Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program launches Alumni Small Grants Program

Washington, D.C. (April 3) – The Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program is excited to announce its Alumni Small Grants Program! As part of continued engagement efforts with program alumni, the Muskie Program is providing 12 projects up to $2000 to implement community development projects between March and June 2023. Alumni from 9 countries have been selected for the first iteration of the Small Grants Program, with more selections to come later this year.

The Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program is a professional development program funded by the U.S. Department of State since 2015 that provides emerging leaders of the Fulbright Program from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia with the opportunity to gain real-world experience complementing and enriching their graduate studies in the United States. Muskie Fellows show a commitment to developing practical skills and a deeper understanding of U.S. work culture, and readiness to use this experience to implement positive changes and make a long-lasting impact in their home countries.

The aim of the Small Grants Program is to expand on the Muskie Program’s overarching goal by helping alumni leverage their U.S. work experience to create positive change in their community or professional field. The funded projects also seek to showcase the impact of the Muskie Program on participants’ self-efficacy and foster greater communication between alumni of U.S. government programs. The funded projects’ topics range from, environmental and conservation issues, to youth development, to photo and video projects.

“The Muskie Small Grants Program offers alumni the continued opportunity to create positive change through their engagement with Cultural Vistas,” according to Dan Ewert, Cultural Vistas’ Senior Vice President for Program Research & Development. “These projects are a chance for Muskie alumni to build on the professional development they gained during their U.S. fellowships by making a tangible impact in their communities and professional fields. It is important that international exchange programs continue their engagement and foster people-to-people connections at this critical juncture of changing realities for the Muskie region.”

The following projects will be completed as part of the first iteration of the Muskie Alumni Small Grants Program:

Incubation Program for Alumni of Technovation for Azerbaijan and Using project-based learning (PBL) to Prepare the Youth for their Future Careers projects – Gunel Alasgarova, Class of 2021, Azerbaijan, and Aygun Dadashova, Class of 2010-2011, Azerbaijan: Project Incubation program aims to focus on helping the youth alumni of 2 projects – “Technovation for Azerbaijan and Using PBL to prepare the Youth for their careers.” With this program, the youth will get an opportunity to incubate their projects and strengthen their knowledge and skills in promoting their projects which are in the pre-incubation stage.

Fashion Revolution Kyrgyzstan: Who Made My Clothes? – Aiymzhan Almazbekova, Class of 2022, Kyrgyz Republic: This photo exhibition endeavors to showcase the experiences and stories of Kyrgyzstan’s fashion, apparel, and textile sectors to increase awareness of the industry’s effects on local communities and advocate for transparency, sustainability, and ethical practices in Kyrgyzstan during the Fashion Revolution Global Movement Week. As a component of the “Create4” festival of creative industries in Kyrgyzstan, the photo exhibition will be complemented by workshops and a “Fashion Talk” panel discussion, providing a platform to facilitate education for consumers, producers, and policymakers on how to collaborate towards a future where fashion is a positive force for change that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.

Biodiversity in Bloom: Raising Awareness of Pollinators and their Importance at Georgian School — Natalia Davlianidze, Class of 2020, Georgia: The aim of the project is to raise awareness and promote the conservation of pollinators in Georgia through engaging educational resources and hands-on learning experiences for students and teachers. To achieve this, we will develop educational resources for teachers and educators specializing in environmental education as well as engaging educational materials for students in the local language. Additionally, the project will offer an engaging educational program for students and their teachers on the importance of pollinators for the ecosystems through teacher training and experiential learning class format.

Home Inside – Iryna Hromotska, Class of 2022, Ukraine: An in-depth photo essay that will dive into the life of Ukrainian immigrants across a broad scope, starting from those whose parents immigrated in the 20th century, fleeing from the Soviets, to those who came recently after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The essay will document the life of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans in New York City.

Shkva Sakartvelo Sad Aris? – Mapping Recent Emigration Patterns of Georgians – Nino Mateshvili, Class of 2022, Georgia: Research and mapping of the patterns of emigration from Sakartelo (internationally known as Georgia) since regaining independence in 1991 (emigration in post-Soviet Sakartvelo). The main goal is to create learning/informational material about one of the most observed demographic behaviors affecting various population groups and socio-economic environments in the country. The target audience will be high-school and university students, academic personnel, and an interested audience at large.

Encouraging At-Risk Adolescents to Be Active in Learning Process Across the Curriculum — Astra Mickel, Class of 2017, Kyrgyz Republic: The project’s main goal will focus on conducting two days training for 60 rural secondary school teachers about how to motivate and work with at risk students at high schools in Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan. The participants will learn how to implement differentiated instructions and innovative teaching strategies that helps them involve at risk students in leaning process at school.

Building Agroforestry Knowledge-Base and Network in Kazakhstan – Olga Romanova, Class of 2020, Kazakhstan: Agroforestry, despite international recognition as an efficient environmental tool, is not yet well recognized in Kazakhstan, has very limited on-the-ground adoption, and lacks informational basis. There are several projects and practices related to agroforestry in the country. However, they are disconnected and unavailable for the average student or farmer. The goal of this small project is to gather and build an initial information basis on Kazakhstani agroforestry projects, make this information available to a wider audience, and start building an agroforestry network. The main beneficiaries are farmers interested in sustainable agriculture practices and students studying sustainable resource management.   

Discussion of Trends of Change in International Law – Mirbek Sydygaliev, Class of 2020, Kyrgyz Republic: The goal of the project is to contribute in institutionalization and development of international law in the Kyrgyz Republic. The project is aimed at fostering dialogue between governmental institutions and academia, research institutes, specialists of international law by widely discussing current trends of change in international law.

Digitalizing the Future of Education in Tajikistan – Lutfullo Tagoev, Class of 2020, Tajikistan: This project aims to raise awareness of the benefits of online education and the basics of e-learning skills among the community through producing and disseminating animated video explainers in the native language. Moreover, it helps to educate at least 20 English teachers with the basic EdTech skills to leverage the effectiveness of their classes using technology.

ArmeniaCorps with Muskie – Hayasa Tahmazyan, Class of 2021, Armenia: ArmeniaCorps is a development initiative aiming to advance locally-led development in the Masis consolidated community [Ararat region, Armenia] by prioritizing the perspectives and preferences of the local communities. Initially, ArmeniaCorps has been funded through the U.S. Department of State Public Diplomacy Section grant. The funding enabled 54 young people from 26 communities to acquire skills necessary for designing and implementing tailored development interventions in their communities. The young people have already attended workshops and designed nine projects that tackle the needs of the communities. Five out of the nine projects will be funded through the U.S. Department of State Public Diplomacy Section grant. With Cultural Vistas’ contribution, ArmeniaCorps will be able to implement additional four projects addressing more than ten rural communities’ needs.

The Disappearing Tales (short documentary) – Valeryia Zakharyk, Class of 2022, Belarus: A collective portrait of the Belarusian community in the US trying to preserve the vanishing culture of their homeland. The disappearing tales passed through the generations with ancient rituals, games, dances, and songs. The tales about light winning over the darkness and the spring that comes even after the coldest winter.