The Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program is a unique education exchange program between the United States and partnership countries which aims to promote mutual understanding and good wills across different cultures.
The Program was initiated by Senator J. William Fulbright who introduced the Fulbright Bill to the US Congress in 1945. On August 1, 1946 President Harry S. Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law. The Fulbright Act mandated the sale of surplus military equipment from World War II to fund “the promotion of international good will” and, as Senator Fulbright liked to say, “turn swords into plowshares”.
The Fulbright Program in Thailand
The Fulbright Program in Thailand was established on July 1, 1950 by the creation of the United States Educational Foundation through a bilateral agreement between the governments of Thailand and the United States. The Foundation was renamed the Thailand-U.S. Educational Foundation (TUSEF) in 1963 but is popularly referred to as “Fulbright” or “Fulbright Thailand”.
The Foundation is administered under its bi-national Board of Directors comprising 14 representatives, 7 from each country. A representative from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts as the Board’s Chair and a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand as Vice-Chair. The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand is the Honorary Chair.
As a bilateral program, funding for the Foundation comes from both governments through the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Department of States. Initially, the Program received annual operating budget from the U..S government at approximately four million baht, similar to that provided to New Zealand and the Netherlands. Starting from 1989, the Thai government started allocating budget to the Fulbright Program. Its annual contribution now reaches 15 million baht or 36% of the total budget.
Currently, the Foundation administers 12 awards under the Fulbright Program with approximately 50-60 Thai and U.S. grantees annually. It also helps administer other one award as requested by the U.S Department of State and the U.S. Embassy Bangkok.
Fulbright Cultural Ambassadors
One particular aspect of being a Fulbrighter is his/her role as a Cultural Ambassador. Senator Fulbright envisioned Fulbrighter as a bridge of different cultures, that is for the U.S. and the host countries to secure the world peace through goodwill and friendship based on cross-cultural understanding.
By being a Cultural Ambassador, it is crucial that one must firstly know himself/herself in order to have thorough understanding of others. Such self understanding would help analyze differences critically to the extent that he/she will learn to appreciate and respect diversity, and be more selective in adopting new cultures or ideas.
To nurture such Cultural Ambassador, the Foundation emphasizes the significance of open-mindedness, compassion, caring, sharing and community-oriented perception among Fulbright alumni and grantees. All along, networking is highlighted as a mechanism for powerful impacts. Outreach activities are, therefore, designed to foster such qualities within and even beyond the Fulbright Family.