*WE* Are Agents of Change!

Over 250 ‘Agents of Change,’ namely Pakistani alumni of the prestigious Fulbright and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, gathered at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad from December 2 to 4, 2016, for the 13th Annual Fulbright and Humphrey Alumni Conference. Inaugurated by U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale along with HEC Chairman, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, the conference brought together alumni from across the country for discussions and academic presentations on a wide range of topics pertinent to Pakistan’s progress.

The keynote address for the three-day conference was given by Prof. Dr. Umar Saif, Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab, founding Vice Chancellor of Information Technology University and Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board. Titled, Why I Am Optimistic about Pakistan, his speech lauded Pakistan’s talented workforce and stressed the need to strengthen academic research scholarship within the country’s top institutions for the development and progress in the country.

Also speaking on the occasion, was USEFP Executive Director Rita Akhtar, who echoed the Vice Chancellor’s sentiments on the role Fulbright and Humphrey alumni play in bringing change to Pakistan.

“This is why the overarching theme of this year’s conference is ‘Agents of Change,’” she said. The conference showcases the commitment of returning alumni to share innovative solutions in a variety of fields.”

Fulbright and Humphrey alumni, including vice chancellors, senior university faculty, prominent government officials, and heads of key civil society organizations participated in nine sessions over the three days. The sessions covered the following key areas: Language, Higher Education, Art and Culture, Environment, Governance and Public Policy, Law and Order, Health, Disabilities and Drug Abuse, Gender and Agriculture and Water.

The conference also showcased two film screenings by Fulbright alumni. The first was the award-winning documentary The Journey Within (the Coke Studio origin story), directed by filmmaker Mian Adnan Ahmadwho also helmed the equally well-received movie, “Heal,” which has won over 20 awards at competitions and film festivals worldwide. Featuring musical cultural icons from across the country, “The Journey Within,” provides solace to music lovers and artists alike as it helps reclaim the rich and vast musical heritage of the country in a post 9-11 era.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, was the second film screening to be held at the conference. Co-produced by Haya Fatima Iqbal, the HBO documentary tells the story of a woman who survives an honor killing attempt made on her life. Directed by famed director, Sharmeed Obaid Chinoy, the film won the 2016 Academy Award in the Short Documentary category. Filmmaker, Haya Fatima Iqbal has also directed the Fulbright Heroes series produced by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan.

Participants also used the conference as an opportunity to share their experiences and to highlight some of the challenges faced by alumni on their return to Pakistan. A major goal of the conference was to mobilize younger and newly-returned alumni to build effective and sustainable alumni associations across Pakistan. Fulbright alumnus, Affan Javed, a recent returnee who graduated from with an MPA fromColumbia, was revitalized by the presence of so many alumni attending.

“During the alumni conference I learned a lot, and was extremely inspired by the examples of fellow Fulbrighters and Humphrey colleagues who moved passed barriers of our society and out shined in our community due their hard work and innovative approaches,” said Affan.

The conference prides itself on bringing together some of the country’s top achievers, who not only have assumed academic success through the Fulbright grant, but have found innovative solutions to the country’s varying socio-economic issues. USEFP is pleased to be part of building and strengthening this important network of alumni who have the skills set and commitment to be leaders for growth and progress in Pakistan.

Visit the conference website for more details on the speakers and the sessions held: http://www.usefpakistan.org/alumniconference.

Click on the in-text links for info on the Fulbright and Humphrey scholarship programs.