News

Miami Students Fulfill Goals as Fulbright Mentors

September 2013

For the third consecutive year, The Farmer School will be home to the Fulbright Social Entrepreneurship Seminar for Afghan Students.

The annual program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as part of its flagship Fulbright Program. The program, designed for approximately 70 graduate-level Afghan Fulbright students in the United States, aims to provide professional development and leadership skills that participants can apply during their time in the United States and upon returning home. The Seminar is one of a series of enrichment programs that ECA sponsors for current Fulbright foreign students. These activities are an integral element of their Fulbright experience and support the overall mission of the Fulbright Program - to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Included in this seminar-structure is space for Miami student leaders to serve in the role of "mentors" for the Fulbright participants. The idea is for students to get experience providing ad hoc social enterprise consulting and facilitating cultural exchange with the Afghan participants. They serve as liaisons between the university and the Fulbright students.

For last year's participants, having a connection with the Afghani students was an important part of their experience. "Given my passion for education and global-cultural exchange, I wanted to be involved in this project so that I could give back to the Afghani scholars," said senior Michelle McVickers, who is returning as a mentor for this year's program. "My role was to make the scholars feel welcome and serve as a cultural ambassador. I noticed we all were passionate about our field of study and especially intent on changing the world."

Josh Klaben-Finegold, a recent graduate and mentor from last year's Fulbright seminar, said that it was interesting to see how the international students collaborate. "These people are far from us in terms of backgrounds and experiences," he said, "but we're working together to solve problems."

Emily Crane was excited to meet the Afghani students and learn what they had to offer. "They are the best and the brightest of their country," she said. "To see their aspirations and dreams of how to improve their country and to be a part of equipping them with the skills to do so was very cool. It's neat to think I got to be a part of that."

Emily, a junior double major in journalism and anthropology, had a unique perspective: despite having American parents, she spent most of her life in Morocco and only recently came back to the country of her birth in order to attend college. So it was interesting for her to interact with the Fulbright scholars. "I enjoy using my experiences to help people acclimate to different cultures and places," she said. She will also be returning as a mentor this year.

For Emily and for the other mentors, the mentorship experience provided an opportunity to network and develop people skills that will be useful no matter what career path they take. Or, as Emily said: "I felt every bit as much a participant as a mentor."

The program will take place September 25-29 on Miami's campus and around Cincinnati. For more information please contact Brian Bergman in the entrepreneurship department at bergmabj@miamioh.edu or 513-529-1276.