In remarks delivered at her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock highlighted the positive impact that educational exchanges can have on participants and on U.S. foreign policy. Noting that “in the last six weeks alone, six of our program alumni have become heads of state or heads of government,” Stock went on to say that “through our ongoing contacts with these ‘alumni,’ we foster relationships with new generations and fuel an engine for change that is perhaps unprecedented in American diplomacy.” Next month, a seventh alumnus will become president of Colombia. These seven alumni and the programs they participated in include:

  • Julia Eileen Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia (assumed office on June 24, 2010)-International Visitor Leadership Program, 2006
  • Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan (assumed office on June 8, 2010)-International Visitor Leadership Program, 1980
  • Bronisław Komorowski, president-elect of Poland (elected July 4, 2010; assuming office in August, 2010)-International Visitor Leadership Program, 2006
  • Petr Nečas, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (assumed office on June 28, 2010)-International Visitor Leadership Program, 1994 and 1999
  • Iveta Radičová, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic (assumed office on July 8, 2010)-Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program, 1998
  • Juan Manuel Santos, president-elect of Colombia (elected June 20, 2010; assuming office on August 7, 2010)-Fulbright Foreign Student Program, 1980
  • Christian Wulff, president of Germany (assumed office on June 30, 2010)-International Visitor Leadership Program, 2000

Several of these alumni had additional international experiences. Colombian president-elect Santos, for example, completed his bachelor’s degree with honors in economics and business administration at the University of Kansas prior to his Fulbright Fellowship at Tuft University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Before becoming prime minister of Australia, Julia Eileen Gillard worked to introduce changes to the Australian Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ASOS) of 2000 to strengthen the quality and integrity of the international education sector. Her commitment to international education will continue while she serves as co-chair of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.

Kyle D’Souza is an intern working with the public policy department at NAFSA: Association of International Educators during the summer of 2010. She is working toward a master's degree in international education at New York University, with a concentration in international development. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Toronto-Trinity College in 2009.