The sun came out last week just in time for Saint Mary's to welcome 35 Southeast Asian women who are studying as Fulbright Scholars at colleges and universities throughout the United States to an intensive but fun-filled three-day seminar.

The students -- from Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines -- are all in the last year of their master's and doctoral studies in the United States and will soon be returning to their home countries.

The seminar, organized by the Center for International Programs at Saint Mary's, included presentations by campus and outside experts on effective communications and leadership skills and a keynote speech by Karen Medonca, the mayor of Moraga, on "Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women's Success in Academia." The goal of the seminar is to build leadership skills and to prepare the students for re-entry to their home cultures.

Mikaela Irene Fudolig of the Philippines particularly enjoyed the "Panel With Successful Women," including Dr. Lena Tran, director of business and executive Programs at UC Extension, Santa Cruz; Lena Robinson, regional manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Anisha Desai, director of Earth Island Institute; and Professor Linda Herkenhoff of the graduate business program at Saint Mary's.

"I found this session to be extremely useful and inspiring," she said. "It is incredible to see successful women in the flesh and ask them about their journey."

Volunteer families hosted the Scholars during their stay in Northern California. The homestay experience was designed to deepen the students' cultural experience of the United States, since many may not have lived in an American home during their academic programs. The Scholars were also treated to a welcome dinner in the Soda Center's Claeys Lounge with Brother Ronald, potlucks hosted by many of the community hosts and a tour of San Francisco.

The Fulbright program is sponsored and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and is administered by the Institute of International Education.

"The seminar met its main goal, that of that of building bridges around the world through person-to-person interactions," said Susie Miller-Reid, director of the Center for International Programs. "Many bridges were built between the students, faculty, community hosts and campus administrators. At the Farewell Dinner, when all students joined the only 3 Americans present in singing ‘You are my sunshine,' we knew the foundation of our bridge was quite strong."

Photo by Susie Miller Reid

Read the Lamorinda Patch interview with Fulbright Scholars at Saint Mary's.

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