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The Embassy of Italy, the Department of State and the US-Italy Fulbright Commission together for the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program

On December 3, Ambassador Mariangela Zappia and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Matthew Lussenhop, opened the seminar titled “Fulbright Fellows’ Contribution to the Fight against Covid-19” hosted at the Embassy’s Auditorium in Washington DC in occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, in the year that also marks the 160th anniversary of Italy-US diplomatic relations.

Italy was among the first countries to join the Fulbright Program in 1948. Since then, almost 14,000 Italian and US scholars have benefitted from the international program, making it one of the pillars of Italy-US collaboration. Today, the Program provides approximately 100 Fulbright scholarships each year for Italian and U.S. citizens to study, teach, and conduct research in each other’s countries. Today there are as many U.S. Fulbright Fellows studying in Italy in STEM as in the humanities.

Both Ambassador Zappia and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Matthew Lussenhop, underscored the importance of the Program to deepen individual ties and strengthen relations between our nations.

“Fulbright is a Program of real impact. One of the most tangible results of the Program is this community of individuals, endowed with exceptional skills in their respective fields of activity. This community includes Italians and Americans who have significantly contributed to make our share values stronger and our bilateral cultural, social and economic relations more dynamic.” said Ambassador Zappia.

“The Fulbright Program enriches our bilateral relations and exemplifies successful international academic exchanges through its diverse participants and alumni.” said PDAS Lussenhop. “Through its mission of fostering mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations, Fulbright is critical to the work of the Department of State and is a prime example of people-to-people diplomacy.”.

Both recalled how the U.S.-Italy Fulbright Program has produced many notable alumni. These include (Italian Prime Ministers Giuliano Amato and Lamberto Dini, Antonio Cassese, Sabino Cassese, Umberto Eco, Marcello Pera, Gio Giugni, Gianfranco Pasquino, Pierluigi Petrobelli, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Gianni Riotta, Corrado Passera and Margherita Hack, who was awarded the Fulbright gold medal), eight Nobel laureates (Roberto Giacconi, Carlo Rubbia, Kenneth Arrow, James Buchanan, Peter A Diamond, Franco Modigliani, Emilio Segre and Oliver Williamson) , fourteen Pulitzer Prize winners, six MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and many other leaders and innovators in a wide range of fields.

Thereafter, U.S.-Italy Fulbright alumni presented their contributions in fighting against COVID-19 during a very challenging time for both of our countries. The audience heard remarkable experiences spanning over scientific, cultural, social & economic areas which have changed the lives of many individuals and communities. Anna Odone, Fulbright Alumna 2012/13 at Harvard University, is the youngest lecturer in Italy and a tenured professor of hygiene at the University of Pavia. During the lockdown she launched an animated cartoon “Leo and Giulia: Us just like you!” to explain the pandemic to children. Fernando Fraternali, Fulbright Alumnus 2005/06 at CalTech, provided 3D printing of valves to connect snorkeling masks to respirators for hospitals in the area of Salerno. Darius Arya, Fulbright Alumnus 1998/99 at Università La Sapienza, created an ongoing series of live seminars and videos from Rome during the lockdown with his American institute for Roman Culture. Allyson Perez, Fulbright Alumna 2017/18 at University of Gastronomic Sciences (Italy) have worked to ensure that children across the US continue to have access to school meals, as schools closed due to the pandemic. James Ninia, Fulbright Alumnus 2017/18 at Fondazione Santa Lucia in Rome, contributed to Cass Clinic, a student-run free clinic in Detroit which remained open during the pandemic. Arianna Arienzo, Fulbright Alumna 2019/20 at Mind the Bridge in San Francisco, developed an AI model that detects COVID19 at early stage of the disease. Rose O’Brien, Fulbright Alumna 2018/19 in La Maddalena, Sardegna, created and coordinated a volunteer program for MBA students at the University of Chicago to do pro bono consulting work with small businesses and nonprofits in need of operational support due to the windfall of COVID-19. Agnese Lanzetti, Fulbright Alumna 2014/15 at San Diego State University, was joining via Zoom from London. She signed up as a potential volunteer for the Covid-19 vaccine human challenge trial and spreads awareness on how vaccine trials work and to improve confidence in science.

US-Italy Fulbright Commission Executive Director, Paola Sartorio, moderated the presentations and was recognized for her leadership and dedication in administering the Fulbright program so successfully in Italy.

The Embassy of Italy is proud to have this event part of the ‘Gender Champion campaign’ of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs promoting gender-balanced panels in seminars and conferences.