Associate professor speaks at WorldChicago Diplomacy Summit on Fulbright scholarship experience

By Irvin Ibarra, Staff Reporter

On the sixth floor of the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St., prospective students and international Fulbright alumni gather for the panel discussion on the importance of exchange programs. Irvin Ibarra

At the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, guests and speakers from across the globe gathered for the Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit for the first time in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted by WorldChicago in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Global Ties U.S., Elio Leturia, associate professor in the Communication Department, spoke on a panel July 22 about his experience as a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship award.

The “U.S. Department of State and Exchanges” panel was about cultural exchanges like the Fulbright Program offered by the State Department.

The Fulbright Program and scholarship provides recipients resources to study, teach or work professionally in another country. This program, which has a network of more than 160 countries, is offered to students, educators and artists.

Leturia first joined the Foreign Fulbright Program from his hometown of Lima, Peru, to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1990 to 1992.

As the faculty liaison for Fulbright at Columbia, Leturia also assists upcoming graduates and instructors on how to apply.

Associate Professor Elio Leturia speaks on some of the cultural differences he witnessed between the U.S and Spain. Irvin Ibarra

During his second time with the Fulbright Scholar Program, Leturia taught a multimedia storytelling workshop at the University of Málaga in Spain for five months during the Spring 2022 semester.

With a couple changes to the “Visual Communication” course he teaches at Columbia, through the workshop Leturia taught fundamentals of visual communication with the goal of combining interviewing, writing, photography, graphic design, website design and even animation leading into a collaborative final project.

“[Fulbright] opens your eyes to a new culture,” Leturia said. “It allows you to meet new people and develop long lasting friendships and very useful contacts.”

Payge Jennings, a U.S. alumni coordinator with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of Alumni Affairs, was another panelist and Fulbright recipient.

“I was super excited to hear about all the different ways I can engage and kind of take my international experience to the next level,” Jennings said. “[If] you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of [Fulbright] … you’re not too late to the party.”

A round of applause fills the room for the panelists and their work presented as the panel discussion concludes. Irvin Ibarra

Alison Moylan, deputy director of the Office of International Visitors at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said the summit and international exchanges directly contribute to U.S foreign policy by building and developing a network of international relationships.

“We have to be the best ambassadors from the United States whenever we visit [other countries],” Leturia said. “We need to engage in meaningful conversations to get to know them and to debunk all these myths that they have about the U.S., about Americans.”

Sharing a conversation with his Spanish students during outings throughout his visit, Leturia said they were afraid to visit the U.S. due to its gun violence.

“I thought the best way [to explain] was to tell them the real thing and then share with them what they don’t see,” Leturia said.

The Fulbright Program offers a wide range of scholarship and international exchange opportunities, ranging from the Fulbright Foreign Student Program to the Fulbright Scholar Program and more.

Applications for the 2023-2024 Fulbright U.S. Student Program award cycle are open until Oct. 11.