Announcing the fourth year of Fulbright-Amizade in Appalachia

by Melissa Nix

We are thrilled to announce that Amizade and the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, will once again collaborate in Williamson, West Virginia. We look forward to our continued partnership with Fulbright and are delighted to introduce a new group of twelve Fulbright Foreign Students to our community partners in Appalachia.

The partnership began in March 2016 when the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsored a group of twelve emerging leaders – six Fulbright Foreign Students and six Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni – to participate in a week-long service-learning program led by Nate Siggers, the Amizade site director, in Williamson, WV. This partnership with Amizade sought to further the mission of Fulbright: to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Following the framework of our innovative Fair Trade Learning model, this unique collaboration connected Fulbright fellows from all over the United States and the world to Amizade sites in order to inspire empathy, catalyze social action, and link diverse communities.

In this year’s service-learning program, which will run from May 11th to the 18th, participants will hone their cross-cultural communication and leadership skills as they work together with community members on a variety of complex and challenging issues in Williamson. Williamson is a small rural coal-mining town in Mingo County that once was home to 50,000 residents and a thriving coal economy in the mid-20th century. However, in recent years, Williamson experienced the collapse of its coal mining industry, a series of devastating floods, and de-population. Now with a population of 3,000, community members have joined together to create Sustainable Williamson, the local organization with which Fulbright students will be working. Sustainable Williamson is a small team of community organizations that work together to increase access to fresh foods, initiate active living programs, and teach approaches to healthy living.

In addition to the participants, a few special guests will take part in this year’s program. Representatives from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education will also travel to Appalachia, where they will stay all week and share the full experience with the Fulbright fellows.

Amizade is ready for another amazing year of community-driven service and storytelling in Williamson, and we are honored to be able to lead this new group of Fulbrighters and friends on this transformative journey!

Meet the Fulbright Participants

Muge Albayrak is a Fulbright visiting scholar from Turkey conducting her Ph.D. research at the School of Earth Sciences at the Ohio State University. Her research focuses on local (astrogeodetic) geoid determinations for the effectively using GPS positioning application. She is one of the first women, and the first woman from Turkey, to work in geodetic astronomy. She has also been awarded the German Academic Research Scholarship and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey scholarship to study at the TU Munich, Germany. She holds a BSc and MSc degree in Geomatics Engineering, which includes land management and remote sensing techniques used to aid developmental projects in both urban and rural areas. In her free time she enjoys traveling and volunteering in her community.

Oyundari Ganbaatar is a Master’s in Public Policy student at University of Houston. She has over four years of experience in implementing projects in public policy analysis and the international development field. She conducted research and analyzed data in the area of agriculture policy-making, international trade in services, mining and local community development in Mongolia, her home country. She has extensive experience in leadership and facilitation of youth conferences and skills development workshops, gained through her various volunteer activities and training.


Karen Jimeno is a Fulbright student from the Philippines, pursuing a Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley (specializing in Engineering & Business Sustainability). She has a management degree from the University of Asia & the Pacific; a law degree from the University of the Philippines; and a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School. She recently published a law journal article on Smart Grid systems. As a lawyer, she worked on clean development mechanism projects and served under the Philippine government on infrastructure development and disaster rehabilitation. She is interested in learning about sustainable approaches to urban development, and disaster resilience planning.

Joab Kose was born and raised in Kenya, the youngest of five children. Currently, Joab is pursuing an MA in Cybersecurity at Florida International University. Apart from his passion in Computer Security, Joab believes that “to move forward, you need to give back”; this is the drive for his love of community service. After finishing his bachelors degree studies, Joab volunteered for two years in a community-based organization, through which he learned to put the interests of others before his own. He has opened up to the world, and is willing to try and learn new things: about food, the climate, and other cultures. Joab’s goal is to be a world citizen and share his life experience as he learns from it.

Jenny Melo is a knowledge broker in the making, interested in creating bridges between academic knowledge and thinking and practical interventions carried out by business, grassroots, and non-governmental organizations. In her doctoral studies, she combines studies on rural sociology and sustainability with her experience as a business consultant and an interest in rural settings. She is interested in understanding how different kinds of business models and business organizations can generate a positive impact on society and the environment.

Latifa Mousa is a first-year Fulbright student on the M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction program (Curriculum and Supervision) at Penn State University, University Park. Before coming to the United States, she worked as a teacher of English in Egypt where she also gained experience in curriculum development and supporting new teachers by delivering professional development workshops in teaching young learners, learning technologies and teaching in low-resource classrooms. Latifa’s current research interests include social justice in education, coaching, and learning technologies in second language education.

Daniel Rodríguez is a Fulbright student from Mexico, currently enrolled in the MFA program in Interdisciplinary Media Arts at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Prior to the beginning of his period as a Fulbrighter, he worked as a documentary filmmaker and media producer, mostly focusing on stories related to community and alternative artists and their input into Mexico City’s cultural scene. Since then, his short films have been screened in more than twelve countries. His current work investigates the filmmaking process as a therapeutic tool to deal with individual and social trauma, exploring the intersections between time, space, and memory.

Yesser Sebeh is a Fulbright foreign student and a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) from Tunisia pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology. Prior to becoming a Fulbrighter, Sebeh worked in Tunisian hospitals delivering dental treatment and oral surgery to patients from poor communities. He also advocated for a better healthcare access in his country while leading a student movement fighting for healthcare reform. He is currently working with Grady —a public hospital in Atlanta— to plan and implement a community benefit program. He is also working on health-related research topics.

Mamy Traore, born and raised in Kankan, Guinea, is a Fulbright scholar pursuing a Master’s in Science-Technology and Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology. Prior to his Fulbright, he worked as an IT and project management professional in the Telecommunications field for more than 12 years. His plan is to combine his experience in telecommunications and a deep understanding of policy analysis and data science to devise and implement policies and programs that will help his country and eventually the African continent to take more advantage of disruptive technologies as a lever of development.

Axa Khalid Warraich is a 2018-19 Fulbright student from Pakistan. She is doing a Masters in Education – Learning, Diversity and Urban Studies from Vanderbilt University. As a social justice educator, she aims to work with teachers and students in under-served neighborhoods to make the classroom a place for development of critical consciousness, identity restoration and academic success for all. Currently, she serves as an academic coordinator and professional development coach for a K-8 school in an under-resourced neighborhood in Lahore. This school is one component of the community relief movement that her mother in law and her family is working on, with and for the community.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and has provided more than 390,000 participants —chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential— with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation by the United States Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support. For more information, please visit