On November 16, 2022, the President of Sri Lanka, Honorable Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, and the U.S.-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission Board of Directors, Executive Director, and staff celebrated the 70th anniversary of the launch of the binational Fulbright exchange program between Sri Lanka and the United States at a gala dinner for current scholars, alumni, senior officials from academia, and others who have supported the program for seven decades.
Since 1952, the U.S.-funded programs of the Commission have enabled over 2000 Sri Lankan and American students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to study, earn graduate degrees, teach, undertake research, and obtain professional development. As Ambassador Chung stated in her remarks at the gala: “Through the Fulbright Program, thousands of Sri Lankans and Americans have had the precious opportunity to study and live in our two countries, to share knowledge, to develop professional relationships, and to develop lifelong friendships.”
In the ceremony, President Wickremesinghe, Minister of Education Premajayantha, and Ambassador Chung hailed Sri Lankan and American current scholars and alumni of the program who typified the exchange of knowledge and professional development that has benefited both nations.
In her remarks, the Ambassador cited the example of a young Sri Lankan biology student who earned a Master’s and a PhD in the United States and returned to direct a biosafety lab at a Sri Lankan university that will strengthen the country’s capacity to achieve food security. She also highlighted an American teaching assistant who is currently in Sri Lanka, teaching English to Sri Lankan undergraduates despite the ongoing economic crisis.
Fulbright’s Sri Lankan history includes many other examples of beneficial impacts: An American senior scholar attached to the Ministry of Health developed Sri Lanka’s first Master of Science program in health education, and two Sri Lankan scholars returned to introduce courses in global politics and conflict resolution based on their Fulbright experiences. Globally, Fulbright alumnae have included 41 current and former heads of state and 62 Nobel Prize winners.
Ambassador Chung also saluted the binational Fulbright Commission and its staff based in Colombo, stating that, “the last 70 years of successful two-way cultural and academic exchange is no doubt due to the tremendous efforts of the U.S. –Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission, its board of directors and support from the Government of Sri Lanka.”
Launched in 1952, the initial Fulbright program in Sri Lanka sponsored short-term academic exchanges and was then expanded 12 years later to become a permanent agreement between the two countries.
Currently, the Fulbright program in Sri Lanka is fully funded by the U.S. government and enables gifted young scholars to pursue graduate degree programs with generous scholarship support; scholars and professionals to teach and conduct research; and teachers to get valuable training. It also encourages linkages between Sri Lankan and American universities and provides opportunities for Sri Lankan and American senior scholars to develop joint research relationships.