In this episode of Fulbright Forward, Kelli Swazey, D&I Liaison for Fulbright Programs in East Asia and the Pacific, talks story with grantees who are shaping the future of Fulbright by pushing the program to expand its engagement with issues of representation, inclusion, equity and justice as a core part of the Fulbright experience.
The guests on this episode are members of the Taiwan DEI Committees, a self-organized group of English Teaching Assistants, or “ETAs” at the Taiwan Fulbright Program. In the first half of this episode, Lily Tang & Samantha Tran from the Empowerment Committee, and Jaime Ragos from the Education Committee discuss what drew to them to the Fulbright program, and how their personal stories connect to the issues they have engaged with through their work with the DEI Committees during their Fulbright grants in Taiwan. The second half of the episode features Carlo Juntilla and Ayana Harscoet from the Empowerment Committee, and Jocelyn Chi from the Education Committee, who share their paths to Fulbright, and their reflections on why the activism and advocacy work they've undertaken with the DEI committees has been essential not only to their experiences as educators, but also has allowed them to reflect on their own identities and expand the relationships they made in their communities and cohorts during their grant periods.
Episode Links and Resources
Taiwan DEI Committees Linktree
Taiwan DEI Committees Instagram
Lily Tang (she/her) is a 2021-2022 Fulbright Taiwan English Teaching Assistant in Yilan County, which is on the traditional land of the Taiya people. Currently, Lily is embarking on a year of Chinese language study through the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship. Lily can be reached on Instagram or TikTok @lilytvng.
Samantha Tran (she/her) Samantha Tran (she/her) is a first-generation Vietnamese-American. She completed her 2021-2022 Fulbright Taiwan ETA grant year in Taitung, Taiwan, and is currently fulfilling her Foundation of Scholarly Exchange ETF grant in New Taipei City.
Jaime Ragos (she/her) was a 2021-2022 ETA to Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the Dashu District. She was a co-chair of the education committee. Jaime can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlo Juntilla (he/him) is an education policy fellow for the U.S. Senate and a former teacher. Prior to teaching in public schools in Taiwan with the Fulbright program, he was a Teach for America corps member in the Bay Area where he taught high school history and government. Currently, Carlo works on the education policy portfolio for Senator Elizabeth Warren, and lives in Washington, D.C., with his partner and their rescue dog Carlo.Juntilla1@gmail.com.
Jocelyn Chi (she/her) was a 2021-2022 Fulbright Taiwan ETA in Chiayi and the education co-chair. Currently, she is completing her second year in Chiayi under the English Teaching Flagship award. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Kelli Swazey: 00:07
Welcome back to Fulbright forward. Over the last two years of the Fulbright forward podcast, we've spoken with many alumni of the Fulbright Program, whose research and careers have intersected with the program's mandate to prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility throughout its exchange programs and grants, both in the US and abroad. In today's episode, we'll explore how a group of current grantees are shaping the future of Fulbright by pushing the program to expand its engagement with issues of representation, inclusion, equity and justice as a core part of the Fulbright experience. Our guests today are members of the Taiwan DEI Committees, a self organized group of English teaching assistants or "ETAs" at the Taiwan Fulbright Program. These Fulbrighters are working to create opportunities for grantees to dig into issues connected to their identities, positionality, and power, and learn more about social justice issues in Taiwan. Fulbright ETAs are placed in different educational institutions in their respective host countries, with the aim of sharing their knowledge and experiences of the United States and US society and culture, while supporting English language learning. In many countries where the program is run, ETAs are often placed in areas or institutions where resources for English language learning are challenging to access. Placed for a minimum of a year as co-teachers and educational institutions. ETAs have the chance to become deeply embedded in the communities where they live and work. As our guests share today, they and many of our current Fulbright grantees see the ETA program as much more than an effort to support English language instruction and take part in public diplomacy. They see the program as an opportunity to encourage critical reflection not only on what it means to be American and live as an American abroad, but also on the role of the United States in international politics, development and educational exchange. They seek opportunities to learn about the countries and communities they are hosted by as they reflect on their various relationships with the power and privilege associated with US citizenship. They come with a desire not just to share knowledge and support English language learning, but also with a strong commitment to learning about and amplifying the issues that their colleagues and communities identify as central to their own fights for rights and justice. The Taiwan DEI Committees are embarking on their second year of efforts to create space for Fulbright grantees, staff and colleagues in their host communities in Taiwan to engage with DEAI principles and practices. Today's episode is split into two parts. First, we hear from Lilly Tang and Samantha Tran from the Empowerment Committee, and Jamie Ragos from the Education Committee about what brought them to the Fulbright Program and their motivations to organize these committees. In part two, Carlo Juntilla and Ayana Harscoet the Engagement Committee, with Jocelyn Chi from the Education Committee share how creating community events and being members of these committees have affected their Fulbright experience, and their advice for other Fulbrighters and future Fulbrighters who are interested in organizing similar efforts. Let's just start out to ask all of you. Why did you even apply to the Fulbright in the first place, and how have DEIA issues affected or shaped your Fulbright journey?
Jaime Ragos 03:38
So I applied to Fulbright Taiwan because my background is a Filipino Chinese person. And so my dad told me as he was growing up in the Philippines, he was like, raised to be ethnically Chinese, but also patriotic to Taiwan. So for me, I want to connect to my Fujian roots that I have. And that's why I applied towards Taiwan. And so with being a Filipino Chinese person, but not knowing how to speak the language has been like a big issue within my experience in Taiwan. So how do I navigate this space? And that's why I have decided to be a member of the Education Committee.
Kelli Swazey: 04:20
Thanks, Jaime. What about you, Lily?
Lily Tang 04:22
Yeah, hi, everybody. So for me, I applied to Fulbright Taiwan, because I identify as Chinese American. So and a lot of my previous like academic studies on I was really, really interested in the interconnections between Asia and Asian America. Because I'm a diasporic Asian American living in the United States we, you know, we understand that there's so much like interconnections, immigration patterns, refugee patterns, migration patterns between various Asian countries and the US and I think For me, it was really important to almost like return to Asia and figure out what that kind of brings up for me in terms of my heritage. My family is from the Fujian area which is coincidentally a lot of where like the Taiwanese people migrate from. So if you look at the migration pattern between like China and Taiwan, you see that a lot of them are from southern China. So applying to Fulbright Taiwan felt like this. Like, it's like familiar but not familiar, because my immediate family aren't from Taiwan, but a lot of like, there's a lot of similarities between like the migration. Additionally, I think that there's a lot of misconceptions between how in the US we perceive China and Taiwan relationships, and the Sinophobia that has been rising ever since, you know, the Trump presidency, and this trade war, and now the Biden presidency. So for me, it was really, really important to kind of, you know, go to Taiwan, and really hear from Taiwanese people, how they're conceptualizing these tensions and, and during like, my this year in Taiwan, I was able to get a lot more clarity by actually listening to Taiwanese people.
Kelli Swazey: 06:08
Thank you, Lily, Sam?
Samantha Tran 06:11
So for me personally, I think, for a lot of people, when they think of Taiwan, one of the first things that they'll think about is how Taiwan is the first Asian country to legalize same sex marriage. And as a queer AAPI person, that was something that piqued my interest. But with that, I really wanted to delve into why that was, because we know that laws don't come out of nowhere, they don't exist outside of a social vacuum. I really wanted to understand more about the people who were able to work towards that type of liberation. And I think I was just very curious to see the different ways that social justice movements, and specifically the queer movement, manifested itself in Taiwan, and the way it intersects with race, and see how that kind of compares to translate over to the sense of queer AAPI identity and community that Americans experience. And so that's what drew me to Taiwan specifically. And then with the Fulbright, I just think that education is such an important site of building liberation, and understanding how systemic issues kind of start in childhood. And so I kind of wanted that experience in the classroom and working with these students, to see how kind of the small interactions and the type of things that we teach at an early age, build into someone who fights for liberation as they get older.
Kelli Swazey: 07:51
So it sounds like for all of you, part of the the biggest part of motivation for going on a Fulbright and perhaps, for choosing Taiwan was, you know, tied to your identities, your histories, your backgrounds. And I think that we're finding more and more that many people who apply for the Fulbright Program are seeking some way to connect with their self, with their heritage with their family with their background. And that might make a very different experience for Fulbrighters who are coming in with some sort of heritage tied to the country in which they're going to work or study. That's different from other Fulbrighters who are coming in who have never been in the country before. So I'm curious as to why all of you were motivated or inspired to start this diversity, equity and inclusion committee or group of committees at the Taiwan Fulbright program.
Jaime Ragos 08:36
So I was actually supposed to be 2020 2021 ETA, but I caught COVID, unfortunately, and was not able to go. So I learned a lot about the efforts that were being driven by the past ETAs and ETFs, or English Teaching Flagship participants in Taiwan. And so, Sonny Huang, and Amica Rapadas, us they started this group called Taiwan POCC, or Taiwan People Of Color Coalition. And so they gave us all their old notes. And during the summer, we tried to build upon the foundation, and we want to have like a framework. They told us their struggles, and difficulties with working with FSC and Fulbright Taiwan, and so we want to keep the work that they've been doing pushing forward for other Fulbrighters
Kelli Swazey: 09:24
In talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we use lots of different words to sort of describe what this field is diversity, equity inclusion, sometimes access, sometimes justice, but I'm just curious, what does this sort of group of words or phrases or this jargon actually mean to you? You know, what does diversity, equity, inclusion mean to you personally, and perhaps in the context of the Fulbright Program?
Samantha Tran 09:48
Yeah, so I think that at the end of the day, the end goal of the AI is to reimagine and to work towards a future work that has systems that benefit all of us. And that process means reckoning with all of our identities and reckoning how that intersects with one another with the different histories of the environments that we're working in. And really recognizing when needs are being met, when they're being unmet, whose needs are being unmet? And what do we do, to do something about it. And so for us to be creating this dei initiative, it was for us too. It was also acknowledging that we are Americans coming into Taiwan, and that itself is an immense amount of privilege. And not only are we doing that, but we're also going to be interacting with students in an educational setting, especially teaching English and considering the linguistic, and the linguists the linguistic imperialistic consequences of that. And so in the context of Taiwan, it's for us to understand the privileges that we hold, and how we can leverage that in a way that is beneficial and contributing something to the communities that we're working in.
Kelli Swazey: 11:22
Yeah, I think one of the biggest learning points when we're in sort of a cross cultural situation is sort of more about ourselves than it is sometimes about the cultures that we're in, you know, it's recognizing what our identities mean, in different contexts, how our identities may have been shaped by particular social settings, cultures, politics in history that we grow up with, that we may or may not be aware of. And then when we're sort of thrust into this other cultural situation, all of a sudden, these things really come to the forefront. I'm curious what you have seen in terms of the differences between the way that Americans sort of understand and apply and think about DEI, in the American context versus what you discovered, when you got to Taiwan in working with different institutions and working with students? Was it really markedly different in the way in which people understand these issues? Or did you find similarities as well?
Lily Tang 12:16
So I think what's really important is to kind of like acknowledge that this concept of DEI is something that is inherently like an American, Westernized, like corporate America-y like concept, right? Like, because, you know, generations of, like communities of color activists of color in the United States have always like fought for civil rights for justice, for racial justice, or social justice, right. And then it was pretty recently that like, these, like, these hot new terms, like kind of came to the forefront. And I think I think also, it's like really important acknowledge that oftentimes, DEI can really erase the radicalness of what we're actually trying to achieve, like liberation for all marginalized communities recognition that all of our identities, especially those who have been historically marginalized, are very, very important and that there's so much resiliency in our ability to survive, and keep telling our stories, despite, you know, centuries of oppression. And I think that like going forward from that context, as kind of as Americans entering Taiwan, it's something that is really important to just center. Because when we are going into Taiwan, we're not just, you know, like Lilly Tang, or like Samantha Tran or Jamie Ragos, right like we are, quote unquote, representative of Fulbright AKA this program that was established by someone, a Senator who was a known segregationist. Very, very complicated history there. And we need to be brutally honest with that. And through that, through being able to be very honest with who we are representing the institution that we're representing the US government that we're presenting, and all the harm that all of these, like institutions and systems have enacted, like have impacted not only in, you know, our our lives as people of color, but globally through, you know, various systems of exploitation, that were able to maybe begin to undo that harm. And I think maybe like this kind of goes back to our roles as educators in Taiwan, right? Like, if we kind of think about our own education in the United States, we have to also recognize, recognize that a lot of our own histories weren't taught to us. Asian American history, Latinx history, Native American history, Black History, right. Those things were not part of our curriculum. So how do we ask how to Americans representing America, teaching English in this new country in this country, that do we also begin to share with them the truth of America with them the diverse histories, our histories, so that these students can you know, not these students They aren't being told this like glamorous, like single story of what America is, but rather, that America also has problems and that, but there are really good people trying to fix those problems, right. And that kind of brings us to the Taiwanese context. Through, you know, our DEI work, something that we really tried to emphasize is connecting Taiwan with the US through social justice issues. For example, we hosted an event on LGBTQ identities, connecting Taiwan to the United States, and how and to really think about how do you like Taiwanese people, like how are you scholars conceptualize queerness versus in America, and what are ways that we can learn from each other, right? Learn from the various movements, both in Taiwan and the US to so that we can better imagine what a more inclusive world could look like, and the following that we hosted an event on on Indigenous or Indigenous struggles in Taiwan. So again, like something that's really important to acknowledge is that when we are in Taiwan, not only as guests, we are also partaking in the, you know, the history of like settler colonialism, by like the Han Chinese Taiwanese people of Indigenous land. Very similarly, when we are in the United States, right, we are on Native American land. So "Land Back" is something that's a very common, is a connecting struggle between us and Taiwan. And while we, you know, as Americans, we think, and as guests in Taiwan, I think it's really important to learn about the history of lnd back movement of the Indigenous people in Taiwan, so that we can also begin to think like, what can we do to be better allies when we return home to the United States? How do we stand in solidarity with Native people on our own land, and, you know, support them in the fight for land back here in the United States, too, and additionally, as English teachers to how do we reckon with the fact that this global push for English right, like led by this Eurocentrism, like American centrism is erasing this, the importance of like Indigenous preserving indigenous languages in Taiwan, in our event? The Indigenous speakers, they spoke about how, how extremely vital it is to preserve indigenous languages. But what does that look like when you know, we have a bunch of Americans going in and being like, oh, like English is so poor, and like learn English, without even taking a moment to, you know, even learn Chinese ourselves or even more learn the indigenous language ourselves, right? Like, What message are we sending when we're, you know, with our full identities, just saying like English, English, English, without taking a moment to learn the history of the land that we're on, I think all of those things really are front and center of this work of DEI and what we really hope to achieve this year, so that we can just be a little bit more critical. And we really encourage, hope that we made our cohort a little bit more critical of the work that they're doing.
Kelli Swazey: 17:49
Thanks, Lily, I think your point about the narratives that are put forward, and perhaps the narratives that are sort of motivated, the educational exchange that comes from the United States, see other countries around the world, really are at a point where they need to be challenged. And that's part of what I think a lot of Fulbrighters are thinking about and wanting to do right now, that we cannot just go around as representatives of the United States without challenging some of these narratives that have motivated people to go around the world in sort of Americans go and teach other people in other parts of the globe. And your point about this being a process of learning, for Fulbrighters who are going to other countries around the world and working with institutions in these countries, I think is, is so well made. And it's that challenge of you know, we have the assumptions that we do perhaps about what DEI is as well, or what justice is, as you were saying, with some of the events that you've run the LGBTQ event and the event about Indigenous peoples in Taiwan, our assumptions about what even those categories mean, get imported around the world to and so, you know, this process of sort of questioning what we believe to be just the normative, the normal, and being open to learning about the ways in which people around the world have interpreted these categories and the way that they apply them in their own lives. And the way that they understand justice, I think is such a, you know, an important process to go through. And I've been really impressed by the way that the Taiwan DEI Committees have really engaged with this because it isn't always an easy process, right? Like it also challenges us and who we are and what we think about the world. And that might be the most transformative part of our Fulbright's is when those challenges hit us. And we have to really rethink what we thought we believed in or who we thought we were. It's not an easy process to go through and it can be very challenging. And so I really applaud all of you who have taken on this work. So one of the I guess, things I would like for maybe all of you to answer since we've got a little bit of time, is this idea of Fulbright in the future. So we call the podcast Fulbright forward because we're hoping to inspire conversation about what the future of Fulbright will be. So what's a message or a piece of advice that you would pass along to future Fulbrighter? Or others who are thinking about engaging in this type of work?
Samantha Tran 20:03
So because I'm going to be an ETF next year, I am actually returning back to Taiwan returning back to the Fulbright Program. Being an educator being a part of the DEI committees, I think the most important message that I want to communicate is that this is a community, this is a safe space, we are all coming from drastically different backgrounds, different lived experiences, and there's a lot that we can learn from one another. And it is by learning from one another, and building relationships with each other is that's how we build solidarity. And that is how we work towards justice. So don't be afraid if you feel like you don't have organizing experience, because lived experience is experience. And it's really powerful knowledge that we can use. And ultimately, for me, at least to do DEI work is to do all of this out of a place of love, because I love everyone and that I acknowledge that everyone deserves better than what systems are offering them right now.
Kelli Swazey: 21:14
Thanks, Sam, Lily, Jamie, did you want to add anything? What's the future of Fulbright in your minds?
Jaime Ragos 21:24
So for me, I think one of the greatest things that Sam said, and a piggyback off, what she said is that it is finding your community. Through this work, I was able to make friends from all our different communities working even though we were all across Taiwan, we still forge these relationships with each other through the work that we did, so we got to, like, hang out and then work with our and then have that message of backing in like that we all do love and respect each other and do want to make the world better through our work.
Lily Tang 21:58
My message to folks would be to lean into your discomfort. Something that when I began like my kind of activist journey, you know, beginning in high school, something that someone told me was that, you know, like imagine, like, you know, two circles, right? Like, in the middle, like, that's your comfort zone, you love to be there, you're very comfortable there that's like your bed, you're like childhood bed or something like that. And then outside of that is your like, like, some an uncomfortable zone, right. But it's also your growing zone. Because if you just stay in your like little room like little bubble all your life, and you're never challenged, or like put in a space where you are, you know, like, uncomfortable, not in like a bad way, but rather a way that's like, oh, wait, like, I've never thought about it this way, then you're not growing. I think that if we are going in as educators and we're like, oh, like we want our students like learn and grow, then I think that's really also important to be like, okay, like, well, what can how can I learn and grow this year? Right? And I think a lot of times like, it is really important. Like once you kind of go abroad, you kind of realize like how badly our education system in the United States has failed us. We, like, very intentionally. We don't talk about race. We don't talk about class, we don't talk about inequities in a very, like, critical way, right? It's kind of just like, oh, yeah, like, work hard. And you'll make it, right? But we know that that's not the case. That's not reality, because of systems of oppression. And that is something that might be really, you know, new and uncomfortable and challenging for folks to kind of begin to like, comprehend and learn, especially if you didn't have this background in like, college or something. And that's okay. So I think for me, it's just like, it's okay, you know, like, we all begin somewhere. So let's make this somewhere. Now. I think for me, also a message to like white Fulbrighters who are coming into this space, I think, for me, like something I really want to convey to them is that, you know, be really, really open to open your mind, right? And like, be open to feeling. Allow yourself to feel the guilt, but then do something with that guilt, right? Don't shut down just because you feel like, oh, wait, like, how come it's about like, you know, like me a white American, like white person in Taiwan. Right? Like, it's like, you're, you know, instead lean into that, okay, what, like, what is actually the critique? Right? What are my fellow POC Fulbrighters trying to say to me, right? How can I do better if I even if I messed up today, right? Like, what can I do to, like, learn a little bit more? I think those are for me, like, important things that I would want like future generations of Fulbrighters especially white Fulbrighters, to really like think about because, you know, understanding that in America, like being a white person is extremely comfortable, right? You don't have to think about, like, you know, being, hate crime for example, as Asian Americans have to. So I think now that you know, folks are coming into Taiwan, like really using the opportunity to be challenged, and also to be held, right? Like we're all, we're all in this together. Like nobody is out there to intentionally hurt anybody, we all want folks to just learn. Because, you know, as we can see what the world around us like it takes all of us to fix this current situation. But that means that we actually genuinely have to work together and be uncomfortable, be challenged, so that we can do better for each other.
Kelli Swazey: 25:28
So I just wanted to start with the question about why you actually applied for the Fulbright in the first place, and maybe a little bit about how DEAI issues have affected or shaped your Fulbright journey.
Carlo Juntilla 25:40
I can go first. So for me, I applied to Fulbright, as an educator already, I had worked in Bay Area Schools for three years, and I taught a high school social science. And during COVID, when my classroom was virtual, I wanted to have an experience where I can teach in a learning context, that was, that had resources to support students needs, right, I felt like COVID really exacerbated the needs of my students in, in the Bay Area. And I felt like I wanted to explore what, you know, an educational landscape could look like in a country that had more resources to support students. And so I looked for different opportunities to go abroad. And I found that Taiwan was offered a position, you know, with the ETA program to teach in schools. And I saw it as an opportunity to really expand my understanding of what education policy could look like, and how can we support students in their learning journey. So that's why I joined Fulbright.
Ayana Harscoet 26:44
Yeah, I can go next. My answer is a lot simpler. I applied to Fulbright during my senior year of college, not quite knowing what I wanted to do next with my time. But teaching has always been something I've sort of considered long term. And so I really wanted to explore that as an option for myself.
Jocelyn Chi 27:04
For me, at least, Taiwan is actually a place of heritage for me. So, I like wanted to have an opportunity to like, take a time like after college just to like reconnect to my roots, and back to like my homeland. So I felt that this opportunity was perfect for me. In addition, like, I've also done just a lot of work throughout, like my college experience working with us from all like different ages from like elementary to you and just high schoolers. So I felt that like maybe this opportunity really, obviously, if teaching is something I really want to do for the long run.
Kelli Swazey: 27:39
So you all have been in the program and have been working with these committees for, isn't been over a year now? What is an issue or topic that you wish that ETAs, so what do you wish that ETAs and ETFs would have explored more in Taiwan?
Carlo Juntilla 27:53
Yeah, I mean, I think something that ETAs can take into their classrooms or into you know, their specifically into their classrooms is culturally responsive pedagogy, in which you know, you take the context that your students live in exist, and then infuse it into the curriculum. I think it's important for us, especially as teachers abroad, to be mindful of cultural differences in our classrooms, and how these can impact teaching and learning outcomes for students both inside and outside of the classroom. And learning just becomes more tangible when students can feel like the content is connected to their experiences and their background. And so without our own awareness to our students culture, we risk creating this gap between us and our students and their families, which may hinder positive relationships. So for me, again, I think we need to think about how can we infuse culturally responsive pedagogy into our classrooms?
Ayana Harscoet 27:53
Yeah, I totally agree with Carlo, I think something that can sometimes happen with like, DEI work, even that label I think, sometimes, you know, has a lot of things wrapped up in it. But something that can happen as it gets compartmentalized as this like separate thing to focus on, when in reality, it should be something that we're engaging with at every level of our day to day existence in another country. And so I think similarly to Carlo, I wish that there had been a little more framework around like not, not just quote unquote, like DI work, but really like, sort of concrete ways to talk about power dynamics or equity and justice, as it plays out in the classroom and in our day to day lives, like being Americans abroad in another country. I think that's something that can always have more time and dialogue devoted to it. And I think that it goes like for every every sort of program, not just Fulbright, where Americans are coming into another country and expect it to just hit the ground running, living and teaching and learning.
Jocelyn Chi 29:50
I think for me, this topic, I mean, although slightly similiar, a little bit more specific. I think it's like I just wish that at least within like our cohort at least. And also like, there's just more opportunities to kind of talk about the issues of whiteness, and kind of how it like even takes place in the context of Asia. Like, I think especially in Taiwan, it was really frustrating, at times, like seeing like the differential treatment, versus like, people who were more white or just like, I mean, even with that, too, like, there's also other layers to like colors and do like people get treated differently just based off of those things. But I just wish that that was a topic that was more discussed more and kind of recognized with just within the cohort with kind of how whiteness kind of impacts, like how different people navigate Asia in general. So I just hope that maybe next year, there'll be more opportunity with that as well.
Kelli Swazey: 30:51
In the time that you've been working on this. And I just want to outline here, too, that these DEI committees are completely sort of self organized, and they're all volunteers. So everyone who's been involved in this, has been doing this because they really felt passionate about the need to have, I think, better discussion about these issues. And I agree, Ayana, that DEI itself as a label is kind of problematic. But it's the sort of framework I think that we're trying to work in or have discussions across. And, you know, something that we've discussed a lot is that those terms, and even the ideas that we bring with us from the United States about what those terms mean, may be different or not even applicable in some of the contexts that we're in. Because you know, different cultures in different places around the world have these, you know, unique histories and different ways of understanding how identities interact, and different ways of understanding the different forms of oppression, and injustice that are happening around the world. So what do you think you personally have gained through your work with DEAI, as we're calling it this year? And what do you hope that other Fulbrighters would gain by engaging with you all on the programs and the committees at in Taiwan, or maybe in engaging in creating these kinds of committees and other Fulbright Commissions around the world?
Jocelyn Chi 32:09
I think for me, and I think Carlo and Ayana can talk a little bit more about some of the other projects, but I felt that I'm just like, listening. Although like I wasn't the one who like spearheaded, I was like kind of a lot of support for all these projects, like, for example, our LGBTQ plus event, and also our Indigenous, talking about, like, Indigenous cultures in Taiwan, like that was super, super eye opening. For me, I think just like, even as just like, being support for other people, but also just like being as a listener, I think it opened my eyes like, understanding the context of like, what it means to like, be in Taiwan, and also, like, understanding allows my students to, like through these different events that we put on. And, yeah, I just think I just hope that that other people also felt the same way as well. And I felt that it was really great. We had like, over like, 100 people attend our event, which I think is like, super amazing, considering that we've completely organized this remotely, so I felt like super proud just like even just being a part of something like this. Yeah, that's what I personally.
Ayana Harscoet 33:19
Yeah, I totally have to agree with Jocelyn. I think it's been really incredible to see so many things just come together because of our meetings that we had every week. I mean, sometimes you like have a meeting, and then it's like, okay, we had a meeting. But when you have these, like actual events that are happening, and people come to them, it really does feel so powerful and meaningful. I think, yeah, for me, too. Like, I've sort of gotten the sense of like, wow, we are just scratching the surface. I think all of us sort of left this year and left this work feeling like, you know, there's there's always more that can be done. And I think that in itself can be a bit of a pitfall because there's not really like a limit to how much you can like pour yourself into something like this. But I do feel like, like, because there's the sense of like, okay, we're opening the door for all these conversations, we're just scratching the surface, I think there's so much potential for the future. And starting to build relationships with like, for instance, like prominent voices in certain Taiwanese communities, like the various like directors or organizers that we spoke with, or with professors who gave us a talk. I think that's, that's really exciting for the future. And I think, yeah, like for other Fulbrighters, not just in Taiwan, too, but I think like, what feels really important to me is that other Fulbrighters sort of gain a sense of like, just like the sheer complexity of coming into a different, completely different country and community and trying to even grasp a sense of like the history and the various cultural collisions and like everything that's going on when you enter a new place, and just navigating that with so much like humility, and openness, and willing, willingness to both learn, and like unlearn and dismantle some of the things that we've become so comfortable in thinking or in sharing in our lives. Yeah, like, I just I don't know, I hope people are like, excited by that prospect. Like, I think it can be really daunting, especially when you're talking about like, you know, like immense, like, global, historically rooted dynamics of oppression and power, like, when we talk about linguistic imperialism, for instance, like that's a huge conversation that could just go on and on. But yeah, mostly, I just hope that people can sort of approach all of these questions and approach these complexities with a sense of excitement and a sense of, like, yeah, that willingness to learn.
Carlo Juntilla 35:48
Kelli, I appreciated the fact that you highlighted that this is all volunteer effort, right. And so this started from on what I honest it from basically nothing, and we built the ground up, which was exciting and scary, right, we had a lot of opportunities to make this what we felt was necessary for DEI work moving forward. And we spent a lot of time deliberating what our mission statement was going to be. And we hope that through, you know, the focus on empowering BIPOC voices, engaging with local community members, or creating culturally sensitive, culturally sensitive teaching resources, that, you know, we're able to see that through with our work. You know, Jocelyn talked about the LGBTQ event, we also had connecting the United States and Taiwan through Indigenous communities. So we have that event, we even had a fundraiser right? Where we were able to, you know, learn about different organizations in Taiwan and think about how can we support their efforts and how they aligned to our mission statement. And so, through all of this, like planning and creating a mission to working with different organizations across Taiwan, I felt myself being closer to the local community, because we had to think critically and listen about what are the actual needs of people on the ground? What are what how can we be better guests in Taiwan, and through that, I just felt really empowered to think about myself and how I can use my you know, privileges as as a teacher in the classroom to work on those issues. But I also felt really empowered to leave Taiwan and to take those same learnings with me, whether that's like, being a part of a committee being being empowered by committee really understanding the nuances of issues that are happening or and wherever I live. And so I'm just really glad and grateful to have done this with everybody on the committees and to have met all the really awesome community leaders in Taiwan. So that's what I wanted to share.
Kelli Swazey: 37:48
Thanks, Carlo, I agree that, you know, I think a lot about in my position here as the diversity and inclusion liaison for East Asia Pacific Fulbright programs about what the future of Fulbright is going to be. And I think that one of the points that you've made is that the future in some ways has to be a process of collaborative knowledge building. I think that was the goal of the Fulbright Program, originally, but maybe it hasn't really been applied in practice. And everything that you all have done with the DEI committees, you know, and I think a lot of the different affinity groups, alum that have been working to create a better Fulbright for the future have been thinking about, you know, challenge of how do we build collaborative knowledge in the communities where we are doing our Fulbrights where we're working, where we're teaching, and we're learning, and it isn't always, you know, there's no easy answer to this, it is a challenging, and I think, a very sometimes confronting process, because it has to do just as much with the communities that we're working with, as it does with the reflection on us in our own society in the United States. So again, I really want to applaud all of you who have worked on these committees for the effort that you've made to really reach out to the communities and to learn not to be here just as teachers but to to be in your context, your cultural context, as learners. And as Ayana said its taking this kind of process with humility, that this is about exchange about learning about us growing as people more so than it is just about coming from the United States and teaching other people around the world. To sort of wrap up I would love to hear from all of you - do you have a piece of advice or something that you can say to incoming Fulbrighters about what you think the future of Fulbright should be and what their role might be in that?
Carlo Juntilla 39:35
I think you alluded to it beautifully, Kelli, when you're talking about how can we as a community, work to support each other and to support our needs, but you need to first begin with yourself and really understand who you are, and what is your positionality in whatever community you have. I think that, you know, what we did in Taiwan is we launched this really amazing project of creating creating these committees but it wouldn't have begun if we didn't think critically about who we are as individuals in Taiwan and, and the needs that, that I have in recognizing that if I have needed to, you know, other people have needs as well.
Jocelyn Chi 40:10
Um, and speaking upon, like, about reflection, I think, I don't know this, like previously mentioned, but like, the way that was all started, you know, quite honestly, was, we were just kind of reflecting upon our recent events are happening, or I think we also wanted, Lily had kind of dropped something like the big group chat, talking about, like, our positionality as being English teachers in the United States, what that impact is what that harm might be potentially, too. And I was like, Oh, wow, okay. Like, she also cares so much about these issues. Let me reach out to her and let's talk about it. So just like building that collective knowledge, like you said, it's kind of like how we all like, met, even Ayana as well, like, we didn't even know each other before at all, it's because we had, you know, moments like these, you're able to organize and start this whole DEI, ETF, ETA/ETF, Taiwan D&I. So I, which I think is amazing. And quite shows like anybody can do something, is it like this as long as you are, you know, interested. You're passionate about these things. And you find other like minded people like you, and yeah, and just finding people who are going to get the ball rolling.
Ayana Harscoet 41:43
Yeah, both of those responses resonate so much, I think it's so important to have, not just like at the collective level, but at the individual level, to like having the sense of like, okay, I need to look inward, but then I need to expand outward and like see who else is interested in having these conversations and getting these initiatives going. I think I just want to acknowledge, like some structural components of like our, you know, like our year, and like, I guess the success that we've been able to have, I think there's certainly something to be said, for having such a large cohort. Because there's, I don't know what, like 150 or more of us. And we had this massive group chat, right. So like, when you have like a 200 person, group chat, like, surely at least another person or two is going to agree with you. And then maybe you end up with three, six to seven person committees. And like, that's fantastic. And I'm also thinking about the way that we had support from admin, we worked with Jane and Amie, who were both wonderful advisors, and wonderful teachers, and really supported us in connecting with FSE. And getting just all the logistical stuff figured out funding getting speakers. So I really want to like acknowledge that we sort of came into this already with a little bit of support that existed. But I think you know, as far as other programs go, and especially thinking about smaller programs, I think it's sort of this balance of having heart and having patience. I think, with this type of work, there's always always so much more to be done. And that can be incredibly daunting. And it can also be draining. And I think that should never be the case. So important to show up as ourselves first, right and as organizers second, and knowing where your limits are and having tenderness and patience with that process. But also having you know, a little courage goes a long way, I think that it can be pretty daunting to come into a new program with new people, not to mention being in a new country and trying to organize something and trying to start something. But everything you know, begins with a text in a group chat or a conversation. And some sometimes it ends up somewhere bigger like this, and sometimes it doesn't. And that's okay. I think it's all about being able to show up as yourself and knowing where your limits are. And knowing that you, you hopefully we'll have support and collective ways. And that people are always willing to at least have a conversation about things. And you can just see where that goes and show up.
Kelli Swazey: 44:25
I love this idea that everything starts with a text in a group chat. This is very of the moment, especially the experiences that everyone has been having the last two years with the pandemic and understanding that connections can be made around the world with these different technologies, even if we're not in the same place. And yeah, your point about you know, showing up as ourselves and, you know, we hope that the Fulbright Program will create space for everyone to be themselves and that that is going to be part of what we move forward with in the future that this is about the people that are coming into the program, and that they have space and that they have voice to be themselves whoever they are within the program and within these experiences that they're having in countries around the world outside of the US. So I just want to thank you all for all the work that you've done on all of the committees. It's really been a pleasure for me to work with all of you this year. And I'm really looking forward to other people hearing these stories and hope that this inspires other incoming Fulbrighters to think about how they can start this process of creating collaborative knowledge and start this process of having these conversations and changing these narratives as you all have done.
Carlo Juntilla 45:39
Thank you, Kelli.
Ayana Harscoet 45:42
Thank you so much for having us.