Throughout her 22-year career, Fatma Souidi brought Algerians and Americans together – in spite of a civil war, a revolution, economic crisis, and a pandemic. Fatma engineered the region’s first Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Property which led to updated cultural preservation legislation and training focused on preventing looting of cultural property. Her work in this and other fields is the bedrock of our relationship with an otherwise standoffish government, exemplifying the best of cultural diplomacy.
For nearly two decades, Vanessa has led the entire range of cultural programming. Most notably, she secured $2.5 million to conserve dozens of heritage sites and led U.S. repatriation of some 2,000 artifacts to Peru, raising the profile of the Mission throughout Peru. Vanessa’s humanity, care for contacts and workmates, advocacy for U.S. interests and help for Peruvians well represent the legacy of Gill Jacot-Guillarmod.
Cheyenne Jansdatter, the Archival Collections Manager of the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa, will work to develop the Danish American Archival Networking Experience (DAANE), an online digital archive that will connect three Danish American archives in the U.S and several institutions in Denmark with archival holdings that are relevant to the Danish American experience. Cheyenne hopes the project will result in increased collaboration and shared content, such as online exhibits.
Lexi is pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in International Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Lappeenranta. She plans to use the Roth-Thomson Award to support her sociological research on the ways in which globalization of the pharmaceutical business could optimize the innovation of drugs and reduce cost for the consumer. Upon her return to the U.S., Lexi plans to pursue a career in international pharmaceutical pricing, in hopes of making life-saving drugs more accessible to consumers worldwide.
This year, the award went to Michelle Chang. Michelle is conducting research on Norwegian mindsets about death in collaboration with the University of Bergen’s Center for Crisis Psychology to support the Center’s work with the organizations it serves. She will use the Project Support Award to conduct and then analyze information obtained from community focus groups of Norwegian adults who have experienced a recent death of a loved one. On her return to the United States, Michelle plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology that focuses on inequities in bereavement experiences. She hopes to bring the insights gained from her international experiences to provide more comprehensive language and frameworks for understanding bereavement.
Hannah Ritchey is conducting research on Muslim immigration and integration in Sweden. She will use the Roth-Thomson Award for translation and interpretation services and travel to conduct interviews. She plans to pursue a career advising non-governmental organizations on how to care for migrants and assist their acclimation to their new community, while celebrating their history and culture.
Robert Chandler & Elizabeth Chandler
The 2020 award went to Robert and Elizabeth Chandler for their translation from the Russian of Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad. Set in Russia in the midst of WWII, the novel follows the Shaposhnikov family as they grapple with the nearing German invasion, providing an intimate portrait of humanity in the face of disaster. According to the Modern Language Association, “Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler’s historical understanding and archival research made it possible to produce a book that salvages the novel from the fate of its mangled original, censored in the process of writing, editing, and production.” The Chandlers’ translation makes Grossman’s masterpiece available to English language readers for the first time.
Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps received an honorable mention for their translation from the Ukranian of Serhiy Zhadan’s What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems by Serhiy Zhadan. The collection includes selected works detailing the haunting realities of life in war-torn Ukraine from seven of Zhadan’s previous publications, released between 2001 and 2015. According to Dzvinia Orlowsky of the Solstice Literary Magazine, “These eloquent translations read as if the poems were conceived in English. Every poem transports readers to an authentic, emotional destination.” Tkacz and Phipps have been collaborating since 1989, and are codirectors of the Yara Arts Group in New York.
An honorable mention was awarded to Jonathan Wright for his translation from the Arabic of Sinan Antoon’s fourth novel, The Book of Collateral Damage. The novel follows Nameer, an Iraqi scholar studying in the United States, as he attempts to document and come to terms with the devastating aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Based on Antoon’s own experiences in witnessing the destruction when returning to his hometown of Bhagdad after the invasion, the novel offers important commentary on both the human and environmental costs of war. Wright is a celebrated British journalist and literary translator, specializing in Arabic translation.
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 General in Surabaya’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.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.