Sunday July 21, 2024

USEFP celebrating 70 years of educational & cultural exchanges between Pak, US

September 25, 2020

Islamabad : This week the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP or Fulbright Commission) celebrates its 70th anniversary. On September 23, 1950, a bi-national agreement was signed by Fazlur Rahman, Minister for Commerce and Education, Government of Pakistan and Ambassador Avra M. Warren, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan to establish a bi-national commission to promote mutual understanding between the people of Pakistan and the people of the United States through educational and cultural exchange.

USEFP, one of 49 such commissions in the world, was established first to manage the Fulbright Program in Pakistan, the flagship scholarship program of the U.S. Department of State. USEFP’s Board is composed of equal numbers from each country. Named for its brainchild Senator J. William Fulbright, the Program’s premise is that “Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.”

From 1950 to 2005, USEFP made a modest but important contribution by selecting about 20 bright stars each year to send on various academic programs in the United States. Scholarship recipients included former Prime Minister Dr. Moinuddin Qureshi, Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus (from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), Minister Shafqat Mahmood, academic pioneers like former Chairman UGC (now HEC) Dr. M.H. Qazi, Amanullah Khan, Founding Member of GIKI and Sargodhian Spirit Schools, and almost 30 present and former vice-chancellors of public sector universities, innovative civil servants like Nasir Mahmood Khosa, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Tariq Masood Khosa, Ms. Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, Ismail Hassan Niazi, Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal and Dr. Akhtar Hassan Khan, and so many others who have enriched Pakistani society and culture.

In 2005, the U.S. Government contribution to the Pakistan Fulbright Program increased dramatically to nearly USD 20 million per year, making it the world’s largest Fulbright Program in financial terms. This was enough to support more than 150 fully-funded Master’s and PhD degree grants annually. Other USEFP programs were also initiated or received increased U.S. Government funding during these years. The largest of these is the Global Undergraduate Semester Exchange (Global UGrad) Program begun in 2010. By now more than 2,000 students from all over Pakistan and especially from under-served areas have had the opportunity to experience living and studying in the United States for a semester. More than half of Pakistan’s Fulbright and Global UGrad students are women.

After 15 years of significant and sustained investment in Pakistan’s most promising learners, you will now find Fulbright alumni working in every sector of Pakistan’s economic and cultural life.

In addition to scholarship programs, USEFP hosts EducationUSA Centers in all three of its offices (Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi). EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories.

“USEFP is grateful to the Governments of the United States and Pakistan and to the people of both countries who support our programs with their taxes. I also want to acknowledge all the staff and partners who have enabled the organization to carry forward the mission envisioned by Senator Fulbright in the wake of WWII. Those who have come to Pakistan on exchanges, like myself, are forever changed by the experience of its warmth and hospitality. Those who travel from here to the United States also return not just with news skills and knowledge but with a new understanding of the people and the possibilities of mutual respect and friendship. We look forward to working toward this goal in our new headquarters for another 70 years.”

— Rita Bruun Akhtar, Executive Director of USEFP.

About the writer: Rita Bruun Akhtar is Executive Director of USEFP was an exchange participant in the Fulbright-Hays and Berkeley Urdu Language Programs in Pakistan.