The 2020 Lois Roth Award went to Cultural Affairs Officer Davida MacDonald from the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. Davida was recognized for the “Moonshot Morocco” campaign she designed that transformed the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing into a year-long celebration and captured the imagination of thousands of Moroccans. The campaign provided STEM programming to Moroccan youth and demonstrated America’s leadership in the fields of space exploration, technology and innovation. “Moonshot Morocco” consisted of 50+ events across 24 Moroccan cities and engaged more than 15,000 STEM enthusiasts and emerging entrepreneurs in person and tens of thousands online through complementary social media content. The campaign capstone, “Moonshot Morocco Youth Festival,” attracted more than 6,000 attendees over three days and consisted of more than 100 activities, including workshops, plenaries and public events offering simultaneous programming. Participants described the festival–the first of its kind to take place in Morocco–as one of the most inspiring events they had ever attended.
An Honorable Mention was also awarded to Cultural Affairs Officer Holly Zardus from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo for her creation of BOLD (Bosanski Omladinski Lideri), a multi-faceted program to address the problems facing Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) by developing a new cadre of leaders. Holly marshaled a full range of public diplomacy programming, leveraged support from her network in Washington, D.C., and included the participation of the Ambassador and staff from other agencies and sections at post. She took advantage of existing exchange programs, and where those didn’t exist, she created new business-focused projects and short-term academic programs focused on civic and economic development. BOLD has drawn interest from other posts and has the potential for becoming a regional program.
The 2020 Ilchman-Richardson Award went to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Director of Academic Exchange Programs, Mary Kirk. Mary and her team have extended the breadth of the Fulbright Program’s outreach and selection processes and reinforced their connection to foreign policy priorities, while ensuring the health, safety and productivity of the exchange experience for all Fulbrighters. Under her leadership, her team built alumni and partner networks and reinvigorated the Fulbright US scholar program, while strengthening financial accountability and management practices and expanding training and resource materials for ECA staff, Posts and Fulbright commissions. She is an undisputed master of meeting the daunting complexities and competing demands involved in the budgetary intricacies of extensive world travel for negotiations, mentoring and oversight. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Mary led her staff to quickly pivot to address the many unique issues that arose within exchange policies and procedures in a virtual environment. She embodies the Roth/Ilchman/Richardson legacy through her tireless dedication and creative, insightful approaches as a cultural diplomacy leader and manager.
An Honorable Mention was also awarded to ECA’s Senior Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion, David Levin. During his 36 years with ECA, he has built Diversity and Inclusion into ECA’s ethos instilling his fervent belief that international exchange and its life-changing benefits should be available to everyone and that exchanges are stronger and more impactful when they truly represent the diversity of American society and of societies abroad. It was David who connected the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program and Youth Exchanges in the 1980s, pushing ECA to expand its focus to inner-cities and rural areas. And way back in 1994, David moved to increase exchange opportunities for persons with disabilities by designing a grant competition that became the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange. Today, American host families from small communities welcome diverse participants from countries around the world and American students from diverse places around the United States venture abroad. The diversification of ECA programs didn’t just happen overnight—it is due to David Levin’s efforts.
Since her arrival in 2003, Esti’s interpersonal skills and leadership has provided the foundation for the Consulate’s public diplomacy programming and serves as an example of excellence for all Consulate employees. Her extensive knowledge and experience with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), women empowerment, disability rights, LGBTQ issues and trafficking in persons have driven Surabaya to create cutting-edge programming with broad impact. In just one example, Esti partnered with a local TEDx organization to amplify a speaker program on Astrophysics to reach thousands more across the Indonesian archipelago. Countless young women wrote to share how the event inspired them to pursue higher education in the United States as well as STEAM-oriented careers.
Ali Al Ghadban
Ali Al Ghadban, Cultural Assistant, U.S. Consulate General Jeddah, has supported the entire U.S. Mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with his stellar work in exchange and alumni programs over thirty-five years of service. His connections across Saudi Arabia run deep and he continually leverages his vast network of contacts to strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties through education and cultural exchange and deepen connections with the next generation of Saudi leaders.
Over a 40-year career, Felicity Aziz, Deputy Director of the American Center, Jerusalem,has managed Center operations and staff, while serving as the liaison to some 35 grantee organizations. The Mission relies on her advice regarding women’s empowerment and economic development, religious affairs, innovation and entrepreneurship, climate and environmental issues, rule of law, good governance and peripheral communities. Felicity has successfully informed and influenced generations of Israel’s future leaders, current influencers and professionals through her deep understanding of her community, her knowledge of how to use public diplomacy tools to their fullest extent and her determination to make a positive difference in the lives of her fellow citizens.
For most of the nearly three decades that Slovenia has been an independent nation, Ivanka Ponikvar, Education and Professional Exchanges Specialist, U.S. Embassy Slovenia, has been the Embassy’s most respected exchanges interlocutor. Known for her compassion, around-the-clock attentiveness to detail and commitment to participant satisfaction, she deftly navigated a changing political and economic landscape to recruit the nation’s most promising educational and professional exchange participants. Ivanka owes her success to creating and maintaining the Embassy’s most productive and mutually-beneficial relationships by discerning the right balance, qualifications and temperaments of successful participants. She has steadily increased the Embassy’s network of policy and opinion-makers who have advanced US interests in measurable ways.
Helena Vagnerova, Senior Member, Established Opinion Leader Team, U.S. Embassy Prague is a living legend within Embassy Prague and has mentored generations of Foreign Service Officers and local staff. She has mastered every aspect of public diplomacy, from brainstorming to carrying out policy-relevant, impactful programming. She can single-handedly draft Front Office memos and remarks for the Ambassador, while managing a panoply of logistical, budgetary and bureaucratic issues. In doing so, she personifies how cultural programs advance US security, economic, and policy objectives, as well as the critical role cultural outreach plays in strengthening the bonds between the two countries. During Secretary Pompeo’s historic speech at the Czech Senate in August 2020, he cited Helena’s work on the PKF Prague Philharmonia’s concert at the Ambassador’s Residence as an example of U.S.-Czech friendship and solidarity.
Carrie Clifford is conducting comparative research surrounding mental health and child development in Native American and Maori communities. She is using her Project Support award to fund trips to Native American communities in Colorado as well as to provide access to materials for an intensive course on American Indian history and health at Johns Hopkins University. Upon her return to New Zealand, Carrie plans to complete her PhD in Clinical Psychology in order to work to improve the mental health of Maori natives in Aotearoa.
During her twelve-year tenure as Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, Penny forged stronger educational links between the US and UK, gaining increased funding for American pre- and post-doctoral scholars to study at the top research universities in the UK. She also took important steps towards making international education more accessible through her creation of the Social Mobility Program, which provides funding for underprivileged UK undergraduates to attend American universities. Penny’s dedication to cultural and educational diplomacy has provided opportunities for hundreds of students to enrich their educational experience, and in doing so has fostered continued cultural exchange between the US and UK.
Daniel Sherrell, of the University of Adelaide, is writing a book centered around young people’s perceptions of climate change as it becomes an ever more serious threat. His LRE Project Support award will allow him to conduct ethnographic research on the island of Tuvalu concerning the challenges that its inhabitants are already facing as a result of climate change. Upon his return to the U.S., Daniel plans to incorporate this research into his book in order to raise awareness about the ways in which climate change has begun to seriously affect our planet.
Shahad Al Rawi & Luke Leafgren
Shahad Al Rawi, the Iraqi author of The Baghdad Clock, and her translator, Luke Leafgren, toured colleges and universities in the northeastern U.S. Here they are pictured at Amherst College, where they read from the novel in both Arabic and English and discussed their experiences with writing and translation.
The Baghdad Clock won the Edinburgh First Book Award and was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The story begins in 1991: Two young girls meet and become best friends in a Baghdad bomb shelter, where they have taken refuge from Allied aerial attacks. They share their hopes and dreams, interwoven with fantasy and illusion. A stranger arrives from the mysterious future of the city bearing prophecies, causing families to flee the city en masse, leaving it empty. When a third girl joins them, the friends begin to write a secret history of their neighborhood to save it from oblivion.
The 2019 Dyankov Translation Award was presented to Zornitsa Hristova for her translation of the novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe (List, 2019). Born in Dobrich, Zornitsa Hristova graduated from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” with a degree in English Philology, having specialized in post-colonial literature at Oxford, with an emphasis on contemporary Indian literature in English.
In 2014, Zornitsa Hristova won the national “Hristo G. Danov” award, which is presented annually by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and the Plovdiv National Book Center to recognize contributors to Bulgarian literary culture, for her work in children’s literature together with the team behind “Tasty Geography”. She received the same award in 2015 for “When I Want to Be Silent”, together with the artist and co-author of the book. In 2010, Zornitsa Hristova received the Literary Translation Award from the Union of Translators in Bulgaria for her translation of the novel “White Noise” by Don DeLilo.
Robert Chandler & Elizabeth Chandler
Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler received recognition for their translation of The Captain’s Daughter, by Alexander Pushkin (New York Book Review Books, 2014).
Fulbright Legacy speaker Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, was joined by UK university leaders to discuss the timely topic of “Higher Education and the Public Good.” The wide-ranging discussion reflected on the results of a dedicated IPSOS Mori global survey on public attitudes towards higher education and covered topics from inequality and student debt, to international collaboration and alternative models of university education.
A video of the lecture is available on the Fulbright Commission’s website.
Joel Scott is a poet and translator from Sydney, Australia, currently a resident in Berlin. He translates from German and Spanish into English. He has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies from Macquarie University. He is currently working on translating the third volume of Peter Weiss’s magnum opus Die Ästhetik des Widerstands which is set to appear in 2023. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Bildverbot and Diary Farm.
The 2020 award went to James Budinich. James will be working with the Royal Danish Academy of Music to conduct research on the Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and the Danish New Simplicity movement during the 1960s. He is also developing a composition for vocalist and chamber ensemble based on the work “Third-Millennium Heart” by Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen. James hopes his research on the New Simplicity movement will build a bridge to new audiences through accessible compositions in which every listener, regardless of musical experience, can discover their own understanding and appreciation.
Kayleigh Anderson is researching the experiences of indigenous Sami women through a feminist lens as part of her graduate program in gender studies at the University of Turku. With the Roth-Thomson Award, she will extend her stay in Finland and expand her research to include questions of cultural appropriation and the Sami people. Upon her return to the U.S., Kayleigh plans to continue her studies through graduate programs in Women and Gender Studies and Indigenous Studies.
Anna Bodgan is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Global Politics and Communication at the University of Helsinki. She plans to use the Roth-Thomson Award to support her research project on the spread of misinformation in the discussion of politics online. Upon her return to the U.S., Anna plans to apply her studies to a position in international affairs.
Keegan is working towards a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, focused in development, sustainability, and cultural change at the University of Oslo. She plans to use her Project Support award to fund a research project surrounding a recent decision by the Norwegian government to allow mining waste dumping into a protected national salmon fjord. Upon her return to the US, Keegan plans to work in a policy or research position to help develop sustainable solutions to environmental issues.
Ben Orozco (University of Wisconsin, Madison), an artist specializing in neon and glasswork,is studying under Tommy Gustafsschiöld, Sweden’s only neon craftsman at The Glass Factory in Boda Glasbruk. Ben will use the Roth-Thomson Award to acquire the supplies, materials and tools needed for a solo exhibition that will highlight American neon and Swedish glass techniques and traditions. Upon returning to the U.S., Ben plans to teach neon and glasswork in New York City as a way to share his experiences in Sweden and continue exchanging ideas with other artists.
MaryClaire (Indiana University, Bloomington) is writing a dissertation on the Swedish avant garde movement. She will use the Roth-Thomson Award to extend her research to include the contributions of female artists that have been largely overlooked. Upon returning to the U.S., MaryClaire plans to expand her dissertation into a book to highlight the contributions of Scandinavian artists to European modern art.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.