity in 2019 to better communicate the Fulbright Program’s core value - that the program is for talented, committed individuals from all backgrounds who wish to build mutual understanding that leads to positive change. This new, refreshed Fulbright narrative was a result of extensive interviews and analysis that concluded that some potential applicants saw Fulbright’s “prestige” as a barrier to entry, and that they did not feel that they were the “right fit” for the program.
- Reflecting DEIA in all of its forms was identified as the organizing framework for the Fulbright Program’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 2021. Throughout the year, the Program highlighted diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the celebration — representing Fulbrighters from all backgrounds on global platforms; at celebratory events, panels, and activities; and through inspiring stories, videos, features, and alumni biographies.
- In 2019, the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) relaunched and formalized its internal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Working Group to share best practices and to address and find solutions for issues surrounding DEIA in Fulbright and other academic exchange programs.
- Since 2017, Fulbright alumni and participants have formed several affinity groups with the intention of supporting individuals from different backgrounds throughout the exchange program cycle. While not officially affiliated with the Fulbright Program, they are active on social media and their members take part in conferences and activities related to Fulbright and other international exchanges and offer support, advice, and networks for Fulbright applicants, participants, and alumni.
- The Fulbright Program cultivates collaborations with many entities, including the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; Diversity Abroad; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU); and Watch the Yard, among others. The annual Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders and Fulbright HSI Leaders initiatives are unique collaborations that celebrate Fulbright’s relationships with HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).
- In keeping with federal and Program policy and practice, the Fulbright Program is committed to working with grantees with disabilities, on a case-by-case basis, as requested, to provide reasonable accommodations to help ensure the grantees have a successful and rewarding exchange experience. The Program has developed a Reasonable Accommodations protocol for use in assessing and funding accommodations.
- Specific Fulbright Programs support D&I objectives:
- The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence (S-I-R) Program enables U.S. colleges and universities to host scholars from abroad for a semester or an academic year. Scholars teach courses and guest lecture, engage with students and faculty across campus, and interact with the community outside campus, all with the objective of promoting internationalization. Diverse institutions including Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, rural colleges and universities, and military academies are encouraged to apply to the Program, including those underserved in international exchange and/or those serving underrepresented audiences. In 2022, the Fulbright Program created a specialized group of Fulbright S-I-R alumni host mentors from underserved U.S. institutions to enhance outreach efforts and serve as resources to help orient and advise current S-I-R U.S. host campuses.
- The Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF) enables U.S. colleges and universities to host Fulbright Visiting Scholars already on exchange in the United States for short-term (two-day to six-day) campus visits engaging with students, faculty, and staff in various ways to support campus internationalization. Priority institutions include MSIs, community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, women’s colleges, arts colleges, and geographically underrepresented institutions. OLF visits are designed to enable the host institutions to become more familiar with the Fulbright program and the ways that institutions can participate in it further.
- The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program places FLTAs at HBCUs, MSIs, service academies, and other institutions that may not host large cohorts of Fulbright students and scholars. In addition, it facilitates engagement with community colleges through a special fund to provide additional support for community colleges seeking to host FLTAs. Through the use of this fund, the Fulbright Program has placed a number of FLTAs at community colleges that would not otherwise be able to participate in the program. The FLTA Program also makes a special effort to recruit participants from traditionally underrepresented groups and areas.
- The Fulbright Arctic Initiative brings together a network of scholars, professionals, and applied researchers from all eight Arctic Council nations to address key research and policy questions related to creating a secure and sustainable Arctic. Using a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, Fulbright Arctic initiative scholars address public policy-related questions relevant to Arctic nations and communities’ shared challenges and opportunities. The Fulbright Arctic Initiative III cohort included five scholars from indigenous backgrounds and engaged with Arctic indigenous communities in Inuvik and Aklavik, Canada, at a mid-program meeting.
- Fulbright Amazonia is a partnership between ECA, the Fulbright Commission in Brazil, and IIE, which supports a new platform for researchers from the U.S. and countries of the Amazon basin to conduct and support collaborative, action-oriented research to conserve the biodiversity of the region as well as respect and promote the cultural and community traditions of the inhabitants of the region, including the indigenous populations, who are disproportionately impacted by the changing Amazon.
- The Fulbright Program has had a long-standing partnership with Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and the State Department-funded National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), which MIUSA administers. Joint efforts have included promoting Fulbright Program opportunities for persons with disabilities, highlighting successful exchange experiences of disabled Fulbright alumni, and providing trainings to Fulbright Program staff to aid them in effectively managing and promoting disability and exchange programming.
DEIA Throughout the Fulbright Grant Continuum
The Fulbright Program strives to represent and amplify the experiences and narratives of diverse Fulbrighters in all public-facing outreach and recruitment materials, events, and activities, including social media, websites, promotional materials, and panels.
- Fulbright Program implementing partners offer recruitment resources and training to MSIs to help ensure that the Fulbright applicant pool reflects the true diversity of the United States. For close to a decade, the Fulbright Program has facilitated workshops for Fulbright Program Advisers and Scholar Liaisons at MSIs to provide training and support for their campus engagement efforts to increase representation in the Program.
- The Program’s robust diversity strategies and initiatives have included collaboration with a host of diversity-related associations and organizations. Fulbright Outreach Partners are a diverse network of leadership organizations, professional institutions, and associations that work with underrepresented communities.
- Representatives from the Fulbright Program regularly participate in diversity and inclusion-related conferences to promote the program and offer support and engagement opportunities to international education and higher education professionals. Some examples include:
- Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions Educators
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium
- Asian American and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Program
- Association for Higher Education and Disability
- Community Colleges for International Development
- Council on Opportunity in Education
- Department of State’s HBCU Foreign Policy Conference
- Diversity Abroad
- HBCU Faculty Development Network
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
- National Indian Education Association
- Rutgers University Center for Minority-Serving Institutions
- Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science
- Student Veterans of America
- White House Initiative Offices serving African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indian and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and HBCUs
- The Fulbright Program’s collaborative activities with Reach the World, and the Fulbright Association alumni organization’s Fulbright in the Classroom program, seek to bring Fulbrighters to U.S. classrooms either virtually or in-person, especially in rural communities, to share the value of international exchange and mutual understanding with young students from a wide range of backgrounds.
- In 2019, the Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders Initiative was launched to recognize selected HBCUs for their noteworthy engagement in the Fulbright Program and to demonstrate the Program’s commitment to serving HBCUs and their students, faculty, and administrators. The annual Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders campaign was expanded to include additional recognition activities, a Symposium (2021), and an interactive Workshop (2022) to help more HBCUs engage with different components of the Fulbright Program.
- In 2021, Fulbright recognized an inaugural group of 35 Hispanic Serving Institutions as Fulbright HSI Leaders to encourage other HSIs to participate in different aspects of the Fulbright Program. In 2022, the Fulbright HSI initiative was continued and expanded, culminating in a Fulbright HSI Workshop to provide advice and best practices to other HSIs.
- In 2021, the Office of Academic Exchange Programs at ECA began collaborating with the Rutgers Center for Minority-Serving Institutions to amplify and extend the Fulbright Program’s focus on diversity and inclusion by highlighting diversity and inclusion-related Fulbright activities, opportunities, resources, and alumni through social media. Read more about this collaboration here.
The Fulbright Program strives to ensure that selected participants reflect the diversity of the United States in keeping with the Program’s objectives and guiding principles. The Program encourages participation of people from institutions and disciplines considered underrepresented, as well as from individuals who have traditionally been underrepresented in fellowship programs, and is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion in the review and selection process.
In 2022, Fulbright engaged DEIA experts to assess the application and selection processes for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs with the goal of ensuring these processes are as fair and equitable as possible.
- U.S. Student Program
- The ECA Diversity Statement is incorporated into reviewer instructions and guidelines, and is discussed and displayed to reviewers at both the beginning and the end of each review committee meeting.
- Reviewers for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program are instructed to evaluate applications holistically against posted review criteria while adhering to the Program’s nondiscrimination and diversity policies.
- The Fulbright U.S. Student Program strives to recruit National Screening Committee (NSC) reviewers to represent the diversity of U.S. higher education institutions. Reviewers come from all institutional classifications and geographic regions of the United States. Approximately 21% of reviewers come from minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
- The Fulbright U.S. Student Program encourages Fulbright Commissions abroad to host fair, equitable, and inclusive review processes that ensure participants represent the diversity of the United States.
- U.S. Scholar Program
- Reviewers for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program are instructed to evaluate applications holistically against posted review criteria, assessing each application alongside the review criteria rather than comparing candidates against one another. The peer review process utilizes a rating system rather than a ranking system, which encourages reviewers to identify the unique strengths of each application and aims to prevent comparison of applications as an anti-bias measure. In addition, ECA’s diversity statement is included in the reviewer guidelines and discussed at the beginning of each peer review meeting.
- The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program strives to recruit diverse panels of peer reviewers to evaluate and recommend applications for further consideration in the selection process. Reviewers come from all institution types and include both academics and professionals representing the breadth of their discipline. Approximately 20% of reviewers come from minority-serving institutions. Reviewers also represent all geographic regions of the U.S.
- The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program encourages Fulbright Commissions to hold a fair and equitable review process that is bi-national in nature to ensure candidates selected for awards represent the diversity of U.S. society.
The Fulbright Program’s pre-departure preparation, which includes orientations and digital resources, continually evolves to meet the needs of its diverse participants.
- Each Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) includes a key session entitled “Your Identity Abroad.” In this session, participants and alumni engage in a conversation about how their identities inform and shape their exchange experiences. Alumni and grantees discuss their own multifaceted identities and consider how they may change when encountering cultural expectations in their host countries, drawing examples from personal experiences. Through small-group discussion, a panel, and short presentations, grantees and alumni look at how to cope with potential scenarios of identity conflicts and challenges to themselves, other members of their cohorts, and their host countries. The grantees examine how their experiences of their identities can shift while abroad, and how they can interact with their host culture with respect and humility while remaining true to themselves. Among the issues discussed are those of power and privilege, the difference between expectations and reality when living abroad in a new culture and environment, and how awareness of culture, identity, and one’s own expectations can contribute to a successful Fulbright experience.
- To ensure the success of participants of all backgrounds in preparing for a successful Fulbright experience, Fulbright Pre-departure Orientations (PDOs) include sessions on country-specific customs and regulations, healthcare, grant logistics, and identity and allyship abroad for U.S. Students and Scholars.
- The Fulbright Program provides online Pre-departure Resources (PDR), which include recommended reference materials such as websites, podcasts, articles, books, films, etc. to help grantees successfully navigate their time abroad. Many of the resources were recommended by Fulbright alumni.
- The Fulbright Program recruits diverse alumni to attend PDOs to discuss their country-specific experiences from their perspectives of intersectional identities, using strengths-based approaches to discuss issues of marginalization, privilege, and discrimination.
- At PDOs, the Fulbright Program has standardized its use of pronouns and names throughout the orientation. The Program recognizes that participants may identify themselves within the Fulbright community using a name that differs from their official/legal name.
- In 2019, Fulbright alumni from diverse backgrounds conducted a panel discussion on race and allyship abroad. The panel created a safe space that allowed the alumni to articulate how they dealt with situations specifically around race, racism, discrimination, and harassment abroad during their grants. The goal of the session was to help outbound Fulbrighters learn practical tips for interacting with their host communities and how to have difficult conversations and answer questions around race and race in America. This session also allowed participants to deepen their own self-reflection of biases and privileges as they prepare to go abroad.
- As part of the pre-departure process, the Fulbright Program provides grantees with disabilities, on a case-by-case basis, as requested, with reasonable accommodations to facilitate their participation in the orientation experience.
The Fulbright Program provides resources and opportunities for participants while on grant to ensure that they have support and assistance to ensure that they have a successful exchange experience.
- In 2018, diversity and inclusion experts were hired to further Fulbright’s diversity initiatives abroad and strengthen the program’s institutional capacity to support the success of Fulbrighters from traditionally underrepresented communities. These positions exist in three regions: Europe and Eurasia, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Western Hemisphere. Learn more about the diversity and inclusion experts
- The regional diversity and inclusion coordinators host a podcast called Fulbright Forward, which features interviews with program alumni on regional and local ramifications of global diversity-related issues.
- U.S.-based webinars on race, ethnicity, identity, and inclusion are provided to support diverse U.S. Fulbright students on assignment. The webinars address different topics and are tailored to the grant experience (as participants begin their grants, mid-year, and prior to returning to the United States) and feature diverse Fulbright U.S. Student alumni who have successfully navigated challenges during their Fulbright exchange experiences.
- The State Department provides ASPE Assist, a mental health and crisis support service, as a benefit for all exchange participants, including Fulbright U.S. Students and Scholars, while they are in their host countries. Accessible 24 hours a day, it is a support option for participants in urgent and non-urgent situations. ASPE Assist services include advice to grantees when they feel at risk or vulnerable, and support to those who have experienced a traumatic incident of discrimination or harassment, in addition to mental health crisis support.
- Fulbright provides updated safety, health, and security webpages for U.S. Scholars and U.S. Students, with links to helpful materials for participants from all backgrounds, and specifically highlights resources for women travelers, information on international laws affecting the LGBTQIA+ community, resources for mobility and accessibility, and advice on navigating identity and diversity abroad. These include Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Safety, Health, and Security and Fulbright U.S. Student Program Staying Safe and Secure.
- To assist in building community and facilitating connections across borders, the Fulbrighter Network was created and provides opportunities to connect to participants with similar identities who are facing similar challenges. With over 30,000 users, the network allows individuals to interact through online community groups based on shared interests.
- Fulbright affinity groups often provide opportunities for Fulbright participants on grant to connect with others who share the same identity and to educate those of other identities.
- In 2021, the Fulbright Program launched a virtual Global Reentry Workshop for U.S. and Foreign participants to support their transition as they return to their home country. Online resources for returning U.S. Students cover topics such as coping with readjustment, staying connected to Fulbright, and professional development.
The Fulbright Program makes every effort to ensure that events and enrichment activities are representative of the diversity of the United States and the program as a whole. Speakers, panelists, and invited alumni represent a wide range of backgrounds to provide audiences with diverse perspectives on the topic being highlighted at each event. We seek to partner with Minority-Serving Institutions to host and implement events at locations that represent the diversity of American life. We also work to ensure that all virtual and in-person activities are accessible to audience members with disabilities by employing learning management systems, websites, and other content that is ADA compliant.
- The Fulbright Program has held several events for the general public that address specific topics highlighting the diversity of the United States. Some examples include:
- Fulbright Impact in the Field: Race, Justice, and the Global Civil Rights Struggle
- Fulbright Impact in the Field: Disability Rights, Inclusion, and the International Legacy of the ADA
- John Hope Franklin: Redefining the American Story – Exploring a Life & Legacy Through Family & Fulbright
- A Conversation with Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart
- The Fulbright Program Presents: An Evening of Poetry with Rita Dove
- National Park Week: Explore Crater Lake National Parks featuring Klamath Tribal Elders
- Sasha Velour: Trailblazer. Artist. Fulbrighter
- Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders Campaign
- Since 2010, The Anchor City Program has connected Fulbright Visiting Scholars in the Boston, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles areas with diverse groups, including minority communities and community colleges, to enable the Scholars and their families to deepen their understanding of life in the United States while often giving back through service work and volunteering.
- For many years, enrichment seminars have been organized for Visiting Fulbright Scholars to enable them to explore and discuss diversity issues in the United States. Examples of such seminars include: “Diversity: A Chicago work in progress” (Chicago, IL), “Strengthening communities through diversity and action” (Louisville, KY), “Rights and responsibilities in a civil society: the American Indian perspective” (Denver, CO), “Political processes and the challenges of diversity” (Austin, TX), and “Building a society that reflects human rights and celebrates ethnicity” (Birmingham, AL).
- Since 2015, select Fulbright Foreign Students have traveled to Williamson, West Virginia, a rural town in the Appalachian region, with Amizade, a global service-learning organization. The Fulbrighters engage directly with Williamson community members through facilitated discussions and volunteer activities. Together, the Fulbright Program and Williamson community members explore principles of ethical storytelling and the importance of authentic community engagement. Learn more about the 2019 Williamson visit here.
- Each year, enrichment events spotlight the diversity of the United States. For example, in 2020 Fulbrighters explored the flavors and history behind Gullah Geechee culture. Through a conversation led by content experts, participants were provided background on the establishment of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and the history, language, cooking practices, and cultural traditions of the Gullah Geechee people. The event concluded with a live cooking demonstration by Chef Amethyst Ganaway.
The Fulbright Program provides platforms and opportunities for diverse alumni to engage with the broad and dynamic network of Fulbrighters, alumni, and stakeholders around the world. Alumni are included in Fulbright’s diversity and inclusion efforts at all stages of the exchange cycle.
- As part of Fulbright’s strategic communication strategy, Fulbright creates and shares a curated selection of alumni videos and stories for its websites and social media to highlight the accomplishments of Fulbrighters from all backgrounds. Interviews with diverse Fulbright Students and Scholars are used to produce videos compilations such as “I am Fulbright” and brief videos of interviews with individual alumni.
- The Fulbright Alumni Ambassador program for U.S. Students and U.S. Scholars was created in 2008 to assist with outreach and recruitment, especially to underrepresented populations. Each cohort of Alumni Ambassadors is carefully selected to represent different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, home states, fields of study, and institutions. Approximately 380 Alumni Ambassadors have participated since the program’s inception. Alumni Ambassadors have also served on Fulbright focus groups to examine various aspects of the Fulbright Program.
- The Fulbright Program annually promotes stories of and events with alumni with disabilities to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the 30th anniversary of the ADA in 2020, the Program created an online platform with monthly features of Fulbright alumni with disabilities as well as Fulbrighters who work with communities of people with disabilities.
- The Fulbright Outreach team conducts interviews with diverse Fulbright alumni to celebrate specific activities and heritage celebrations, including, but not limited to International Education Week, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. These stories are highlighted on social media to provide prospective applicants with a glimpse into the personal Fulbright experience of representative alumni.
- In 2012, with support from ECA, the Fulbright Association (FA), the United States’ largest Fulbright alumni organization, launched a Diversity Initiative. The Initiative reaches out to diverse Fulbright alumni and encourages them to become active members. These alumni serve as role models, helping diverse audiences become more aware of Fulbright Program opportunities. In that same year, the FA developed a Young Professionals Network (YPN), which was implemented by selected Fulbright Association chapters throughout the United States which enables young U.S. Fulbright Student alumni to confer with industry specialists, participate in mentoring activities, and build professional networks. More recently, the FA created Fulbright in the Classroom to bring Fulbrighters into diverse primary and secondary school classrooms to foster the exchange of international and intercultural perspectives.
- The Fulbrighter Network connects alumni and current participants with similar identities to network, collaborate, and share opportunities. With over 30,000 users, the network allows individuals to interact through an array of user-developed online community groups based on shared interests. This platform allows Fulbright alumni, grantees, and selectees to connect with users to build community, address challenges, and strengthen professional and personal networks.
The Bureau recognizes that affinity groups have the potential to provide valuable contributions to Fulbright grantees and their exchange experience. While these activities are not funded by, or officially associated with, the Bureau’s Office of Academic Exchange Programs, which manages the Fulbright Program, affinity groups are currently playing an important role in:
Helping to recruit candidates who reflect the diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad Helping to engage exchange program alumni as ambassadors for the program Serving as a forum for Fulbright participants, applicants, and alumni to ask targeted questions, seek mentorship, develop ideas, and share recommendations Helping to fulfill the mission of the Fulbright Program helping to foster diversity and inclusion in the Fulbright Program
We appreciate the work of those active in affinity groups and other groups that support the Fulbright experience and/or engage with program alumni, grantees, and prospective candidates, along with program stakeholders and supporters.
ECA recognizes these groups as being founded by, with, and for grantees and alumni. In order to be equitable and inclusive of all such groups, ECA will maintain a policy of non-endorsement of specific affinity groups. As always, members of affinity groups, along with all other Fulbright alumni, are encouraged to:
- Share their experiences
- Apply for open calls for funding through the International Exchange Alumni community, Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies and Consulates, and other public, private, and non-profit sources
- Form and maintain a digital presence on relevant sites such as the Fulbrighter networking platform and on social media; however, a statement must be included which explains that the group is self-governed and not officially associated with the Fulbright Program or ECA.
- Contact relevant stakeholders, including the Office of Academic Exchange Programs / Fulbright Program, Fulbright Commissions, Public Affairs Sections at U.S. Embassies and Consulates, Fulbright program implementing partners (including the Institute of International Education (IIE), World Learning, AMIDEAST, and Laspau), and the U.S. Fulbright Association and other Fulbright alumni associations, with questions, recommendations, or ideas.