News & Events

30 May 2023

The latest news from the US-UK

Dear friends,

Welcome to our latest news bulletin, your regular debrief on all matters US/UK. It’s been a busy couple of months with 75th anniversary celebrations in Belfast and London and the announcement of four new partnership awards. And while this is testimony to the enduring value and increasing reach of the US-UK Commission’s network of partners, executive directors of commissions across Europe recently gathered together at a convention hosted by Czech Republic to discuss the challenges so many are facing and how vital it is that the case be made to our funders for enhanced support.

It’s in this context that we recently launched our Widening Participation Fund to address the increasing disparity between the standard grant we offer our UK student scholars and the true cost to them given the global cost of living crisis. To make our case, we’ve been unpicking the many ways a award benefits grantees with help from all of you who participated in our recent evaluation project looking at our Theory of Change. For a more anecdotal but heart warming story of the experience, we’re hugely proud to share an interview with Nobel Prize laureate and founding donor to the Widening Participation Fund, parasitologist Dr William Campbell. Read on for the full stories and do remember, we’re always keen to hear yours!

Highlights from our trip to Belfast

First up, we wanted to share reflections from our recent trip to Belfast, part of our annual Forum event, bringing together our 2022/23 US cohort of postgraduate and scholar grantees to connect with each other and experience the rich culture of Northern Ireland. It provided the perfect opportunity to mark the start of our 75th anniversary celebrations with the announcement of two inaugural postgraduate awards with Ulster University at an evening reception hosted by our long-term partners, Queen’s University Belfast at their storied Great Hall. In the lead up to the Good Friday commemorations, the theme of our visit focused on the topic of ‘building trust and nurturing hope’, so it felt appropriate for ers Paul Kyumin Lee (M.Phil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Trinity College Dublin) and Katelyn Barnes (MA in Global Security & Borders, QUB) to take centre stage, moderating an insightful panel discussion at the Ulster Museum. Introduced by alumnus and former Director of the Corrymeela Reconciliation Centre in Ballycastle, County Antrim Derick Wilson, Paul and Katelyn drew on the perspectives of public theologian & community activist Lucas Johnson, peace activist & emeritus professor at Ulster University, Monica McWilliams, and youth programmes manager Pierce McConnell from the Belfast cross-community youth organisation. It was a fascinating conversation drawing on deeply personal experiences of conflict and the ways in which international exchange can help in the building of trust. Watch the panel .

In their de facto ambassadorial roles for Belfast, we also caught up with Paul and Katelyn to hear about their research and social lives in Northern Ireland so far - read the full article here. And for a taste of what our ers experienced at Belfast’s peace walls, the Giant’s Causeway and at our 75th anniversary panel and reception, check out .

Celebrating 75 years at Winfield House and the launch of our widening participation campaign

Continuing our 75th anniversary celebrations, we were privileged to be hosted by Ambassador Jane Hartley and our US Embassy colleagues at a reception at Winfield House on the 15th May commemorating the history and impact of the Programme. Ambassador Hartley and Commission Chair, Sara Cerrell, reflected on the ongoing commitment by the US and UK governments to the work of the Commission as an emblem of the special relationship between our two countries – and on the significant value of international education exchange in nurturing innovation, creativity and community. It was a very special occasion on which to announce two new awards for UK postgraduate students and scholars offered thanks to partnerships with American University and Rutgers University, Newark.

Following the Ambassador and Chair’s remarks, we heard from er Harsh Pershad on the impact his 2000 award at Berkeley has had on his personal and professional life trajectories. From chemist to bio-chemist, drawing on the entrepreneurial energy of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley at the dawn of the new millennium Harsh is now at the forefront of the clean tech industry, heading up Energy Services and Government Partnerships at Tevva Hydrogen Electric Trucks. Tapping into the cultural energy of San Francisco, despite “working crazy long weeks in the lab” he “managed to make time to dive into five LGBTQIA+ groups” including same sex ballroom dancing groups and queer scientists, inspiring him to ensure underrepresented voices are heard in the workplace.

Harsh’s story resonates deeply with the mission and values of the Commission and our commitment to making our programmes accessible and inclusive. The event at Winfield House gave us an opportunity to stress the value of engaging as diverse a pool of candidates as possible and of diminishing barriers, particularly financial, to participation in the experience. In the company of alumni, current grantees, university & institutional partners, and key friends, it was a meaningful occasion on which to launch our Widening Participation campaign, that will enable us to offer more fully funded awards and give confidence to prospective candidates that, regardless of circumstance or background, awards come with a comprehensive package of support.

It remains for us to extend a resounding thank you to Ambassador Hartley for making us so welcome at Winfield House and for being such a committed advocate of the Commission’s work. Look who joined us on the 15th .

From Washington D.C. via Prague, Maria Balinska, Executive Director at the US-UK reflects on friends, trends and working towards new ends with colleagues from commissions across the globe…

One of the strengths – and pleasures – of the programme is its global nature. There are 160 exchanges between the US and other countries. In 49 of those countries there are binational commissions and 23 of those commissions are in Europe. All this to say that the month of May has been a very special one for European commissions as it began with a Europe conference in Prague and is closed with a World conference in Washington, DC. For us executive directors these events are like mini- grants, an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a different place, learn from colleagues and build new partnerships. In Prague executive directors were joined by cultural affairs officers from US embassies across Europe as well as representatives of the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education. We heard first-hand about the impact of the war in Ukraine on the programme across eastern Europe and from representatives of the US higher education sector about the increasing financial and social pressures on American universities. We shared best practices on a host of different issues, prime among them how to make sure that our grantee cohorts are inclusive and represent the diversity of both our countries – from changing the selection process to providing more mental health support for grantees during their year.  Throughout the three thought-provoking and energising days, the thing that shone through clearly was the strength of the ’s bi-national character and the benefit of being part of a collaborative global community. In fractured times like these, the vision of a world with no obstacles to learning and collaboration could not feel more important – or urgent.   

And in other news As we approach the summer months, we are thrilled to be announcing our new cohorts of grantees who will soon be heading to the UK/US respectively to embark on their journeys. Please join us in welcoming our who are going to be studying a range of subjects at US universities, as well as the taking part in our Summer Institutes programme immersing themselves for three to four weeks in the UK's higher education system, culture, heritage, and history while representing the spirit of academic excellence from across the pond.

Looking back at recently completed experiences, a group of students in Wales and Virginia have come together to produce , a collaboration that came about thanks to our inaugural Global Challenges Teaching Award (GCTA) in climate change, which paired faculty in the U.S. and the United Kingdom to co-design and co-deliver a virtual exchange course for their undergraduate students. Shenandoah University’s Staci Strobl, Ph.D., professor of criminology and criminal justice, and Cardiff University’s Samantha Buzzard, Ph.D., a lecturer in climate science, were two of the six GCTA recipients in 2022-23 and partnered to implement a seven-week-long collaborative module into their respective classes that focused on climate change. Read more about the Global Challenges Teaching Awards here.

We also want to congratulate er, and British singer-songwriter Raegan Sealy on the release of her new single ‘Care’ -a bold and emotionally charged ballad exploring the lingering feeling of resentment after trauma. The song features the Gang of Angels, a choir from Nottingham, UK led by Honey Williams. about the story behind her music and listen .

Don't forget to stay in touch, we're always keen to hear your feedback and any news from our community!