Category Archives: Alumni

James Budinich

Danish Project Support, 2020

The 2020 award went to James Budinich. James will be working with the Royal Danish Academy of Music to conduct research on the Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and the Danish New Simplicity movement during the 1960s. He is also developing a composition for vocalist and chamber ensemble based on the work “Third-Millennium Heart”  by Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen. James hopes his research on the New Simplicity movement will build a bridge to new audiences through accessible compositions in which every listener, regardless of musical experience, can discover their own understanding and appreciation.

Donald Rayfield

MLA Roth Honorable Mention, 2020 

Donald Rayfield was awarded an honorable mention for his translation from the Russian of Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Stories, Vol. 1. Kolyma Stories is a collection of short fictional stories based upon the fifteen years that Shalamov spent in a Soviet prison camp. According to Penguin Random House, “[Shalamov’s] stories are at once the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and a literary work of unparalleled creative power, insight, and conviction.” Rayfield, a professor of Russian and Georgian at the Queen Mary University of London, is an English author and translator and has written several acclaimed books examining Russian and Georgian history.

Asselin Charles

MLA Roth Honorable Mention, 2020

Asselin Charles, a professor of Communication and Literary Studies at Sheridan College, was awarded an honorable mention for his translation from the French of Frankétienne’s Dézafi. Written in an experimental style, Dézafi follows the story of a Hatian plantation that is worked by zombies under the rule of a living master. When the master’s daughter falls in love with a zombie, allowing him to return to his human form, an uprising begins amongst the zombie workers to challenge their oppression. The novel provides a poignant commentary on Haiti’s history of slavery, and Charles’ translation brings it to English language readers for the first time.

Keegan Glennon

Norwegian Project Support, 2020

Keegan is working towards a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, focused in development, sustainability, and cultural change at the University of Oslo. She plans to use her Project Support award to fund a research project surrounding a recent decision by the Norwegian government to allow mining  waste dumping into a protected national salmon fjord. Upon her return to the US, Keegan plans to work in a policy or research position to help develop sustainable solutions to environmental issues.

Fulbright Legacy Lectures, 2020

In its 10th year, the usual lectures were replaced by a virtual panel discussion, in the midst of challenges to institutions of higher learning doe to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fulbright Legacy speaker Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, was joined by UK university leaders to discuss the timely topic of “Higher Education and the Public Good.” The wide-ranging discussion reflected on the results of a dedicated IPSOS Mori global survey on public attitudes towards higher education and covered topics from inequality and student debt, to international collaboration and alternative models of university education.

A video of the lecture is available on the Fulbright Commission’s website.

Felicity Aziz

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award, 2020

Over a 40-year career, Felicity Aziz, Deputy Director of the American Center, Jerusalem,has managed Center operations and staff, while serving as the liaison to some 35 grantee organizations. The Mission relies on her advice regarding women’s empowerment and economic development, religious affairs, innovation and entrepreneurship, climate and environmental issues, rule of law, good governance and peripheral communities.  Felicity has successfully informed and influenced generations of Israel’s future leaders, current influencers and professionals through her deep understanding of her community, her knowledge of how to use public diplomacy tools to their fullest extent and her determination to make a positive difference in the lives of her fellow citizens.

Ali Al Ghadban

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award, 2020

Ali Al Ghadban, Cultural Assistant, U.S. Consulate General Jeddah, has supported the entire U.S. Mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with his stellar work in exchange and alumni programs over thirty-five years of service.  His connections across Saudi Arabia run deep and he continually leverages his vast network of contacts to strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties through education and cultural exchange and deepen connections with the next generation of Saudi leaders.

Ivanka Ponikvar

Gill Jacot- Guillarmod Career Achievement Award, 2020 

For most of the nearly three decades that Slovenia has been an independent nation, Ivanka Ponikvar, Education and Professional Exchanges Specialist, U.S. Embassy Slovenia, has been the Embassy’s most respected exchanges interlocutor.  Known for her compassion, around-the-clock attentiveness to detail and commitment to participant satisfaction, she deftly navigated a changing political and economic landscape to recruit the nation’s most promising educational and professional exchange participants. Ivanka owes her success to creating and maintaining the Embassy’s most productive and mutually-beneficial relationships by discerning the right balance, qualifications and temperaments of successful participants.  She has steadily increased the Embassy’s network of policy and opinion-makers who have advanced US interests in measurable ways.

Helena Vagnerova

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award, 2020

Helena Vagnerova, Senior Member, Established Opinion Leader Team, U.S. Embassy Prague is a living legend within Embassy Prague and has mentored generations of Foreign Service Officers and local staff. She has mastered every aspect of public diplomacy, from brainstorming to carrying out policy-relevant, impactful programming. She can single-handedly draft Front Office memos and remarks for the Ambassador, while managing a panoply of logistical, budgetary and bureaucratic issues. In doing so, she personifies how cultural programs advance US security, economic, and policy objectives, as well as the critical role cultural outreach plays in strengthening the bonds between the two countries. During Secretary Pompeo’s historic speech at the Czech Senate in August 2020, he cited Helena’s work on the PKF Prague Philharmonia’s concert at the Ambassador’s Residence as an example of U.S.-Czech friendship and solidarity.

Esti Durahsanti

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award, 2020 

Since her arrival in 2003, Esti’s interpersonal skills and leadership has provided the foundation for the Consulate’s public diplomacy programming and serves as an example of excellence for all Consulate employees.  Her extensive knowledge and experience with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), women empowerment, disability rights, LGBTQ issues and trafficking in persons have driven Surabaya to create cutting-edge programming with broad impact.  In just one example, Esti partnered with a local TEDx organization to amplify a speaker program on Astrophysics to reach thousands more across the Indonesian archipelago.  Countless young women wrote to share how the event inspired them to pursue higher education in the United States as well as STEAM-oriented careers.