Fulbright Canada’s annual Fall Orientation, a three day extravaganza which began this year on Friday September 5th, is the first step in an exciting adventure for the incoming cohort of US Fulbright scholars and all of the incoming Killlam fellows. 68 students, young professionals, and scholars descended on Ottawa for a program packed with lectures, opportunities to share research and scholarly plans, networking with new colleagues and potential partners, cultural activities, and, of course, hockey.
Registration was followed by a lunch session designed to introduce the Fulbright Canada team. Next up, the group attended an inspiring lecture by Fulbright Canada alumnus Joel Spicer. Joel, who is currently President of the Micronutrient Initiative, spoke passionately and with great conviction about global health issues and the ways that change can manifest itself through small acts of collaboration, communication, and humility. Through personal reflection and real life examples, Joel set an uplifting tone that carried the group through the weekend.
The scholars left the lecture with added purpose to their step, some headed for a classic tour of Canada’s Parliament while others were off to the Supreme Court. While inside taking their tours, the pleasant fall day gave way to a torrential downpour and thunderstorms. Unfazed by the weather, our brave scholars sprinted through the storm and made it back to the Lord Elgin Hotel with enough time to change their wet clothes and head out to an event at the official residence of the US Ambassador. Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Sanders hosted Fulbright Canada with a beautiful cocktail reception at the historic home as the sun set over the Ottawa River. Mr. Sanders welcomed and congratulated the Fulbrighters on their awards, reminding them that they too had their own ambassadorial role to play.
Friday evening closed with dinner at Sidedoor in the Byward Market, one of Ottawa’s trendier restaurants. The light and festive atmosphere encouraged networking and celebrated the achievements of the Fulbright group. Andreas Weichert, the new Director of the International Education Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, joined the group for dinner and affirmed the Government of Canada’s investment in and commitment to the success of Fulbright scholars in Canada.
Saturday morning was completely focused on academic events. Five panels were set up, with lead scholars from the Chairs Program discussing their research and responding to moderated questions. The panels provided an opportunity for the entire group to learn more about the work that each of the Fulbright scholars would be pursuing while in Canada. Afterwards, the Killam fellows (undergraduate students from both the United States and Canada) had a chance to engage in a roundtable with the Fulbright scholars of their choosing for a more informal question and answer session. This format gave students and scholars the opportunity to build new academic connections and consider future collaborations.
The remainder of Saturday was dedicated to Canadian culture. Trips to the renowned National Gallery of Canada and award winning Canadian Museum of History were followed by the true highlight of the trip, hockey! True to form, and in keeping with local culture, the group boarded iconic yellow buses and headed off to the Carleton University Ice House. Canadian-born Killam students and Fulbright scholars gave impromptu lessons to the American Fulbrighters and Killam Fellows on how to skate and how to properly hold a hockey stick. Fulbright Canada CEO Michael Hawes refereed a spirited match, which was the perfect capstone to the orientation program. After a relaxed dinner at Colonnade Pizza, the team boarded the buses for their final trek back to the hotel. One last chance to network at breakfast on Sunday, then back to their homes (new and old).
On balance, the 2014 Fulbright Orientation was an extremely successful and fun event. The group distinguished themselves by their flexibility, their positive energy, and their openness to share ideas and experiences with their peers. We look forward to the scholarship that this talented group of academics will produce in the coming year and count on them to fulfill the promise of the Fulbright program… building mutual understanding, growing capacity, and creating long-term personal and professional relationships.
A special thanks to Michelle Emond and Brad Hector, co-chairs of the 2014 Fulbright Canada Fall Orientation Program, and to our indefatigable York University summer intern Matthew Farrell for all their hard work in making Orientation 2014 such a success!