Fulbright Reentry Seminar 2018

Fulbright group photoIn May 2016, for the third year running, the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley was awarded a grant from the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to host the Fulbright Pakistan Social Entrepreneurship and Re-entry Seminar, a seminar designed to prepare Pakistani Fulbright Fellowship awardees for their return home and to introduce them to the field of social enterprise. Organized at the Oakland Mariott Hotel, between May 10 and May 13, 2018, this 4-day seminar welcomed 105 (of which 48 were female and 57 male) students representing a diverse range of disciplines at different academic institutions across the US to the Bay Area.

The welcome dinner at the Oakland Marriott City Center began with Sanchita Saxena, the Institute for South Asia Studies’ Executive Director, who provided an overview of the agenda with the logistical details for the next three days. This was followed by remarks from Munis Faruqui, Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies and Professor in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. Welcoming the students to Berkeley, Professor Faruqui spoke about the history of the Berkeley Pakistan Initiative and introduced the next of speaker. David Ranz, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State provided an overview of the Fulbright program and spoke about the impact the Fulbright students can have when they return to Pakistan and their role as Pakistani ambassadors in the US.

The evening keynote speaker was Mobashar Yazdani, President of the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) Silicon Valley; Strategic Silicon Manager, Google LLC. Speaking from his own experience as an entrepreneur, Mobashar encouraged the students to use their passions and interests to contribute to Pakistan.

The first day of the seminar ended with an opening banquet and a group photograph session coordinated by the IIE staff and the official photographer.

The following day, the students were connected via Skype to over 20 Pakistani Fulbright alumni and recruiters. This virtual alumni panel provided students with the opportunity to learn how alumni used their Fulbright experience to further their career in Pakistan. It also provided them with the ability to connect to recruiters from various organizations, businesses, and government agencies in Pakistan.

Following this panel, the Fulbright students took buses to campus for the remaining sessions and Jummah prayers.

In the first session on campus, students participated in a workshop aimed at helping them navigate their return to Pakistan. Led by Jason Patent,  Lauren Moloney-Egnatios, and Grace Michel, from the Center for Intercultural Leadership at UC Berkeley, this workshop provided students with opportunities to integrate what they had learned during their time in the US with their life back at home and to their future career decisions. This session provided the students with the opportunity to create a supportive community. Students used this opportunity to reflect on their time in the US and share their perspective on how they would use the Fulbright experience to contribute to Pakistan.

The second session before the lunch and the Jummah prayer break was an introduction to social enterprise. Led by George Scharffenberger, the Program Director of the Master of Development Practice and Stuart James, the Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living provided the students with an overview of social enterprise by discussing the various aspects of this field to where the field was heading.

The Jummah prayers, arranged at the Berkeley Masjid, were incorporated into the 1.5 hour-long lunch break. Lunch was provided in the form of individual lunch boxes, which afforded the students with the freedom to walk around campus or attend Jummah Prayers. A UC Berkeley student volunteer led the students to the prayer room and then brought them back to the seminar. We ensured that the last afternoon session on- campus would begin after the campus Jummah prayers were scheduled to end.

In the last session of the day, Dean Sudha Shetty taught participants how to map their own individual power and networks. After students realized their own resources and strengths, she then had them work in interdisciplinary groups to address issues such as clean energy. This workshop set the stage for students to begin thinking about how they could all become social entrepreneurs by using their existing talents.

The day culminated with a free evening where the students explored San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.

On the final day of the seminar, the Fulbright students were invited to attend the annual forum held by the Silicon Valley chapter of OPEN. At the forum, students were able to hear from successful entrepreneurs on a range of topics from virtual reality to the Internet of Things. It also provided the students with unparalleled networking opportunities and recruiting opportunities with companies from Pakistan.

All 105 students came together at the Oakland Marriott for the final closing dinner. Dr. Sanchita Saxena led the debrief session and spoke about the privileges of being a Fulbright student and congratulated them on the completion of their Fulbright program. She then opened the floor for the students to reflect on their time in the US and gave them an opportunity to speak about how their future plans.

The final remarks were delivered by Stephanie Reed from the Department of State who congratulated the students on the completion of their Fulbright program and provided an overview of the Fulbright program, and Rita Akhtar from the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan who reminded the students to stay connected not only to each other but also to take advantage of the vast Fulbright alumni network that is in place to support them.

This seminar was an incredible opportunity for the Institute to both strengthen existing connections as well as expand its network to incorporate a brilliant group of Pakistani students. We look forward to hosting this seminar again in 2019 and to working with the IIE and Department of State's Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs.