This week, Executive Director Erica Lutes visited Bulgaria to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange. While the Fulbright Program in Bulgaria was already established in 1968, it was not until 1993 that the Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange was founded.
Erica was the only foreign Executive Director present at the celebrations on Monday, where she got the opportunity to meet with a Fulbright alumnus before the opening of the event.
The anniversary event was officially opened by Executive Director Julia Stefanova, Minister of Education and Science Anelia Klissarova and Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy, commenting on the achievements and successes of the Bulgarian Commission over the course of 20 years.
At the Plenary Session, US Ambassador to Bulgaria Marcie Ries discussed the merits of the Commission in building bridges of understanding between Bulgaria and the United States, especially at the pivotal moment following the Cold War when the Commission was established. She was joined by Kristalina Georgieva, Fulbright alumna (MIT Visiting Scholar) and current European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, with whom Erica met after the session. Commissioner Georgieva has been elected Commissioner of the Year and European of the Year in 2010, as a result of her effective EU response strategies to various crises such as the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods.
In the evening, the US Embassy hosted a celebratory reception and symphony concert at the National Palace of Culture, where Erica met with several important players in the field of US – Bulgarian international education and exchange such as the Anick Van Calster, Belgian Ambassador to Bulgaria, and other US Embassy and EU representatives, Commission staff and Bulgarian educators and academics.
On Tuesday, Erica visited Sofia University, the oldest, largest and prestigious educational and scientific center in Bulgaria. She promoted the Fulbright-Schuman program to the Department of European Studies – the Fulbright-Schuman program is an important means of strengthening US-EU relations through its unique focus on EU policy and US – EU affairs.
Following her visit to Bulgaria, Erica traveled to Florence, Italy on Tuesday evening to meet with Micaela Iovine, Senior Program Officer at ECA, to discuss the Fulbright-Schuman program, Harvard BOAS scholarships and other administrative issues.
On Wednesday morning, Erica visited the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. EUI is an international postgraduate and post-doctoral teaching and research institute / intergovernmental organization established by European Union member states to contribute to cultural and scientific development in the social sciences from a European perspective.
EUI was the alma mater for many past Fulbright-Schuman grantees who have since moved on to successful careers in EU policy, so Erica presented the Fulbright-Schuman program and the opportunities it offers to EUI’s current – and enthusiastic – students.
During her visit, she also met with EUI’s President Joseph H.H. Weiler, who has extensive experience in the field of law and justice and also holds several directorial positions at NYU School of Law. Moreover, she discussed Fulbright-Schuman with Andreas Frijdal (and his successor upon his retirement, Veerle Deckmyn, currently Director of the library) who is Director of Academic Service and focuses on the training of researchers and postdocs in his function as responsible for the implementation of the doctoral program. Finally, Erica also got in touch with a Adriana Bunea, a Fulbright-Schuman alumna currently at EUI working on a project concerning lobbyist groups to the EU.