The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Geographic Society announced today the selection of the 2020 and 2021 cohorts of Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellows.
Chosen through a merit-based and highly competitive process, these U.S. Fulbright Students and National Geographic Explorers will travel overseas and undertake an in-depth exploration of globally relevant issues using a variety of digital storytelling tools and media — including blogs, photography, video, and social media — with support and mentorship from National Geographic Society staff and National Geographic Explorers. They will craft stories to be shared and amplified through National Geographic’s digital platforms, and act as a powerful resource in building lasting ties across cultures.
This announcement includes both the 2020 and 2021 cohorts because the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for the Fellows selected in 2020 to safely travel and conduct their research. They will join this year’s recipients in pre-departure training with the National Geographic Society’s staff and begin their work in the upcoming year.
This year’s storytellers include:
Aditi Mayer,📍 India
Aditi Mayer is a sustainable fashion blogger, photojournalist, and labor rights activist. She will produce a multimedia project that examines three major components framing India’s fashion industry. She will start her investigation in Maharashtra, where the bulk of India’s cotton is produced; move to Rajasthan in Northern India to gain insights from garment workers; and finally follow textile waste and runoff along the Yamuna River from Panipat to Delhi.
Anakwa Dwamena,📍 Ghana
Anakwa Dwamena will use photo essays to examine climate change in Africa – the continent that contributes the least to the warming of the planet, but is the most vulnerable to the consequences. His work will provide specific details about what is happening on the ground and share the perspectives of local scientists and elders as an investigation on the convergence of modern science and Indigenous knowledge.
Erin Kökdil,📍 Guatemala
Erin Kökdil will travel to Guatemala to produce a documentary on backstrap weaving – a traditional artform that has been practiced by indigenous Mayan women in Guatemala for thousands of years and is disappearing as a result of globalization. By elevating the voices of women weavers from different regions who are keeping the tradition alive, the end result will honor backstrap weaving as an art and an important cultural activity.
Keerti Gopal,📍 Taiwan
Keerti Gopal plans to travel to Taiwan to interview young climate grassroots organizers in Taipei to learn about their motivations and aspirations. She will share their stories through blogs, audio features, and short films. Gopal hopes that she will be able to reach and inspire citizens around the world to take action to combat climate change.
Jordan Winters,📍 Philippines
Jordan Winters plans to interview sailors, artists, oral historians, and archaeologists to understand how conflict in the South China Sea has led Filipinos to view the sea as a resource to be exploited. She will produce a digital documentary series on ongoing cultural efforts to reestablish traditional maritime culture and cultivate a sense of stewardship – particularly among younger generations in the Philippines.
Isabelle Betancourt,📍 Indonesia
Entomology and communications professional Isabelle Betancourt will assess insect biodiversity in collaboration with Universitas National (UNAS) at Tuanan, an orangutan research station in Borneo. Her research will capture baseline data to measure the effect of hydrological restoration on the peat swamp and provide an entomology collection that connects people to nature, provides data for further scientific research, and can inform future conservation initiatives.
Robert A. Boyd III,📍 Barbados
In 2008, the elusive 4-inch long Barbados Threadsnake received considerable media attention when it was recognized as the smallest serpent in the world. However, Robert A. Boyd III noticed that few steps have been taken since then to research or protect this critically endangered species threatened by ever-increasing urbanization. Boyd will set out as a one-man backpacking documentarian to capture never-before-seen footage of the snake hatching, hunting, and mating with the goal of renewing public interest in its conservation.
Claire Sliney,📍 France
Claire Sliney plans to elevate the voices of French-Maghrebi women — a marginalized population that exists at the intersection of two cultures. By conducting interviews and collecting personal stories, Sliney’s goal is to create a documentary that explores the challenges faced by these women as they navigate their dual identities against the larger backdrop of modern religion, sexism, and multiculturalism within a patriarchal society.
Chris Lett,📍 Ghana
Driven by the demand for low-cost seafood, overfishing by subsidized foreign fleets carry a high price: the loss of generations of Indigenous knowledge and the livelihoods of local fisherfolk, and declining biodiversity and health of fishing stocks. Using his experience as a producer for CNN and as a reporter covering natural resource management in Ethiopia, Chris Lett will travel to Ghana to tell the stories of those who have been victimized by industrial overfishing, and hopes that his film will reach marine policymakers, biologists, and economists, as well as drive the average seafood consumer to care more about how their food is sourced.
ABOUT THE FULBRIGHT PROGRAM
The Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State’s flagship international exchange program, celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2021. Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided over 400,000 passionate and accomplished students, scholars, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to complex global challenges. The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship launched in 2013 as a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society.