Fulbright Program, a bridge between Italy and the US


The first Alumni Meeting of former Italian and American Fulbright scholarship recipients was held at the MAXXI (National Museum of 21st Century Arts) in Rome on Monday September 30 to celebrate the Fulbright Program’s presence in Italy, reinforce networking between former award recipients and raise the profile of the initiatives the organisation promotes.

The US-Italy Fulbright Commission was founded in 1948 to encourage and support cultural exchanges between the two nations and manage an educational programme financed by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the American State Department, to award scholarships to help promote research and teaching.

The Alumni Meeting was opened by the Commission’s executive director, Paola Sartorio: “This event is being held to thank and celebrate everyone that has helped the Commission grow over these last 71 years, by enriching the range of scholarships available and allowing around 10,000 Fulbright scholars to deepen and strengthen the relationship between the two nations.” Sartorio also reminded those present that “today Fulbright is the most representative and successful cultural exchange programme between the United States and Italy,” offering an increasingly rich, competitive and stimulating array of scholarships thanks to contributions from the academic world and major initiatives with non-governmental partners. These include BEST, the programme promoted by Invitalia and the BEST Steering Committee and also supported by the Enel Foundation, to offer enterprising young Italians with innovative ideas the opportunity to undergo six months of training in Silicon Valley to turn their ideas into reality.

The day continued with some of the former scholarship recipients talking about their experience. They included astrophysicist Maria Giovanna Dainotti, whose revered research into gamma ray bursts has helped reconstruct the history of the universe’s expansion, financial analyst Massimo Ungaro, now a member of the Italian parliament, and president of Italy’s National Institute for Social Security (INPS) Pasquale Tridico.

After visiting the museum’s collection of 21st century art, the former Fulbright scholars exchanged experiences and expertise during a cycle of 13 round table discussions split according to research area and ranging from medical sciences to environmental sciences, energy and sustainable development. These were followed by farewell addresses by Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Ivan Scalfarotto, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to Italy Thomas Smitham, our own CEO and General Manager, Francesco Starace, member of the Fulbright Commission Board of Directors, and Anita McBride, member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

“The Fulbright Program is enormously valuable. It is a bridge that has connected the United States and Italy over time,” commented Starace while Anita McBride expressed her appreciation of the strong support shown for the initiative by Italy’s government, foundations and businesses. 

The Meeting also provided an opportunity for networking and to present the new Fulbrighter App, which is designed to put Fulbright alumni from all over the world in contact according to country and specific area of study/research. Launched in August, the app allows former recipients to get to know each other, share studies, research and their experiences. The very same purpose for which 71 years ago American senator James William Fulbright founded this very cultural exchange programme.