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Our Commission’s 65th anniversary celebrations.

International Conference on Educational Exchange, Peace and Development

As part of the Turkish Fulbright Commission’s 65th anniversary celebrations, an international academic conference was held in Ankara on September 26-27, 2014. The conference, on the topic of “International Educational Exchange and the Promotion of Peace, Development, and Intercultural Understanding,” was jointly organized by the Turkish Fulbright Commission, the İhsan Doğramacı Center for Foreign Policy and Peace Research and the Hollings Center for International Dialogue.

The aim of this international academic conference was to bring together practitioners and scholars in a dialogue exploring in general the socio-political impacts of educational exchange and the various ways in which language and language education may be used to achieve these goals; and examining in particular the Turkish experience with both in-coming and out-going educational exchanges.

The conference opened with welcoming remarks by Prof. Ersel Aydınlı, Executive Director of the Turkish Fulbright Commission and Bilkent International Relations department faculty member; Michael Carroll, Executive Director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue; Prof. Ali Doğramacı, President of Bilkent University; and Ross Wilson, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Ankara.

The keynote speech by Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey and a Fulbright alumnus, highlighted the many accomplishments of the Fulbright program and the high esteem in which it is held around the world and in Turkey, and noted the tremendous growth in the Turkish Fulbright program since the time of Mr. Babacan’s own grant in 1993-94. He praised efforts made in recent years to extend Fulbright opportunities to a wider spectrum of Turkish and American students and scholars, and spoke of additional initiatives being made to provide educational exchange opportunities for greater numbers of Turkish students seeking foreign education experience.

The conference was structured around three main panels featuring paper presentations by scholars from the United States, Europe, and Turkey, and a final roundtable discussion among the presenting scholars and participating practitioners and students. The first main panel explored conceptual connections between educational exchange and the promotion of peace, development and intercultural understanding. It included discussions on the benefits of military educational exchanges; the unexplored potential of student exchanges and peacemaking; the transnational role of universities; and the risks involved in a marketization of educational exchange.

Panel 2 went on to look at the specific role of language and language education when exploring the socio-cultural impacts of educational exchange. Papers presented during this panel provided an overview of the myths, themes and implications of intercultural competence; looked at US digital public diplomacy; explored one long-standing example of public diplomacy in the form of the Japanese English Teacher (JET) program; and delved into the role of English as a global lingua franca.

The 3rd and final main panel focused on the Turkish case, presenting various studies investigating different aspects of educational exchange between Turkey, the US and Europe. Papers presented included two general works on intercultural competence—one from the perspective of Turkish students preparing to participate in study abroad programs, the other from the perspective of Turkish teachers of English and their self-perceptions about teaching intercultural competence to their students. The other two papers presented data from studies attempting in various ways to measure the impact of Fulbright exchange programs on the actual promotion of intercultural understanding, one by looking directly at the Fulbright grantees themselves and the other looking at the people those grantees interact with during their time abroad.

The conference concluded with an open discussion, allowing the paper presenters together with practitioners and students in the audience to revisit the topics introduced during the main panels, and to try and summarize the main points that had been reached. The resulting discussion along with the panel papers will be compiled in an edited volume to be published in 2015.