The end of 2019 was an exciting year for the US-LT Alumni Association. In December of last year we met with Fulbright Finland Foundation CEO Terhi Mölsä and representatives of the Fulbright-ASLA Alumni Association - Magnus Backström and Kirsi Cheas, as well as U.S. Fulbright grantee Anne Yoncha – to exchange ideas and discuss opportunities for international alumni collaboration.
The starting point of the Finnish-Lithuanian initiative can be traced back to the seminar “Truth Matters: Strategies for Combating Manipulated Realities” organized by the Fulbright Finland Foundation in 2019, which was aimed at facilitating cross-national dialogue between professionals in Nordic-Baltic countries. The seminar tackled one of the most pressing issues, not only locally, but worldwide – fake news and disinformation. Alumni from Lithuania and Finland kept in touch and with great enthusiasm and support of Kirsi Cheas and Fulbright Finland Foundation CEO Terhi Mölsä, met once again in December 2019.
What seems to resonate with alumni across all backgrounds and fields is the readiness to leverage our collective experience and skills to address the current issues and challenges facing our societies.
In addition to the great pleasure of greeting our international colleagues in Vilnius, both associations were keenly interested in spearheading a discussion about the potential avenues for collaboration between alumni in our countries. During an event, facilitated by U.S. Embassy Vilnius, alumni from Finland and Lithuania discussed specific ideas for bilateral initiatives. What seems to resonate with alumni across all backgrounds and fields is the readiness to leverage our collective experience and skills to address the current issues and challenges facing our societies.
From my own personal perspective, gained through conducting science communication research, one such challenge concerns our growingly complex communication-information environments and how we, as a society, are prepared to address it. Crises, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic, showed this issue gaining even more importance. Indeed, as governments, scientists and health care professionals around the world grappled with COVID-19, public communication related to the disease brought about its own set of challenges.
On the one hand, there were the experts, faced with the difficulty of responding to extreme public information demands and communication of facts against the backdrop of extreme alarm and uncertainty. A great deal of responsibility also fell into the hands of reporters and media more broadly, magnifying the tremendous value and need of professional science and health journalism. On the other hand, there was the broader public. Some - faced with the difficult task of selecting reliable information and trustworthy advice; others – rejecting that information in favor of their own ideas.
All in all, it once again became clear: if we want to build functioning, synergetic and mutually trustful civil societies, effective dialogue and communication, in their many varieties and forms, are one of the most essential 21st century tools and competencies that require attention, international collaboration and development across all levels of stakeholders.
This is where Fulbright alumni have considerable know-how. Besides the invaluable professional experience that individuals gain, academic exchange programs, such as Fulbright, work to enhance participants’ understanding about the role of dialogue and communication for building mutual understanding in our societies. It is a skill that all Fulbright alumni, irrespective of professions and fields, have the capacity to share, teach and transfer.
For this reason, it is truly exciting that the Finnish-Lithuanian alumni collaboration has been set in motion. Hopefully, it will become a platform where alumni can share ideas and work together to contribute to social change and we invite all alumni to join us in searching for ways to make a meaningful impact.
Read also blog posts by Kirsi Cheas, member of the ASLA-Fulbright Alumni Association
Internationalizing Alumni: Lithuanian and Finnish Fulbrighters Discuss Collaboration in Vilnius
Fulbright Finland Foundation, December 20, 2019
International Exchanges Enhance Truthful Communication
InnoBabble, University of Vaasa, June 3, 2020
Read the whole Fulbright Finland News magazine 1/2020!