2018 UC Davis Fulbright Afghanistan Leadership Seminar

fulbright group photo
Fulbright Students posing for a photo outside the State Capitol in Sacramento.

By Rowan O’Connell-Gates, student writer, Global Affairs

With a focus on leadership, education, and research, UC Davis has consistently served as an engaging and supportive community for Fulbright Visiting Students. This fall, UC Davis hosted 56 Afghan Fulbright Students from universities across the United States for a weekend of presentations, cultural exchanges, leadership sessions, and exploration.

Arrivals and Leadership Workshops

The Fulbright Afghanistan Leadership Seminar began on Thursday, November 8 with opening remarks from campus leadership and a keynote address. The Fulbright Students also had an opportunity to network and mingle with fellow participants, speakers, staff, and special guests during a welcome dinner hosted at the UC Davis International Center.

Audience listens at leadership seminar
Opening statement by Karen Beardsley, director of global professional programs within Global Affairs.

Prior to Friday’s workshops, the leaders of UC Davis Global Affairs Fulbright Program were introduced. The leadership seminar was implemented as a result of a partnership between Global Affairs and the Division of Continuing and Professional Education, staff representatives from the U.S. Department of State and, the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Faculty group poses for picture
(L-R): Jessica Wilson, program officer at the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State; Tina Castillo, academic director at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education, International; Jennie Konsella-Norene, assistant director of global professional programs at UC Davis Global Affairs; Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs; Karen Beardsley, director of global professional programs in Global Affairs; Fadi Fathallah, associate vice provost of global education and services in Global Affairs; Omaima Khan, global events project manager at IIE); and Bassim Abbassi, Fulbright Enrichment manager at IIE.
Fulbright group photo
Fulbright Students posing for a photo outside the State Capitol in Sacramento.

With topics ranging from networking and team building to emotional intelligence, the workshops featured a variety of speakers including Pierre Khawand, the founder and CEO of the burgeoning mindfulness and leadership software People-OnTheGo.

Robb Davis advises students
Robb Davis, international student advisor in Services for International Students and Scholars within Global Affairs and former mayor of the City of Davis, during his presentation.

At the end of each presentation, Fulbright Students had the opportunity for questions and comments. Many students took this opportunity to discuss the workshop content with both the presenters and their peers. A common theme amongst the Fulbright Students was the notion of opportunity and accountability. The students see themselves as agents of change for Afghanistan and in turn hope to hold each other to the highest standard.

student addresses audience
Students look on as a fellow Fulbright Student addresses the audience with workshop comments.

Friday concluded with presentations from select Fulbright Students. The Fulbright Program provides students with two years of education credit towards their master’s or doctorate degrees. Many in the Afghan cohort are in their first year in the Fulbright Program, with a small portion of them beginning their second year. Students with over a year's experience spent the evening offering advice and stories about their time in the program.

students pose with Fulbright banner
Students pose for photos by the official Fulbright Program banner.

Explorations in Sacramento

Beginning at the UC Davis International Center, Fulbright Students posed for the first of Saturday’s group photos.

group in front international center
Students pose outside the UC Davis International Center with the flag of Afghanistan.

Led by Continuing and Professional Education, International's Academic Director Tina Castillo, the Fulbright Students participated in discussions and games aimed at simulating the reality of cross cultural experiences. Much to their delight, Castillo kept the students engaged by peppering her presentations with singing, call and response, and imagery. The workshops concluded with the students setting future goals.

students listen during ceremonies
Continuing and Professional Education, International's Academic Director Tina Castillo leads the students in her workshop on Intercultural Communication.

In the afternoon, Fulbright Students hopped on Sacramento-bound busses where the day’s second group photo took place at the state capitol building. After exploring the outside, students had the opportunity to tour the 144-year-old structure.

students pose in Sacramento
UC Davis Global Affairs staff, U.S. Department of State officials, and Fulbright Students pose outside the State Capitol Building.

Breaking into two tour groups, the students eagerly questioned the tour guides about the building’s art, political implications, and architecture.

students in capital hill
Fulbright Students look on as the tour guide discusses the history of California’s Senate Room.

After the State Capitol Building tour, the Fulbright Students enjoyed a meal of freshly baked olive bread, handmade pasta and sorbet at Sacramento’s Il Fornaio.

students toast as they enjoy lunch together
Fulbright Students raise their glasses at Sacramento’s Il Fornaio.
student poses in traditional clothes
Fulbright Sudents used the dinner as an opportunity to wear their traditional Afghan clothing.

The dinner concluded with an intercultural exchange of songs among the group. Castillo shared her personal favorite “Imagine” by John Lennon, while the students shared multiple songs by their favorite Afghan artist Ahmad Zahir.

students sing "Imagine"
Castillo and Konsella-Norene lead a sing along with the Fulbright Students.

Reflecting on the Weekend

Prior to their early Sunday morning flights, the students had an opportunity to reflect upon their experiences in the Fulbright Program and their time at UC Davis.

Nasrin Sultani, Project Management, Florida Institute of Technology - Orlando:

“The Fulbright Program is incredible, I love it. You get the chance to meet new scholars from all over the world and you get opportunities, like this seminar, where you find new people from your own country.”

Muhammad Naser, Public Health, Montclair State University:

“From the onset, Fulbright is about new cultures, new perceptions, and new thoughts. The leadership seminar exemplified this, we got a needed break from school and met other Fulbrighters with important ideas for the future of Afghanistan.”

Safia Amiry, International Development, Ohio University:

“Being a Fulbrighter is such an impactful experience. Coming to the United States, we are ambassadors for Afghanistan, this opportunity to represent our nation gives us the chance to show that our country is not just war-torn, we have a beautiful and diverse culture.”

About Global Affairs at UC Davis

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty studying and researching internationally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world's most pressing problems through more than 150 international partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is now in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

About the Fulbright Afghanistan Program

This activity is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. For more information, visit fulbright.state.gov. This activity is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).