During International Education Week, we recognize the international academic research and collaboration that are key to addressing 21st century challenges such as climate change, pandemic disease, renewable and sustainable energy, and food security, among many others. Where exchange programs were once thought of as a supplement to foreign policy, we now know they are a fundamental part of our diplomatic toolkit.
The U.S. government’s Fulbright Program forges the relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are so essential to addressing the complex and changing international landscape. Two special collaborative research initiatives -- the Fulbright NEXUS Program and Fulbright Arctic Initiative -- bring together scientists and researchers from around the world to work towards climate change solutions.
The Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (NEXUS) Program
Now in its third iteration, the Fulbright NEXUS Program connects researchers from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada to conduct collaborative research on climate change and adaptation strategies in the region. Fulbright NEXUS scholars carry out interdisciplinary research designed to have a tangible impact on communities throughout the Americas. For example, one project in 2013 created an interactive online climate map that connects communities-at-risk with policy-makers, journalists, and scientists, linking local stories with historical data to stimulate international collaboration on innovative solutions.
One of this year’s Fulbright NEXUS research groups is examining climate change through a pilot of solar-powered irrigation technology for coffee farmers in Mexico and Jamaica. Another is focused on renewable energy, developing a case-study of microgrid design and installation in Guatemala while creating support materials for community members.
The Fulbright Arctic Initiative
President Obama and Secretary Kerry have both affirmed that international cooperation is key to addressing climate and other challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic region. The State Department recently launched an interdisciplinary collaborative research initiative focused on the Arctic nations’ shared challenges.
The Fulbright Arctic Initiative will support a team of scholars and researchers from the eight Arctic Council countries (United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden) who will conduct research on the impact of change in the Arctic. The Initiative will provide a platform for scholars from across the Arctic region to engage in collaborative thinking, analysis, problem-solving and multi-disciplinary research in one of four areas: energy, water, health, and infrastructure.
International exchange programs like the Fulbright Program expand access to knowledge. Even more importantly, they enable us to transcend differences and help emerging leaders contribute meaningfully to their communities and our world.
About the Author: Judith Garber serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment, and Science.